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Fruit of the Loom hopes its fake-ish sweat suit collection has genuine swag appeal

Fruit of the Loom's Professionals Collection of sweats that look like suits is back for another year. / Fruit of the Loom

American consumers of a certain age may associate 160-year-old underwear brand Fruit of the Loom with grown men dressed as fruit.

But, funny enough, anthropomorphized grapes, apples – and fig leaves? – don’t resonate the way they used to.

And that’s in part why the brand has partnered with agency CP+B on some rather goofy endeavors in recent history, including a line of sweats designed to look anything but, or what a CP+B rep referred to as the “dapper sweat suit prototypes” in Fruit of the Loom’s Professionals Collection, which debuted in November 2015, or “just in time for planning holiday outfits.”

And, as luck would have it, the collection is back for 2016 – with each so-called suit available to the American public for the unbelievable price of $49.99 while supplies last.

The 2016 collection features four designs made of fleece and “designed to give consumers an instant confidence boost,” the CP+B rep said.

Two new styles this year include a seersucker suit called Nobody’s Sucker, as well as the Corporate Cowboy, which includes bottoms with printed-on cowboy boots. Returning are the Business Time and Country Clubber designs.

“The four #ProfessionalsCollection suits offer something for everyone – and for those who get their hands on one, it will change Casual Fridays forever,” the CP+B rep noted.

Nic Buckingham, associate creative director and art director at CP+B, added, “We feel like the Professionals Collection is a good cross-section of styles. We also believe it has endless potential for new, relevant styles.”

The prototypes featured images of high-end suits printed onto fleece sweats “for men who wanted to feel comfortable with their success,” and included three styles “designed and cut to resemble iconic business and resort styles,” a release said: Business Time, the Country Clubber and the Trail Blazer. (RIP, Trail Blazer. You were one of the good ones.)

“For instance, the Business Time sweat suit makes wearers appear as if they're wearing an actual business suit when in fact they are cozying up in comfortable sweatpants and sweatshirts,” the release said. “The end goal is to bring the look of success to sweats, without sacrificing comfort.”

Bryse Yonts, manager of brand communications at Fruit of the Loom, added in a statement, “At Fruit of the Loom we're always looking for ways to rethink the potential of basic apparel. Sweat suits are traditionally known as comfortable, lounging, weekend apparel, but now with a new twist you can get the best of both worlds. The Professionals Collection provides a fun way to make a fashion statement – from the couch to the conference room."

The brand said it manufactured a limited run of prototype Professionals Collection sweat suits “to engage consumers around the resurgence of the popularity around sweats and to raise awareness about its diverse assortment of everyday fleece apparel.”

According to the CP+B rep, during the week-long surprise and delight campaign in 2015, Fruit of the Loom sent 100 of its “most passionate social media users” a suit, which he said resulted in “an overwhelming social response” from others asking how they could get one as well. Hence the return of the Professionals Collection in 2016.

Those looking for more feminine options, howeve,r are out of luck. At least for now.

“The original brief was for men’s fleece, so this idea just happened to be more targeted to guys,” said KT Thayer, creative director at CP+B. “We know we could do some fun things with suits for women, too, but we didn’t want to dilute the idea by making the target too broad. Plus, we think women deserve their own idea that we can custom tailor to them.”

And, believe it or not, it isn’t just a bizarre grab for fleeting attention.

Per Brett Dixon, associate creative director and copywriter at CP+B, Fruit of the Loom was originally looking for a new way to grab sweats buyers when the weather turned cold.

“For us, that meant getting a younger audience thinking of [Fruit of the Loom] in a whole new light,” Dixon said. “So, we created the Professionals Collection for and with our client -- proving that they not only had awesome sweats -– but swag appeal, too. Fruit of the Loom keeps it 100. Bottom Line.”

But it’s also an effort to continue building the Fruit of the Loom brand.

“If we can get more guys to think, ‘I like that brand, they’re cool,’ the logo will have a little more meaning the next time they go to buy a t-shirt or a pair of sweats,” Thayer added.

What’s more, Dixon said 2015 was a test run for customer appetite and 2016 is a test run for sales appetite.

“We want to see how far we can take this. And Fruit of the Loom has been an amazing partner. We came to them with a very ambitious idea, and they were willing to take a chance and go outside the norms of their production schedule,” Dixon said. “That takes hard work and belief in the creative idea.”

This isn’t the first tongue-in-cheek effort from Fruit of the Loom and CP+B. They’re also the brains behind the faux see-through plastic pants, Plastique, which conveniently highlighted the Fruit of the Loom underwear underneath.

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Lisa Lacy

Lisa Lacy is a senior reporter for The Drum, covering digital and search marketing. Based in New York, she writes about how brands use technology to connect with consumers, particularly as innovations like voice search, digital assistants and the Internet of Things change consumers’ lives forever – not to mention the data these platforms increasingly collect and the security and privacy issues therein. She is a graduate of Columbia's School of Journalism. Her bucket list includes riding in the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile.

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