Creative Soccer Culture

In Conversation | Christopher Raeburn On His 2018 Umbro Collaboration

The Christopher Raeburn and Umbro collaboration tears through the archives to create a fresh collection. It's one that takes pieces of decade old England apparel and kit, and reworks it into a bespoke new line. Going into the detail with double diamonds on point, we sat down with the man in the mixer to get his behind the scenes look.

Before we get into the collection, can you tell us about some of the memories you have attached to those classic Umbro England shirts?

"My relationship with football—and specifically England—is all about that excitement, the energy and then just the tears that always come. It never really changes, and my earliest memory of Italia 90 is kneeling on the floor in tears behind one of the big sofas at home, not understanding how it could be so unfair that we’d played so well and yet been knocked out."

Are there particular ones that stand out most for design or sentimental reasons?

"The grey away kit from 1996 is still my favourite and the iconic Shearer moments we all remember."

Where did this collaboration with Umbro come from, was it something you initiated?

"I had the opportunity to visit the Umbro headquarters in Manchester and immerse myself in the heritage and history of the brand. I just think there was so much similarity for the way we run our business; the energy, the creativity and the entrepreneurial spirit. It really resonated, and having understood that bit more, I was so proud about the way the project’s
evolved; what we’ve created together makes fantastic sense for both brands."

Can you tell us about the inspiration behind the capsule? What did you want to achieve?

"We wanted the collection to evoke sentimental memories in England’s football history. We wanted it to resonate with people, the emotions we all share. We achieved this by transforming the shirts of our youth into contemporary, innovative and ethically sourced modern sportswear."

What did the process look like in bringing the shirts and designs together?

"For this project what we didn’t want to do was to be cutting up any vintage pieces, because actually, they deserve to be in a museum. What we try to do is always look at the original item, completely deconstruct it and then put it back together in a really intelligent way and as efficiently as we can. The pieces are in fact a combination of three or four kits—all those hopes and dreams put together in one garment."

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Where did all the shirts come from? Was that a bit of a journey of discovery in itself?

"Yes the early concepts and design boards involved a lot of research, sourcing old kits and really understanding how the design, fabric and construction of the shirt has evolved over the years. It was particularly exciting going back to the 70s and 80s iterations, the kits were so simple yet so iconic."

What was the best thing about producing this collection? Did you fall in love with old England shirts all over again?

"Completely! It was fascinating going back to 1996 all the way through to South Africa 2010, selecting all those amazing kits we loved over the years."

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What details stand out to you on the shirts and kits brought into the collection? The typography for example, really captures a moment in time...

"What fascinated me, along with the level of construction, is sometimes when you look at a kit you think ‘oh it’s white and red’, but there’s so much complexity that goes into the design. The level of craft achieved with Aitor Throup’s 2010 iteration focusing on comfort and style was particularly impressive."

From a design perspective, what’s it like to come at football from your perspective? Do you think the two worlds coming together makes for something new?

"I’d like to think it makes perfect sense, football kits often innovate with the way they’re constructed and everything we’re trying to do with the company is based around responsible design and innovation so we’ve definitely been able to create something new when the two worlds have come together."

Football and fashion are mixing more organically now more than ever, is that something you’ve noticed? Why do you think that is?

"Absolutely, there’s always been the gradual creep of fashion and football coming together – I think it’s part of a larger movement from sportswear brands and high fashion to evolve their models and aesthetics."

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Umbro obviously have a strong footballing heritage, how important was it for you to produce something authentic through this collection?

"Umbro was always a brand I’d grown up with, so it was very important for the project to remain authentic. We naturally wanted the collection to embrace our REMADE, REDUCED, RECYCLED ethos, but also celebrate Umbro’s incredible history and relationship with English football."

Aside from this collection, you’ve had the likes of Hector Bellerin into your studio, do you think there’s a new breed of player with a creative edge off the pitch coming through?

"It’s refreshing to see Hector and a few other players taking an interest in what we do. I definitely think there is a new breed of players that are keen to get involved in the industry by supporting British brands and emerging designers but also even looking at starting their own labels. That energy, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit can only be a good thing."

Looking ahead to the world cup, what will it mean to you to see football fans wearing something you’ve designed? Was this a coming together of two passions for you personally?

"I always have that same excitement as we go into big championships, thinking what if? What if for once we might actually get everything together? Above everything I’m so proud to have been involved in such a great project, it’s a real honour to be able to create something that people will wear and hopefully form an emotional attachment with."


The Christopher Raeburn x Umbro collaborative collection is out from tomorrow, you can see the full collection here.


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