Since Affliction’s 2005 launch, founders Clif Chason, Eric Foss and Todd Beard helped its aesthetic become a well-known, identifiable theme in fashion. Shortly after its inception, Tom Atencio joined to oversee fight sponsorships, catapulting the brand as an icon in MMA.
The skulls, bones and gothic visuals seen on the Affliction tees that fighters wore quickly became synonymous with the sport. Other brands bit off Affliction style and a new breed of MMA fashion emerged around 2005 and 2006 when other brands’ logos were splashed across tees adorned with flames and wings.
Affliction was on top of the MMA fashion world and even launched Affliction Entertainment, a fight division that caused controversy with the UFC. After about a year-long dispute Affliction Entertainment closed and the fate of Affliction clothing was unknown.
It even became more apparent than before that the brand’s infamous look had become the center of fashion jokes and newcomers wanted to create the antithesis of that look by including lighter color pallets and less-in-your face branding.
But Affliction wasn’t going to let trash talk or competition stop its growth. They launched a new higher-end line for both women and men called Black Premium, available at Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdales and its own Affliction stores in LA, during the fall 2009 and spring 2010, respectively.
Black Premium’s design is led by the former design and manufacturing team from Seven For All Mankind with Foss overseeing the design and production aspects of the brand as its creative director.
“From metal chain embroidery and gel prints to reversible and double layer garments, the unique elements and details in the line are extraordinary,” Foss added. “They are matched by the vision and expertise from our new design team. It’s a perfect combination.”
Black Premium may have been off the radar of hardcore MMA fans since its aesthetic is a slight departure from its well-known Affliction fight tees. Affliction has more of a casual military look, and the collection is consisted of mostly dyed and distressed garments with vintage inspired washes.
Black Premium is focused on fit and fabric, two common elements missing in many MMA based apparel brands. And with a prices ranging from $60 to $600, Foss said that the team shops all over the world for inspiration and sourced fabrics from both Europe and Asia to deliver “the best fabrics” available.
Another difference is Black Premium’s target market. Affliction is geared toward the “live fast, die young” crowd aligned with MMA culture, whereas Black Premium is designed for fashion conscious party goers. “We incorporate premium fabrics and trims but styles are less graphically inspired but have signature hardware and details that make each piece unique,” Foss added.
Black Premium garments continue to have slight references to its skull and bone roots. For instance, a henley sold at Nordstrom shows a faded graphic of a skeletal screen print and sells for $98. The women’s collection has a dark, sexy edge and is comprised of cotton and silk. “We use custom silk prints that tie back to the Affliction collection,” Foss said.
Whether or not MMA fans will embraced the more tailored Black Premium brand, it is a welcome change. From the skulls and flames trend started from the creative minds of Affliction founders to the more custom fit look and feel is a step in the right direction.
“Everyone wants to look good,” Foss said. “Affliction isn’t for the faint or weak and we understand that not everyone will like what we design, but we love what we do and cater to a very specific customer.”