Better Than the Real Thing: We Spoke to an Alternative Soccer Kit Designer
Andy – aka XZTALS – has been attracting attention on social media for his alternative football kit designs. We spoke with him about the creative process and how he sees the future shaping up.
Xztals for VICE Sports
This article was originally published by VICE Sports Spain
Every year, as the football season approaches its conclusion, a strange mixture of excitement and dread begins to consume supporters. But this has nothing to do with what their side is up to on the pitch – it is anxious anticipation created solely by the impending arrival of their latest kit.
In recent years, though, the designs haven't exactly been groundbreaking. After all, how many variations can Man United find on a theme of red shirts, white shorts and black socks? They do their best – on an annual basis, and at great expense to the consumer – but it's often hard to distinguish from season to season.
This lack of daring has prompted a number of designers to create their own alternative looks. Such is football fans' obsession with kits, many of these draw considerable online interest, sometimes even causing the press to confuse the real with the imagined.
One of the latest to join the fray is XZTALS, a 20-year-old Manchester-based creative who currently works in the family design business while completing his studies. XZTALS – Andy to his mum – spoke to VICE Sports about his creations, and what motivates him to blend the worlds of football and fashion.
VICE Sports: Hey, Andy. We keep seeing designers posting their ideas for football kits online – what do you think is behind this trend?
Andy: I think that the surge in kit designers is partly because it appeals to such a wide variety of people. The kits attract fans of both football and fashion, bringing the two cultures together, which is something that rarely happens. The trend could also be due to the fact that companies like Nike and adidas rarely change templates, opting to merely change the colours to suit a team, so the designs become stale and fans want to see something different. I personally enjoy designing kits because it allows me to create something unique that isn't seen every day, while making people ask: "what if this actually happened?"
When did you start with your football designs?
About 10 months ago when I saw several designers putting their own twist on football kits, which I loved, and decided to try it for myself. I initially started the designing for fun but soon realised that posting them to social media would be a good way to promote myself while getting some feedback from others. It's funny looking back and seeing the transition of the kits over time and how they've changed and improved. The more kits I have done, the more I learn about each club and how their fans like to see the kits; for example, sticking to certain colours and designer brands for certain teams. I have found that Italian football fans are especially passionate about the correct colours being used on their clubs' kits!
And what is your goal?
Football is one of my biggest passions and a goal of mine would be to bring some of my concepts to life, to work alongside clubs and help them design kits which replicate the ones found on my social media. I want to help design kits that excite people. I love what adidas are doing at the moment, and would personally love to work alongside them or for them at some point in my career. Alternatively, I would love to try my hand at starting my own football related clothing brand. Besides BALR and Lack of Guidance, there aren't many on the market.
How do you come up with the ideas to mix brands, clubs and textures?
The initial idea of combining football kits and designer brands came from Emilio Sansolini and MBROIDERED, who were posting their work on social media. I tweaked this and made it my own. I started by using teams and brands that shared some interest; for example, combining Prada with Roma and AC Milan with Gucci. The brands I started with all had iconic patterns and the I began with has followed me through to today. I felt that sometimes kits were too plain when using colour alone, so started experimenting with flowers and patterns to give them a unique look.
Do you see this as a way to promote your brand, to expose yourself to the market?
The original reasoning behind posting the designs to Instagram was to have fun and to challenge myself, but I also wanted to see what sort of response the kits would get. I realised that there was no point in doing this work and having it sit on my computer, letting it go to waste. All the work I put out is adding to my design portfolio, which will hopefully lead to opportunities in the future.
Your focus is on football. Do you want to work for sports brands, or do you have other interests?
My first love is football but I do enjoy mixing it up with fashion and I would be open to either in the future. Like I previously said, I would love to work with adidas at some point in my life.
How difficult is it to get a job somewhere like that? What does it take?
I'm a firm believer that you make your own luck and that hard work pays off. Working for a top company is something everybody wants. I haven't got there yet but I am going to carry on working hard and hopefully one day I will get that chance.
Do you know of someone who did something similar to you who eventually got lucky?
I don't personally know any designers who have made that transition, but I am sure the big companies are always on the lookout for talent!
Thanks Andy, and best of luck.
Interview by @GuilleAlvarez41