A quest for clarity is often a journey into the unknown, a concept found throughout Champion’s 2023 Puffer Campaign. Linking with Australia’s first African-owned record label 66 Records, the brand has taken its latest Winter collection into the wild. The collection is highlighted in a trip out to nature, donned by 66 acts like Babyface Mal, Lil Jaye, and Lio Jewell. This voyage showcases how well-equipped these garments are for the frost of the season, and symbolises the ambition of thinking beyond the city.
In celebration of Champion’s latest campaign with 66 Records, caught up with the label’s CEO Abraham Poni and Babyface Mal to explore the origins of this partnership, and how their visions align.
The Mystique of Metric
Relevance. Impact. These are things that are hard to define; especially in the world of creativity. Metrics may tell you the numbers on your latest single are popping off, but how do the people behind them feel about the song? Trends may tell you that your style has influenced the zeitgeist, but was there someone else who donned this aesthetic before you? Numbers are often disguised as answers within the music industry but often pose more questions. A common thread between 66 Records and Champion is that they understand this mystique and the importance of trusting yourself internally when entering the unknown.
Champion’s rise to prominence can be attributed to the brand staying true to its message. In the 90s, Champion hoodies became a streetwear staple, particularly in the world of East Coast hip-hop, with burgeoning legends like Raekwon spitting “Champion gear that I rock, you get your boots knocked” on the iconic Wu-Tang Clan cut ‘7th Chamber’.
The durability of Champion garments served as a companion in the cold Winters of New York. The silhouette allowed creatives to sport a hoodie and face the outside shivers on their quest to make a name for themselves. The simplicity of their designs served as a blank canvas for expression and a subtle reminder that what you want to display in your art comes from what you feel.
Over the decades, the brand has continued this trend of uniforming emerging creatives, including 66 Records. Abraham explains, “We all grew up wearing Champion; it’s an original. All of us have a Champion hoodie in the house.” Babyface Mal reflects on the days when you could only find him wearing “Champion hoodies in navy or grey.”
With this in mind, it makes sense that Champion and 66 Records have come together. The label has been expanding its footprint in the music industry while still maintaining its core goal of representing this new generation of hip-hop. Abraham, alongside 66 co-founder John Nelson, set the blueprint for this venture from within Collingwood’s housing project buildings. Their goal of showcasing the diversity within the talent of Australia is demonstrated throughout their roster of prospects. Lil Jaye blends bars and melodies throughout woozy trap cuts like ‘STUNNA’. Lio Jewell shines through the murky waters of nocturnal R&B. Babyface Mal is an intricate lyricist with a knack for club-ready anthems, ear-catching flows and witty observations.
66 Records unite artists of different backgrounds and styles in a way that prioritises truth over trend. Abraham tells me that “It’s all about consistency. There’s no right or wrong answer to this game. It’s all about continuing to make moves.” Mal feels similar, saying, “It’s all about levelling up and going by the vibes that you feel. If a listener can tell your vibe isn’t genuine, I don’t think it’s going to connect.”
The journey this partnership took into nature represents the mystery of relevance and impact. Both Champion and 66 Records embrace this. Babyface Mal, Lil Jaye, and Lio Jewell continued to present themselves in a way that was true to their character. Champion’s Puffer collection served to keep them warm throughout the process and serve as a companion to their expression.
The Windy Roads of Winding Down
It’s easy to find a sense of peace in nature. You can find towering trees that make up vast forests, surrounded by the summits of gargantuan mountain systems. You can enjoy a calming quiet, with only the sounds of local wildlife breaking the silence. Every path prompts you to, not knowing what greets you at the end. These journeys allow you to experience serenity away from the pandemonium of city life while experiencing a sense of opportunity in the discoveries you make.
For Abraham, this trip was a reminder to make time for peace of mind. “It was good to take all that nature in and get away from everything. It even inspired me to go camping a few weeks later,” he tells me. As the label’s CEO, it’s rare that he gets to experience moments in the wilderness. After all, he’s at the helm of a roster of upcoming superstars and a recurring showcase of Australia’s best talents in the form of On Demand Festival. It’s pivotal that he has his phone by his side at all times.
Babyface Mal, on the other hand, finds it hard to switch his brain off, even in the quiet of the countryside. It’s unsurprising when you look at his strength of schedule since 2020, making a splash with his project TIME OUT, spending no time out of the studio since. 2021 saw him drop now-fan-favourites in the form of tracks like ‘MEEKO PT.1’, and both volumes of his THE CABIN EP series. 2022 served as a breakout year, with standout single ‘Ya Rab’ flooding the triple j airwaves. He continues to pop off in 2023 with the dance-inducing ‘Bubblin Up (Get Fizzy)’ and a killer verse on Nerve’s ‘GUMBOOTS’. This trip to nature served as a reminder of what is left to achieve, as he still remains in a place where he feels like there’s more work to do. “The Pinewood of the trees made me feel like I was in a movie or somewhere else other than Australia,” he tells me, alluding to the global ambition he’s possessed since he first graced the microphone.
Alongside the serenity you experience, venturing outside the city limits stands as a reminder of the potential we possess as humans. Abraham notes, “The thing about 66 Records is that you can put us anywhere, and we’ll adjust and do the work.” The scenery provided a break from the city’s chaos but reinforced the boundless prospects of the label’s daily grind. This is what Champion aims to inspire with its Puffer range, creating comfortable clothes for both the work rate of the city and the aspirations found in the wild.
The Beauty Beyond
“66 Records is for the people. Champion are as well. This is why this partnership made sense,” Abraham tells me as our call begins to reach its end. “As a label, we want to go global and showcase the diversity of this new generation. We are a family, and everybody is welcome to be a part of it.”
66 Records and Champion have both solidified themselves as staples, continuing to stick to their message with every flourish of growth. They accept mystery because they see it as a place where opportunity can manifest. They work throughout cities and adapt when venturing into the wild. What lies beyond the unknown is for every individual to find. Prepare for exploration, let your ambitions thrive within the alpines, and sport your Champion Puffer throughout this pursuit.
Follow 66 Records here for more, and check out the full range Champion puffer range here.