Columbia Launches Star Wars Collection With Bubba Wallace At Phoenix


The Force was with 23XI Racing this weekend for the NASCAR Cup series finale at Phoenix Raceway.

As part of its long-term partnership with driver Bubba Wallace Columbia Sportswear used the race to debut its latest collection themed around Star Wars.

“We’ve been working with Disney, Lucasfilm since 2016,” Andy Nordhoff communications director for Columbia Sportswear said. “Every winter we’ve done a collaboration with them taking inspiration from a movie or one of their shows and building outdoor products that can be worn in all the outlets.”

The Skywalker Pilot Collection was inspired by the main Star Wars character Luke Skywalker.

“So taking a look and realizing fashion,” Nordhoff said. “It looks a lot like a fire suit that Bubba would wear., that really kind of brought this collaboration with NASCAR.”

Lucasfilm is owned by Disney. Disney is known to fiercely guard their brand meaning that it can be hard for a manufacturer to get a license to use a movie name or likeness on a product. According to Nordhoff it was exactly the opposite when it came to getting approval for the collection.

“They have been just as excited as we are,” Nordhoff said. “They’ve been fantastic partners. Our designers actually had a chance to go see the original costumes that were worn in Empire Strikes back and take a lot of those learnings back to our design labs in Portland, Oregon, and build ski jacket, full piece ski suit with all the bells and whistles, but still making sure that we honored the original costumes that Luke Skywalker wore.”

Columbia’s partnership with Wallace as a brand ambassador began in 2020. He has helped launch several collections. This most recent one didn’t bring out the science fiction geek in Wallace.

“Like I’m late to the game, right,” he said smiling. “I’ve never really had much interest in Star Wars. When we heard rumblings about it, I was like, ‘all right, well I guess I need to study up on my history here’. And, actually Amanda (his wife) wanted to as wells so I watched the first one a couple weeks ago and we watched it again with Amanda yesterday and you could start to appreciate…this was like the first big franchise back then.

“You’re wondering what all the hype is, so you get to watch it and there’s a lot of cool things, a lot of things that it’s like, you got to remember when this was shot.”

“It’s actually really cool. For Columbia to have the partnership since 2016 has been really cool for them. And to build on such an iconic brand and to come out with limited edition pieces is really special for them and for us to play a part in. It’s even better.”

And It’s resonated with fans. Nordhoff took notice while at Phoenix.

“It’s amazing how many Star Wars fans there are around the world,” he said. “Even walking the track yesterday, I saw people wearing Star Wars t-shirts.”

For the driver the firesuit he wore was only the beginning. Columbia carried it over to the paint scheme Wallace raced on his Toyota. The scheme was designed to resemble a Star War’s X-Wing fighter flown by Skywalker.

“One thing that I think is also fascinating is George Lucas was really into racing when he was a young man,” Nordhoff said. “In fact, he at the age of 18 got into a bad car wreck and decided to focus on film and went to USC film school as a result of that wreck. But he’s also apparently always been interested in cars. And if you look at some of the original designs of the tie fighters and the X-Wing, star fighters you can see some components that were inspired by race cars. It’s a nice connection there as well.”

Columbia went all in on the promotion, putting a Star Wars themed paint scheme on the second 23XI Racing Toyota raced by Tyler Reddick. For this scheme, however, the car was meant to resemble a TIE fighter, the mortal enemy of Skywalker.

Unlike Wallace, Reddick isn’t late to the game.

“You know as a kid growing up, a teenager and an adult, I’ve always been a huge fan of Sci-Fi,” Reddick said. “Star Wars plays a huge role in shaping what a lot of sci-Fi today is really based around.”

“As a kid growing up,” he added. “I collected a lot of Legos a lot of Star Wars Legos, so it’s really cool to be running that car this weekend.”

Representing the “Dark Side” however, didn’t mean that Reddick was going to try and “defeat” Wallace.

Don’t expect there to be a battle on the track between Reddick and Wallace.

“It would kind of go against what 23XI’s all about,” Reddick said laughing. “We’ll try to have some fun with it, right? We’re definitely going to have fun with as much as we can.”

As part of the promotion, Wallace went to California and filmed a video spot with Mark Hamill, the actor who played Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars franchise. While he enjoyed meeting, and working with the actor, he wasn’t starstruck.

“Look, my boss is MJ (NBA legend Michael Jordan),” Wallace said chuckling. “I didn’t geek out over him. I didn’t geek out over Mark Hamill. I don’t get starstruck.

“But when he did say, ‘may the force be with you, always’, that was pretty cool. I heard that line, everybody and their mother says it, and when you hear it from him it was pretty special.”

NASCAR driver Ryan Blaney, a good friend of Wallace, is a Star Wars superfan. Blaney said he was “stung” when he heard about Wallace’s Columbia Star Wars sponsorship and when he first saw the ad with Wallace and Hamill.

“I knew he did it,” Blaney said. “He told me he was going out there to do it. He showed me the helmet he was painting for it.

“I’m trying to get him to trade me that helmet. He doesn’t trade helmets. Even with me, he doesn’t trade helmets. What do you want? What do you want me to trade?

“It’s awesome for the sport, right? I think that’s so cool. I’m jealous he got to meet him. Yeah, I was a little hurt when I saw that. But happy for him. Super happy. Even though he never has seen Star Wars in his life.”

Sunday the “Resistance” portrayed by Wallace, beat the “Dark Side” of Reddick. Wallace finished 10th, Reddick 22nd. Blaney, however, finished second in the race and was the highest finisher among the Championship 4 drivers and won the season championship. So it would appear that the “Force” was with him.

The Columbia Star Wars collection will launch online December 1.

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