On April 6th 2023, legendary Finnish sportswear brand Karhu and British contemporary clothing company Universal Works come together for a collaborative project, part of Universal Works’ ongoing Future Friendship series. This meeting of minds celebrates Karhu’s heritage and the Universal Works philosophy of working with like-minded partners who share their authentic vision of peace, love and, in this case - sole!
Universal Works have shaken up the narrative by bringing an upside-down, inverted illumination of what it means to combine activewear with traditional shapes and silhouettes. The iconic Karhu M-logo has been used throughout but flipped to give a nod to the ‘W’ in Universal Works. Its origins stem from the word ‘Mestari’ - the Finnish word for ‘champion’. Feeling like a winner in the clothes and shoes we’re wearing is never a bad thing!
The collection features re-imagined versions of the classic Mestari Control and Trampas footwear styles in supersoft suede and nylon, as well as a compact clothing capsule that includes a bunch of super easy-to-wear sporty separates. There’s a lightweight running jacket alongside jersey pieces including a dual branded T-shirt and a beefy loopback cotton crewneck Sweatshirt and shorts - all printed with the Future Friendship/UW and Karhu logos.
"Karhu is a brand that holds an integral place in the history and progression of modern sportswear, and this rich heritage has always intrigued me. In the case of Karhu, the evolution of the company's branding, which has taken many twists and turns along the way, is a fascinating story, and it's something we've very much played with in our collaborative project. Like most great partnerships, the two brands were already connected via mutual friends in the industry, so working together felt completely natural."
— David Keyte, UW co-founder
Speaking about how both brands came together to create the collection, Remko Nouws, Global Brand Manager of Karhu commented "When it came to the branding, we turned our M-logo on the lateral side of both shoes upside down, to create a ‘W’ referring to Universal Works. This is something Karhu has never done in its 107 years of existence but felt like a true fit for the Future Friendship Project. Overall, we are so excited about this project and we can’t wait for it to be on the feet of Universal Works and Karhu fans, friends and family!”.
To celebrate the collaboration, Karhu and Universal Works present “Inversion Illusion” a short film featuring British Commonwealth Games athlete and 2022 Welsh Gymnastics Champion, Benji Eyre. The video utilises elite gymnastics to play with perspective, an intentional nod to the inverted dual branding seen across the collaboration. Set in an East London Gymnasium the film references Universal Works’ British roots and Karhu’s sporting heritage, symbolising a real future friendship that exists across countries without borders.