On July 12, Tottenham Hotspur announced its technical partnership with Under Armour and unveiled new 2012/2013 kits. Today, those kits get a homecoming of sorts with Spurs taking on Liverpool in Under Armour's base of Baltimore. In preparation for the match, COMPLEX met with Gabriel Rodriguez, Product Line Manager Men's Running Apparel for Under Armour, to discuss the challenges of designing for the Premier League.
Tell me about designing for this new challenge of tackling Premiership soccer and what it means for you as a designer, the Under Armour brand, and the entry into a new market. A lot of research took place, basically had a blank slate, we approached players, management, tried to get as much inspiration as possible. We travel as a team, we have a developer, a designer, product manager. We came to the country, learned London, learned Tottenham, learned about the history of the club, everything that makes up the club, just their DNA. Then we incorporated that into the kits with our own DNA. It’s been a great learning process but it was definitely worth it.
We came to the country, learned London, learned Tottenham, learned about the history of the club, everything that makes up the club, just their DNA.
Can you tell me a little about the 360 degree stretch and why it’s important to bring that technical fabric into a professional sports franchise? Absolutely, great question. Stretch woven is key for an athlete, we had to bring it to this kit. The amount of sets of movement these guys are doing and how quickly they’re moving and reacting in the air, on the ground, full body. Stretch woven is able to move with the body, no problems. Regular knits can get caught, we don’t want anything to get caught. That’s why the authentic is 100 percent stretch woven, top and bottom. We wanted to make sure these guys have a lot of fluidity and movement. Not only that, stretch woven has great reaction and elasticity to it and it’s always going to bounce back and go back to its proper form. There’s no sagging, sweat doesn’t weigh it down. It’s one of our fastest growing fabrics, it’s razor thin. The benefit of perforation is just an additional benefit, we can perforate this fabric and let it breathe more than a traditional mesh sets. It’s just an added value.
What are some of the challenges of designing a uniform that’s going to be played at a range of temperatures over the course of a long season? That was a huge part of why we addressed the fabric. Stretch woven, the breathability lets you adapt. We’re trying to find this equilibrium with the athletes so by strategic placement of the back and under the arms, it’s not only going to keep them obviously drier and lighter if it’s raining. One big challenge of, talking about, London weather-unpredictable in the UK, very much so. It’s not only drying faster from their sweat but if it’s raining, a downpour, it’s going to continue to keep working. The fabric is always going to keep dry. Even if it’s in a downpour, that’s why you pick the fabric. It’s well under 5 ounces. It’s going to work in all environments. One thing we haven’t talked about is that stretch woven has the properties of a knit and knit provides a lot more warmth but you’re getting warmth in a stretch woven but you’re getting additional stretch to the fabric that you don’t get in a knit.
What did you learn about the club coming over here, as far as graphics are concerned and obviously the cockerel plays a big role in the home kit and the Chevron in the away kit, I’ve watched the video that you guys put out about Northwestern recently. I’m kind of interested in what struck you in your trip to London, what struck you about White Hart Lane and why you chose to bring certain elements into the kit? Just the history, this place is the birthplace to America and the architecture you find, White Hart Lane has been around. We saw a lot of the metal working, the iron working, the original cockerel at White Hart Lane, we had to go check it out. Color was huge, Tottenham itself, the city, the local art, graffiti, just a lot of vibrancy we found. Incorporating that into the kit, and where you see it, you see it in the training kit and we use it in the home, that was one of the biggest elements. At White Hart Lane, it’s part of the inspiration.
Finally, what are the most important elements of designing a soccer uniform? I’d say understanding the needs of the athletes, understanding what their challenges are, so you can address those needs and give them solutions. We base every decision on performance so it’s not just going to be an aesthetic quality. It’s not just a beautiful cockerel that’s perforated, there’s a reason why it’s perforated, it’s going to dump some heat but all decisions are based on performance and making the athlete just be able to be at their best. That’s why we keep harping on that we found there was an issue with the fabric they were wearing and definitely with the fit. These guys are going to look different on pitch than what you’ve seen before. Tottenham has looked a lot of the same in 125 years plus but now you’re bringing this fit, they’re going to look very aggressive and committed to winning and that’s what we’re doing.