Umbro Celebrates 100 Years with A Retrospective Exhibition at Ambika P3

100 years ago, two brothers – Harold and Wallace Humphreys – living in Cheshire (a small village near Manchester) found they had a mutual love for football and the sports attire worn by its players. So, combining the ‘um’ from Humphreys with a casual acknowledgement of their fraternal relationship “bro”, they set up a small sportswear brand. A century later and we’re well versed in its global fashion influence, having helped evolve athletic gear from its functional, athletic and sporting roots to a daily uniform. That brand was Umbro, and now, to celebrate its centennial year, the family-established brand has called upon the Westminster Menswear Archive (part of University of Westminster) to curate a major retrospective exhibition at Ambika P3. Founded in 2016 with the support of the Quintin Hogg Trust, the Westminster Menswear Archive was established to collect, conserve, document, exhibit and interpret menswear artefacts spanning the last 250 years (of which it has over 2500). Its primary purpose is to serve as a teaching collection and resource tool for students of the university and here, it opens that up to the public. Dubbed Umbro 100: Sportswear x Fashion, the exhibition opens today and will remain on view until April 28. 

Curated by Professor Andrew Groves and Dr Danielle Sprecher, the display unfolds across five distinct sections – Manchester, England, Tailored, Replica and Diamond – and traverses the brand’s journey to becoming a global sensation in the style of a timeline. Beginning with the brand’s brotherly start, there are a slew of vintage artefacts including some of its first product prototypes, packaging, scoutwear, skiwear and even old news reports. Then, in the venue’s lower ground level, visitors are invited to explore Umbro’s collaborations and partnerships from the 70s on. There are over 120 garments on view, including pieces created alongside major players like Vetements, Supreme, Off-White, Aries, Philip Treacy, Peter Saville, Slam Jam, Patta and Palace amongst many others. The exhibition pays particular attention to Umbro’s collaboration with Paul Smith in 2002 as the start of the now ubiquitous trend for sportswear companies collaborating with fashion brands and designers. “Though collaborations between sportswear companies and fashion designers are now commonplace, Umbro was at the forefront of this, with its collaboration with Paul Smith in 2002,” Groves comments. “While other sportswear companies had previously produced footwear for designers, the Paul Smith collaboration was the first to result in a full collection between a designer and a sportswear company being produced. As such it is a landmark moment and led to later collaborations with some of the world’s most important fashion brands, including Off-White, Vetements, and Supreme.”

Another highlight is a section dedicated to Aitor Throup’s Archive Research Project circa 2011, wherein the designer reinvented iconic Umbro pieces by taking classic designs and reconstructing them. Not to mention Umbro’s historic football shirts from Manchester City, Manchester United, AFC Ajax, Scotland, and England, as well as the pieces that were designed by Kim Jones over the years such as a deck of cards and a number of leisurewear garments. 

Photography courtesy of Umbro. With free admission, ‘Umbro 100: Sportswear x Fashion’ is on view from April 12 to 28 at London’s Ambika P3. Discover more here.

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