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With OMEN apparel, HP makes a move into designing esportswear

Gaming isn’t just a hobby, it’s a lifestyle. The new apparel line is centered around iconic style and maximum comfort.

By Sarah Murry — October 23, 2018

With a premium PC made of leather and a printer wrapped in soft felt, it’s not surprising that HP is set to make its first foray into apparel this holiday season.

HP will debut a line of streetwear-inspired clothing for fans of its OMEN gaming brand at TwitchCon this week in Silicon Valley, where some 50,000 people will celebrate gaming culture and the celebrity gamers from mega-popular Amazon-owned streaming platform Twitch. With the launch of OMEN apparel, OMEN by HP, which encompasses HP’s performance-packed PCs, accessories and even a virtual reality backpack, is evolving into a lifestyle brand for esports and beyond.

“It may be an electronic sport, but it truly is a sport,” explains Kim Shelton, concept planner, consumer accessories and softgoods at HP who has more than 20 years of experience in athletic wear having worked for ASICS, O’Neill Sportswear and Oakley. “We're embracing esports head-to-toe and bringing it to a lifestyle framework.”

Designing esportswear

Clothing with a relaxed fit for maximum mobility, with stretchy materials, were deemed essential, Shelton explains. “For many of our customers, gaming is a place to find stress relief and disconnect from the everyday world. Tees and fleece are the thing you want to get comfortable in.”

Their research showed that what gamers want is comfort. With breathable fabrics, a soft “hand” and moisture-wicking features, Shelton and the OMEN team are embracing the athleisure trend — with performance blended in. Players can spend hours in front of a screen, so these styles are not only comfortable enough for intense gaming sessions, but also pair well with other casualwear (such as jeans) for hitting the street.

“It’s our first foray into apparel in general, so it needed to be good quality,” says Eric Galyean, gaming accessories new product lead at HP. “At the end of the day, if it wasn’t comfortable, it wasn’t something people were going to wear.”

“At the end of the day, if it wasn’t comfortable, it wasn’t something people were going to wear.”

Eric Galyean

The details that count

The designers stayed true to the look and feel of OMEN’s signature logo, the Kirin tribal mask in a dragon red, black and charcoal color scheme. They wanted the clothing line to have a polished, professional feel, with thoughtful — and functional — details like wax-dipped finishes, media pockets and ports, large hoods to accommodate headsets and reflective touches that glow in the low light of a gaming arena or LAN party. 

 The design team also took a ground-up approach to creating the women’s pieces for the line. “Women make up almost 50 percent of the gaming market, so we didn’t want to build a line that just takes down the graphics and shrinks the size,” Shelton says. “We have female-focused style lines and fit.”

The tee-shirts, for example, are cut in a feminine silhouette and feature a droptail hem in the back for extra coverage, which is great when wearing leggings.

Growth of OMEN  

The 2018 holiday lineup features ten styles of tees and hoodies ranging from $30 to $80 to be sold in pop-up shops at high-profile gaming events such as TwitchCon, along with PAX Australia and Paris Games Week, and more. The first products are set to ship out starting next month. Next year, the team plans to have two seasonal product releases, including one with special edition items. 

The popularity of esports — and the sales forecasts that surround it — are skyrocketing. Market researcher Newzoo is predicting the esports brand investment to grow 48 percent this year. Moving into apparel means that HP can bring the OMEN brand further into their daily lives. “Gaming is a giant industry with over two billion players, and its a big opportunity for us to grab these gamers' attention with the softer side of OMEN,” Shelton says. “They have dollars to spend and they have a passion for the games that they play.”

Though it doesn’t break out sales numbers for OMEN products, gaming has grown into a billion-dollar business for HP, according to Dane Dyche, global communications lead for gaming and esports at HP.  

"Over the last two years, OMEN by HP has grown by leaps and bounds," he says. "The OMEN team lives and breathes games and esports, so being able to connect in new ways through apparel is something we can’t wait to do.”

Can't make it to TwitchCon but want to get your hands on a hoodie? The OMEN by HP apparel line is set to be sold online and in stores starting next month.

Follow the #OMENsquad and @OMENbyHP to see the action at @Twitchcon.

Read about the rise of varsity esports and revisit the intense competition at HUE Fest.