Creative Soccer Culture

adidas Product Designer James Webb Talks Arsenal's 19/20 Kits

There was a lot of excitement surrounding the announcement that, after 25 years, adidas would once again produce Arsenal’s kits from the 2019/20 season on. And the partnership certainly hasn’t disappointed, with adidas releasing three outstanding kits for the season ahead.

At the launch event for the progressive third kit in London, we had the chance to find out more about the design process behind all three kits with James Webb, adidas Product Designer for Licensed Apparel. Naturally we didn’t need to be asked twice.

James, where do you begin with a project of this scale?

The starting point for us was definitely the authenticity to progression that is our main focus and mantra. There’s also other elements, such as from stadium to street and from there we try and build out and tailor the stories for how we approach the season. 

At the heart of our whole process though is the consumer. The consumer lives and breathes football now. With this in mind it’s all about the stadium to street aspect, taking everything from the pitch and endorsing it on the streets. Shirts are adapted these days because of the appropriation of streetwear side of things. 

When we delivered, we wanted to make sure that it was a true authentic product that also celebrated the 25 years since we last worked with Arsenal, wrapping it all together and encompassing that detail.

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Looking at the 19/20 season, we wanted to keep a fresh and modern interpretation of the Arsenal jerseys that have come before"

How long does the design process take?

Usually the process of producing a shirt takes around two years, from when we sit down and do the seasonal creation through to when the products start dropping. So now we’ve already finished season two and we’re going into season three. When you’re actually involved with the product, you forget the process and then when it actually starts to drop it’s an awe inspiring moment. You forget about the impact that it’s going to have.

To touch base on the authenticity to progression side of things, how was that incorporated into the design? 

It was very much a matter of remixing history to create the future. We wanted to keep it fresh to create a new chapter for football jerseys. Looking at the 19/20 season, we wanted to keep a fresh and modern interpretation of the Arsenal jerseys that have come before. We then move into the progression element, tweaking things for today, giving them their own identity.

Can you tell us more about each individual design?

Sure. starting with the home shirt we wanted to create a kit that was literally the staple of the club’s identity. We didn’t want to deviate too much or bring in any graphics that haven’t come before; it was very much a focus on Arsenal, tapping into the silhouette where we bring back the Set in sleeves as opposed to the Raglans that have come before.

To celebrate the 25 years, we wanted to tap into the history that had come before. So with that we looked at doing the tipping on the collars and the cuffs. It’s these rich details that the consumer can pick up and buy into. 

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And then the away. When this partnership was announced, social media went mental about the idea that we were going to bring back the bruised banana, and it’s definitely something that we wanted to tap into. But we didn’t want to be too obvious or too predictable, so rather than create a slightly different take on the bruised banana, we wanted to adapt it a little bit differently. We wanted to stay true to the spirit of 91/92, but obviously just giving it a little bit of a twist, giving it its own identity and its own space in history. 

There’s been a lot of comments saying that it doesn’t look like a bruised banana, but if you compare the two together you can see that they complement each other quite nicely. 

Then for the third jersey we tried to keep a focus running through, where the home was the authentic, leading into the midway between authenticity and progression where we obviously adapted the graphic for the away, and then the third is very much about how we can project it into the future. We have everything from the icons into what will hopefully be modern classics.

The third shirt is very much geared around the streetwear aspect, taking influence from men’s wear  and women’s wear alike. Again it’s all about the staple colours of Arsenal, so how we can adapt those colours, and we inverted the look of some classic away shirts. It should look as fresh on the pitch as it does on the streets.

Finally, to tie the entire range together we’ve got the name and numbering aspect. Everyone knows about the community of Arsenal and how they were forward thinking back in the nineties, but then equally in modern day context there’s the Gay Gooners and other communities that embrace the entirety of London, but it’s also got a global reach. So with the name and numbers we looked at bringing the community together with the rainbow gradient coming through.

When this partnership was announced, social media went mental about the idea that we were going to bring back the bruised banana"
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How has the response to these shirts compared to the reactions from say Real Madrid or Bayern?

When you think of a club like Real Madrid, they’re global and they have foundations everywhere. When you tap into Arsenal, you tap into London first. I know they’ve got huge global reach as well, but it’s at the core of London, and not just London, but North London specifically. It’s those fans that you need to capture first. Capture their imaginations and from there it spreads. The response that we’ve had has been quite overwhelming. Football kits are subjective; you’re never going to please everybody, but the response has been really positive. Now it’s about carrying it forward. Obviously we tapped into this for season one, but it’s how we keep true to Arsenal for season two as well.

Was there ever any thought of holding the iconic bruised banana design back?

Yes there was, but I think we would have been naive not to do it for the first season, especially as our direction is authenticity to progression. It comes out of our rich history together and then how we project it into the future, because for season two and season three for instance, we’re going to have to come up with new stories, we can’t lean on the past. But to celebrate the 25 years with us coming back together, it just seemed really fitting. 

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The prematch jersey is actually a really good example of where we can push the boundaries"

What challenges are there when designing a new kit?

There are so many things that we have to factor in in the modern day, from club sponsors, which now appear on the sleeves as well, to UEFA regulations. In the modern day we have to have light kits and dark kits, so for Arsenal you’d never imagine them in red shorts, but you have to have  backup red shorts, and when they played Napoli last season, the red kit was adopted. There are cases where you have to think about playability. 

The pre-match jersey is stunning. Was there ever a consideration to put something like that out there?

The prematch jersey is actually a really good example of where we can push the boundaries. We can go all out with contrast, as long as the sponsor is visible. But we’re tapping into nineties zeitgeist graphics. We’re talking about acid house and this is where we can be a bit more progressive with the graphics, especially the colourways as well. The graphic itself is actually derived from a photo realistic print but when you look at it you also take your own interpretation of it. 

It’s something that we try and push with the prematch jerseys. With the MLS stuff for instance as well. It’s tailored and we can make it as big and as loud as possible where we can, because we have the opportunities to do it. I think the consumer buys into it as well, because it’s very expressive and very individual.

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Are there any plans for a fourth jersey this season?

Yeah, there’s something in the pipeline. I don’t want to give anything away. Clubs are signing different sponsorships with FIFA or Konami for instance and we have to respect the partnerships there. The collection of jerseys that were released last season, they all fit under the FIFA umbrella, but now you see teams like Juventus stepping out. So there is something in the pipeline, but it’s geared towards Arsenal, not FIFA.

Pick up all three Arsenal 19/20 shirts from

Daniel Jones

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