We sit down with Nike Football Global Creative Director Martin Lotti To Discuss The New England Strips

On the back of the new England World Cup shirt launch we sat down with Nike Football Global Creative Director Martin Lotti to discuss the design process and inspiration behind the kits, his role at the brand and how his time at the Swoosh can be summed up in three words -'Just Do It'.   

SB: How do the timelines differ between developing new kits and football boots?

Martin: The timeline is actually very similar. Both our World Cup boots and kits started four years ago, so literally at the end of the 2010 World Cup. That's when we first started working on the boots and kits together, looking at both as part of the entire uniform. Typically it's the fabrication that is the longest part of the process. The new England kits are the first to use dual-fabrication and that's what ultimately lead us to a lot of trial and error.

SB: How big is the NIKE Football apparel team?

Martin: The apparel design team is actually based in Amsterdam. We have a lot more apparel designers than footwear designers, almost three times as many, knowing that we have so many clubs and federations, so it's a big team that works on all of those kits. 

SB: After you have the technology, at what point does your attention turn to the visuals?

Martin: It's a dual process. The first is creating the performance elements which takes a lot of time and then we make inspiration trips to each nation to make sure we capture the heart and the soul of the countries. For example with the French kit we created a unique denim design and with the England kit we looked at this juxtaposition between tailoring and suit making. You can see this in the pinstripes and the bolder approach of the satin tape from the armour of St.George.

SB: What about the collaboration with Neville Brody?

Martin: I always say that a good performance product has performance, style, soul and sustainability. Those are the four key elements that any of our products have. For the soul element, that is when we look into collaborations. There's nothing better than working with artists or typographers from the country. For the new England kits we worked with Neville Brody who's obviously a legend by himself when it comes to typography. He captured the spirit of the jersey perfectly with a stencil-looking font.

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SB: Nike have kept their kit designs very minimal and uniformed for this World Cup. Is there a reason for this?

Martin: There's a signature design across all of our kits that creates a 'Team Nike' look. At the same time each of our kits has its own country specific relevance and history. For example the England kits refer to the and 1966 and 1970 designs. We try to bring the best of Nike to the history of each of team. Bringing those two world's together is our goal. Keeping it simple is something we do quite nicely at Nike. We have this idea of complex simplicity, so from a distance they look super simple but as you get closer you discover much more detail. It's not just simplistic, it's actually quite complex.

SB: What about the approval process that comes with each design?

Martin: Internally we have sketch design sessions and final design reviews as well. For the England kit we had the president of NIKE Football involved. With him being obviously British it was a very dear to his heart so he was very involved with this one. There's also a process with the federations who are intimately involved. It's not just us saying "here are the kits", we work with them and get insights from the players and from the federations about what they like and don't like. It's a very good partnership. 

SB: Can you talk about your role as NIKE Football Creative Director?

Martin: It's not a job. It's a true passion. Having the opportunity to be part of a World Cup in Brazil in particular, I mean it's something we've been waiting on for 25 years since we signed the Brazilian national team. Being part of this adventure is nothing short of humbling. It's been pretty crazy, I mean after finishing working on the London 2012 Olympic Games, two days later I was getting call saying "now the World Cup starts". It's been a blast.

We have an amazing team of designers based in Europe on the apparel team and an amazing team of footwear designers based in Portland. What I love most is we're allowed to push the limits. For the World Cup we set out to create a football revolution, not an evolution. That's the most fun part of working at Nike. We are not only asked to challenge the status quo, it's a requirement. I don't think too many big companies would allow you to dream it and built it.

SB: What inspires you creatively?

Martin: I love to travel so the one thing I always like to do is immerse myself in other cultures and be like a sponge that goes out and comes back to our WHQ and squeezes out ideas. We have a rule that if we're working on footwear, we will look for inspiration everywhere but footwear. If we're working on apparel, we'll look at everything but apparel. I think this allows us to set trends rather than chase trends. I think that being based in Beaverton away from the noise allows us to set those trends because there's no temptation to look at the opening of the latest store etc. By travelling the world it helps us to push the boundaries.

SB: You joined NIKE in 1996. How would you describe your journey?

Martin: Never did I think I'd be at Nike for this long. The company lives to 'just do it'. I had never designed a shoe before coming to Nike and they said 'just do it'. I had certainly never led anything the size of the Olympics but they said, 'just do it'. It's been the same with World Cup.

The amount of risk they're willing to take not only on product, but also on people is mind-boggling and incredible. Yes they're demanding of course, but at the same time what you get and learn is breathtaking. Being exposed to the creative community, to players, to teams, I mean it's amazing. Never would I have thought that 17 years ago that would happen to me.