While they are currently a League Two club, Forest Green Rovers are known world over as one of the most forward thinking clubs on the planet. Linking up with frontrunners AnyForty, their latest lifestyle collaboration take their off pitch attire to new, creative spaces.

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Officially launching '1889' – a lifestyle brand and fashion range, along with an exclusive new line in the club’s AnyForty clothing collaboration, the collection is based on the year the club was formed and includes a tee, a polo, a hoodie, a sweater, a windbreaker and a cap – all in black and featuring a stylised 1889 logo. 

The new 1889 x AnyForty range is a continuation of the popular artist collaboration range from last year, but with designs from another artist from the AnyForty ranks and a fresh style. The latest range, designed by Sydney-based AnyForty artist Dale Bigeni, focuses on key FGR imagery, including the lion and unicorn from the club badge and the Green Devil mascot, as well as highlighting the club’s green ethos.

Getting to the heart of it and exploring where the collaboration has come from, we spoke to AnyForty creator, Alan Wardle about his brand and where the aspirations take it...

Before we get into your work with Forest Green Rovers, let's talk Any Forty - how would you describe the brand?

"So AnyForty started its life as a streetwear brand 10 years ago, originally ran out of my spare room. Over the years it's been quite a rollercoaster with some extreme highs like running our Boxpark store in Shoreditch, our regular charity exhibitions raising money for great charities like CALM, to trading at events in Paris like the Be Street Weekender with extreme lows like retailers going bust and taking us for thousands of pounds of unpaid invoices!"

"Two years ago, the wholesale side of retail was in a real lull and I was in real danger of giving up on it all, I was pretty fed up to be honest, so I sat down with a pad of paper and really tried to work out what it was about AnyForty I loved. Turned out, it wasn't so much creating product, it was creating the artwork to go on the product, it was all about collaborating with artists all over the world and turning our ideas into pieces of art. With that, came up with the idea of approaching clients, to see if we could create artwork for them. And in just under two years of running as a client serving artist collaboration agency, we've managed to do some epic projects such as Codemasters’ recent OnRush video game, where we created well over 300 brand new assets from our artists from all over the globe, to vehicle wraps for a technology start up in America, to a full interior design project for Tokyo bar in Newcastle to the project that's got us on Soccerbible's radar, working regularly with the amazing team at Forest Green Rovers!"

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You've done a few football inspired things in the past, including a drop last season with Forest Green Rovers, what can you tell us about those adventures into the game?

"I’ve always been a football fan, grew up in Newcastle as a child of the 80's, so my earliest football memories were the likes of Gazza, Waddle and Beardsley floating all over that St James Park pitch in the sickest of Umbro kits! So football's always been in my blood, it was actually how I got into wanting a career in design, I used to trace blank football kits from adverts in Shoot and Match magazines and my Dad would photocopy me a stash of them at work and I'd spend hours and hours sat at home, filling in these templates, designing my own kits for each and every club in the land. So football, and art have always been driving interests."

"As with most opportunities in my career, things tend to happen because of people I’ve got to know over the years. I used to work with a brilliant fella for Future Publishing in Bath called Will Guyatt, as luck would have it, Will started working for Dale Vince – the owner of FGR a few years ago, he's always been a fan of AnyForty as a brand, owns loads of our garments, but when he saw we were venturing out as an agency, he was keen to get me in and have a chat with the guys at the club. We spoke and next thing I knew, was working on the first collaboration which we dropped just before Christmas last year!"

Does this most recent collaboration with the club take things to a new level? What can you tell us about the pieces included?

"The first collaboration collection we did with AnyForty for FGR really opened the eyes of what we could potentially do clothing wise for football fans, all clubs have their own apparel to sell in the club shop, but most are incredibly lazy, bland products with giant crests on, perhaps even going as far as caricatures of players. But no one is really making good quality stuff, the likes of stuff you'd see in streetwear or lifestyle stores around the land. We sat down and chatted with FGR about making them a lifestyle brand of their own. Something fans could wear and show the love for the club without having to have a big club crest on. So we came up with the 1889 concept, a relatively simple brand, based on the year FGR was launched, that we can create a series of lifestyle products each season, first season is tailored to Autumn, so alongside the branded tees, there’s heavyweight crewneck jumpers, warm zip hoodies and water resistant hooded windbreakers, all of course on ethically produced garments."

"It’s important that fans from kids to pensioners would happily wear these as day-to-day items. Within that, we’ve also found a home for our AnyForty collaborations – products that are more in your face – something FGR will collaborate on with different AnyForty artists – those with different styles collection after collection."

"For the first 1889 drop, we worked with Sydney based artist Dale Bigeni, creating a tattoo flash sheet, where we've been able to release a series of t-shirts, pullover hood and knitted scarf. It's an exciting start, but the real excitement will come seeing the brand grow and really push things forward in terms of football lifestyle apparel over the next 12 months."

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The game is mixing with lifestyle and design more than ever these days, is that something you get a buzz off?

"Oh yeah, I think it's a great thing, I'm always heavily influenced by the American sporting market, especially the NBA, and you've only gotta look at that, to see collaborations in sport are an exciting way to go. Finally feel football is starting to take note now, highlight of that has to be Jordan brand's recent collection with PSG. That's a huge deal because though it's an iconic brand, it’s a basketball one at the end of the day, collaborating with one of the most exciting football clubs in the world is pretty epic!"

Do you think Any Forty will do more in the football world going forward?

"It's something I've thought about, I'm not gonna lie, being a Newcastle season ticket holder, it's always a dream to someday do stuff for the club I love, but in its current form, I can't see that happening. I can tell you something though, I'm always loyal to my clients and my artists, we'd certainly love to grow our portfolio but we've such a soft spot in our heart for FGR now, definitely a fan for life, you couldn't pay me all the money in the world to do anything for any of their local rivals! FGR has recently signed up with an up and coming kit manufacturer, PlayerLayer – and I’m looking forward to hooking up with those guys to see what we can all work on together."

You're also working on a mural for Forest Green Rovers - what can you tell us about that?

"The mural is something we're in the process of signing off concepts with at the moment and we're super excited to start work on that, another example of how FGR and the Chairman Dale Vince are open to doing things differently. I Can't think of any grounds I’ve ever been having spray painted art. It’s best I don't reveal too many details on that just for now, but would say you guys are more than welcome to come up to the New Lawn when we're breaking out the cans (paint and lager) for a behind the scenes look at it!"

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As far as football clubs go, they step out of convention for all the right reasons. Is that something that reflects your values too?

"Oh most definitely, AnyForty has always been about doing the right thing, in a smaller scale, that's us looking after our artists, keeping product affordable for our customers, raising money for charity when we can, and working with nice people, and on a much larger scale, you've FGR really trying to do the right thing for our planet, as recently acknowledged by the UN. How huge is that! Think a lot of the Premier League clubs could learn a lot from seeing what the team are doing down in Gloucestershire."

What's next for Any Forty? When can we expect more gold?

"AnyForty's still a one man run agency, even though I work with contractors all over the world, end of the day, most the time it's me sat in my studio with my dog Blu in our flat in Gateshead managing these fun projects. I'm over the moon with how the last two years running as an agency has gone, and I'm incredibly excited to see how the next ones go. I just want to keep pushing creative relationships forward with brands like Forest Green as well as exploring some new avenues for getting AnyForty's brilliant artists work out there with new clients! Then there’s the need to keep our online store regularly so we’re not neglecting the fans who’ve been there since the streetwear days."

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The AnyForty x Forest Green Rovers Collaboration is on sale now. Join the movement and pick up your pieces here.