When Kristina Boiano was hired by menswear designer Todd Snyder to his eponymous label in 2016, there were a number of areas where she might have ended up. With experience in everything from suiting to swimwear and with time spent at Tommy Hilfiger, Abercrombie and Fitch, and J.Crew, literally any position, save for working the lobby, would have been an appropriate fit. But it was with knits and sweaters, the 40-year-old Ohio native says, that she’s spent the greatest amount of time in her career, and because of this she found herself in the company’s greatest area of opportunity — and also its most lucrative: the Todd Snyder x Champion collection. All she had to do, she discovered, was take a perfect thing and make it better.
Launched in 2013, the Champion collaboration represented a departure for Snyder and his company. Moving beyond the elevated casuals and suits, the designer took the measure of the hundred-year-old sportswear company and then, with inspiration from New York City boxing gyms and the vintage athletic apparel of yore, spun off a refined version of classic activewear. One of the line’s first pieces, as well as one of its perennially most popular, was a pocket sweatshirt. Cut from an 80-20 cotton-polyester fabric, it featured heritage details like a ribbed V-shaped insert just under the front of the collar (legend has it that collects pooling sweat), chunky four-inch cuffs and waistband, and a small patch sewn onto the left sleeve.
“It’s the little details that make it look special,” Boiano says. “It was very wearable, and it was very noticeable and iconic.”
Still, even she was surprised at the Champion line’s sales numbers within the company: “I couldn’t believe how big the business was,” she says.
To call the collab, which was anchored by its pocket sweatshirt, a hit is an understatement. It had grown so big that it had its own gravitational pull, dragging in non-traditional Todd Snyder customers from around the menswear landscape. The core Snyder customer is in his 40s or older and shops in brick-and-mortar locations. But the Todd Snyder x Champion customer? He was young. Like, really young: 20s and 30s, and he was more likely to browse and buy online. The fact that these two customer bases exist under the same label is remarkable, an oil-and-water integration, with each motivated by different values. And yet Snyder had pulled it off, allowing them to exist under separate silos, striking gold in adjoining mines. It’s into this delicate landscape that Boiano was given her mandate.
But before we go further, let’s appreciate Boiano’s flourishing within the menswear space. As senior designer, she is responsible for both discerning and predicting what the baser sex wants. “It’s not easy to connect with every American brand out there,” she says. “You either have to wear the brand or you have to have some sort of affinity with it.” The secret, she explains, is in her “tomboy” predilections, which include a love and wear of men’s basics like t-shirts and sweatshirts. “Those pieces are important in my wardrobe.”
As previously mentioned, there were a lot of beautiful decisions that were already succeeding with the cornerstone sweatshirt, which she experienced firsthand. “For me, it’s the fabric,” she says: a luxurious Canadian-made fleece that is warm in the winter and yet still breathes well enough to wear in the summer. It’s cut on the cross grain, its weave horizontally oriented rather than vertical, which adds a subtle textural distinction when viewed at a distance. And it’s sewn with a distinct flatlock seam, on a one-of-a-kind machine at a small family-owned factory in Canada that adds the right amount of vintage imperfection to the finish product.
“There were a lot of complaints that it looked like one of those cummerbunds around your waist,” Boiano says of their tendency to ride up. “It wasn’t flattering on anybody.”
It was further complicated by the sizing: She at first describes it as “small,” and then corrects herself, clarifying it as very, very slim. The reality was that most men, upon trying on the sweatshirt, elected to size up, which brought up different fit issues. Finally, there were its colors, or lack thereof. “They were very—“ and she pauses, looking for a euphemism. “Dark,” she finally says. “There was nothing that popped or complemented the others,” describing them laying on a table together as muddy.
And so, with her figurative scissors, Boiano began to recut an American menswear classic.
The waistband was refined so that it didn’t end up around the armpits. The fit was loosened, hewing closer to its athletic past. “A guy doesn’t want to feel restricted,” she says. And then, finally, she turned to the colors. “If a guy already owns a navy, a black, and an olive sweatshirt, what else can he buy?” Boiano, whom Snyder describes as a “color librarian,” began her research.
This year’s spring colorways were patterned off of a single photo, and Boiano says its colors can all be found in a single sunset: dark plum, honeycomb, tomato red, and more. Called the Sunfaded Drop, they’re both distinct and unobtrusive, bright but antithetical to peacocking. Even if you already own a sweatshirt, it’s easy to add one of these, because nothing in your closet is like it.
The new fits began rolling out in November 2020, and this spring, its updated classic is now the de facto standard, blown in with the changing of the seasons. And there are no signs of slowing down, either: With COVID grounding most men to their apartments and houses, athleisure and loungewear saw exponential growth through 2020, and the Todd Snyder x Champion collection absorbed its fair share. “Business has been on fire,” Boiano says.
Her role at the helm of its most valuable capsule has continued to grow apace: “Now I’m developing 20 new colors [for each season],” she says. “I don’t buy them all, but the color palates are getting a lot bigger just because the products are doing so well.”
Given an impossible task of fixing a supposed perfect thing, Boiano has succeeded. At her start, the Todd Snyder x Champion sweatshirt was a piece that belonged in every man’s closet. Now, five year’s later, it’s the only item that demands that every man own three.