Hated, adored, never ignored

Inigo Turner grew up in Manchester in a household of United fans. Steeped in the club’s history and tradition, the adidas designer is now leaving his own mark with his creations for the 2020/21 season. Here he talks us through his inspiration and influences – and the idea behind that third kit

Culture
“My favourite moment is seeing the kits on the field of play for the first time.” So says Inigo Turner in this very interview, which means he must have thrilled to the sight of Manchester United emerging from the tunnel at the Parc des Princes on Matchday 1. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s go back to the beginning…

How did you get into football kit design?

It’s been a lifelong interest. Since I was a small kid I was always interested in football kits. They had an attraction to them – shiny fabric, cool logos, details. I just loved them. I was always into them but followed an art path through higher education before I took a chance on an internship in Germany at adidas. That initial six-month internship turned into a longer stay and I worked my way up.  

Do you have a favourite classic kit?

United away 1990-92 always sticks out in my mind. I remember being 10 years old and first seeing it in Shoot! magazine and having my mind blown by how amazing it was – bold and new. When I think about that moment now I still remember that feeling of excitement and awe. Crazy loud graphics hadn’t really made their way onto United shirts before that point.

Were United your team growing up?

I was born into a family in Manchester with four older brothers and they all supported United, so my decision was made for me. Bryan Robson was the hero, Mr Manchester United. He played with his heart and with absolute commitment, which as supporters you love to see. Eric Cantona is another one – a maverick, genius, and catalyst for that first league win after a 26-year break. It felt like a springboard for the years of success that followed.  

There is a love of retro football shirts at the moment. How do get the balance right between looking back and blazing a trail of your own?

We always look to do things in a new way but sometimes the past can influence that. We have a great responsibility to respect the history of the great teams we work with while moving things forward and creating future classics. There is a huge love for nostalgia and zeitgeist; every generation likes to look back to the shirts they remember from their youth. Equally, football is very much a part of streetwear. It’s great to see skateboarders and musicians wearing oversized ’90s and ’00s football shirts. There’s a connection to them as clothing items, the symbolism of shirts. They come in all colours, styles and graphics, so there’s a wealth of options for people to customise their own look.

“FIRSTLY, WE LOOK AT THE KIT AS A UNIFORM WORN BY THE TEAM, BUT I THINK WE’RE ABLE TO DO THAT WHILE KNOWING THAT IT WILL WORK WITH OTHER OUTFITS. WE WANT THE SHIRTS TO BE VERSATILE PIECES OF CLOTHING THAT CAN BE WORN IN MANY WAYS”
"We want to disrupt. We want to lead and the only way you can do that is by taking risks"

What are your biggest inspirations when it comes to the look of a shirt?

I take inspiration from as wide a pool as possible to make something that is unique and separates how we look compared to our competitors. We always do our homework, which includes a visit to the stadium and museum, talking to the club and visiting the city for a cultural immersion. Creatively we look at many things to inspire the actual design. We also have a seasonal creative direction, which is a sort of lens through which we look at the design of the shirts. In 2020 it is through the lens of art, trying to make things with our hands in a way that we maybe haven’t previously. You can see that in the shirts this season: less digital, more emotional.

What’s the balance between how a kit will look on the pitch and how it will look with a pair of jeans?

Firstly, we look at the kit as a uniform worn by the team, but I think we’re able to do that while knowing that it will work with other outfits. We want the shirts to be versatile pieces of clothing that can be worn in many ways. It’s always an interesting part of matchday to see supporters wearing the shirts with their outfits, their own styling and look that reflects their personality.

What do you enjoy most about the process?

The first pen mark of a design in a season is exciting; the first design review and seeing all the team’s ideas is amazing. The arrival of the first design samples is great, seeing them realised and starting to come to life. But my favourite moment is seeing the kits on the field of play for the first time, worn by the best players in the world. It’s that raw buzz and excitement I had as a kid. Unbeatable.

Do you feel a responsibility towards fans?

Of course. We’re fans ourselves so we know the feeling, but we’re also the ones who want to push the industry forward and try things. We want to be the first but within that lies risk, which these days ends in social media comments. We read them and listen to all points of view but it’s impossible to please everyone. I’m pretty sure that most of the iconic shirts nowadays from the ’80s and ’90s – such as the bruised banana [Arsenal, 1991-93], snowflake [Manchester United, 1990-92], etc – had a similar split audience back then, but without social media for people to easily share their disapproval. Ironically those old divisive shirts now make the ‘top 10 greatest ever shirts’ lists and are lauded by the very people who criticise the more expressive designs we do now. The bigger issues are that when designs leak they are very often inaccurate, sometimes based on a description by someone and then drawn by someone else.  

Talking of expressive designs, tell us the story behind United’s third kit.

The story is about stripes. In the first ever season United played at Old Trafford 110 years ago, they played one home match that season wearing a striped shirt. That is quite unusual, and formed our story. We found United had played in striped shirts in other periods of their history and that it wasn’t actually such an unusual look for the club. We took that idea, redrew the stripes from the different eras, hacked them and then modernised them in black and white. We used red accents on the kit to bring in the core DNA United colours, but reconfigured for now.

What was the motivation behind it?

We wanted to disrupt. We want to lead and the only way you can do that is by taking risks. United also live by this mantra: a team that has always played attacking, risk-taking football, and been a trailblazer. We both felt that it was the right time to do it, so we did something we knew would provoke conversation and reactions. The home and away kits are designed with different stories at their heart but built around the club’s DNA. This kit, to quote the famous fan banner at Old Trafford, will be “Hated, adored, never ignored”.  We were inspired by the customisation culture of football shirts and wanted to create something that would take it a step further.

Are some clubs happier to take risks than others?

We work with all clubs differently, as they are all unique. It’s always a partnership and our aim is always to try new and exciting things. Sometimes we see those things realised and they can be very bold or progressive; other times they aren’t, but are more subtle and refined. There’s room for everything.

How did you get into football kit design?

It’s been a lifelong interest. Since I was a small kid I was always interested in football kits. They had an attraction to them – shiny fabric, cool logos, details. I just loved them. I was always into them but followed an art path through higher education before I took a chance on an internship in Germany at adidas. That initial six-month internship turned into a longer stay and I worked my way up.  

Do you have a favourite classic kit?

United away 1990-92 always sticks out in my mind. I remember being 10 years old and first seeing it in Shoot! magazine and having my mind blown by how amazing it was – bold and new. When I think about that moment now I still remember that feeling of excitement and awe. Crazy loud graphics hadn’t really made their way onto United shirts before that point.

Were United your team growing up?

I was born into a family in Manchester with four older brothers and they all supported United, so my decision was made for me. Bryan Robson was the hero, Mr Manchester United. He played with his heart and with absolute commitment, which as supporters you love to see. Eric Cantona is another one – a maverick, genius, and catalyst for that first league win after a 26-year break. It felt like a springboard for the years of success that followed.  

There is a love of retro football shirts at the moment. How do get the balance right between looking back and blazing a trail of your own?

We always look to do things in a new way but sometimes the past can influence that. We have a great responsibility to respect the history of the great teams we work with while moving things forward and creating future classics. There is a huge love for nostalgia and zeitgeist; every generation likes to look back to the shirts they remember from their youth. Equally, football is very much a part of streetwear. It’s great to see skateboarders and musicians wearing oversized ’90s and ’00s football shirts. There’s a connection to them as clothing items, the symbolism of shirts. They come in all colours, styles and graphics, so there’s a wealth of options for people to customise their own look.

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“FIRSTLY, WE LOOK AT THE KIT AS A UNIFORM WORN BY THE TEAM, BUT I THINK WE’RE ABLE TO DO THAT WHILE KNOWING THAT IT WILL WORK WITH OTHER OUTFITS. WE WANT THE SHIRTS TO BE VERSATILE PIECES OF CLOTHING THAT CAN BE WORN IN MANY WAYS”
"We want to disrupt. We want to lead and the only way you can do that is by taking risks"

What are your biggest inspirations when it comes to the look of a shirt?

I take inspiration from as wide a pool as possible to make something that is unique and separates how we look compared to our competitors. We always do our homework, which includes a visit to the stadium and museum, talking to the club and visiting the city for a cultural immersion. Creatively we look at many things to inspire the actual design. We also have a seasonal creative direction, which is a sort of lens through which we look at the design of the shirts. In 2020 it is through the lens of art, trying to make things with our hands in a way that we maybe haven’t previously. You can see that in the shirts this season: less digital, more emotional.

What’s the balance between how a kit will look on the pitch and how it will look with a pair of jeans?

Firstly, we look at the kit as a uniform worn by the team, but I think we’re able to do that while knowing that it will work with other outfits. We want the shirts to be versatile pieces of clothing that can be worn in many ways. It’s always an interesting part of matchday to see supporters wearing the shirts with their outfits, their own styling and look that reflects their personality.

What do you enjoy most about the process?

The first pen mark of a design in a season is exciting; the first design review and seeing all the team’s ideas is amazing. The arrival of the first design samples is great, seeing them realised and starting to come to life. But my favourite moment is seeing the kits on the field of play for the first time, worn by the best players in the world. It’s that raw buzz and excitement I had as a kid. Unbeatable.

Do you feel a responsibility towards fans?

Of course. We’re fans ourselves so we know the feeling, but we’re also the ones who want to push the industry forward and try things. We want to be the first but within that lies risk, which these days ends in social media comments. We read them and listen to all points of view but it’s impossible to please everyone. I’m pretty sure that most of the iconic shirts nowadays from the ’80s and ’90s – such as the bruised banana [Arsenal, 1991-93], snowflake [Manchester United, 1990-92], etc – had a similar split audience back then, but without social media for people to easily share their disapproval. Ironically those old divisive shirts now make the ‘top 10 greatest ever shirts’ lists and are lauded by the very people who criticise the more expressive designs we do now. The bigger issues are that when designs leak they are very often inaccurate, sometimes based on a description by someone and then drawn by someone else.  

Talking of expressive designs, tell us the story behind United’s third kit.

The story is about stripes. In the first ever season United played at Old Trafford 110 years ago, they played one home match that season wearing a striped shirt. That is quite unusual, and formed our story. We found United had played in striped shirts in other periods of their history and that it wasn’t actually such an unusual look for the club. We took that idea, redrew the stripes from the different eras, hacked them and then modernised them in black and white. We used red accents on the kit to bring in the core DNA United colours, but reconfigured for now.

What was the motivation behind it?

We wanted to disrupt. We want to lead and the only way you can do that is by taking risks. United also live by this mantra: a team that has always played attacking, risk-taking football, and been a trailblazer. We both felt that it was the right time to do it, so we did something we knew would provoke conversation and reactions. The home and away kits are designed with different stories at their heart but built around the club’s DNA. This kit, to quote the famous fan banner at Old Trafford, will be “Hated, adored, never ignored”.  We were inspired by the customisation culture of football shirts and wanted to create something that would take it a step further.

Are some clubs happier to take risks than others?

We work with all clubs differently, as they are all unique. It’s always a partnership and our aim is always to try new and exciting things. Sometimes we see those things realised and they can be very bold or progressive; other times they aren’t, but are more subtle and refined. There’s room for everything.

How did you get into football kit design?

It’s been a lifelong interest. Since I was a small kid I was always interested in football kits. They had an attraction to them – shiny fabric, cool logos, details. I just loved them. I was always into them but followed an art path through higher education before I took a chance on an internship in Germany at adidas. That initial six-month internship turned into a longer stay and I worked my way up.  

Do you have a favourite classic kit?

United away 1990-92 always sticks out in my mind. I remember being 10 years old and first seeing it in Shoot! magazine and having my mind blown by how amazing it was – bold and new. When I think about that moment now I still remember that feeling of excitement and awe. Crazy loud graphics hadn’t really made their way onto United shirts before that point.

Were United your team growing up?

I was born into a family in Manchester with four older brothers and they all supported United, so my decision was made for me. Bryan Robson was the hero, Mr Manchester United. He played with his heart and with absolute commitment, which as supporters you love to see. Eric Cantona is another one – a maverick, genius, and catalyst for that first league win after a 26-year break. It felt like a springboard for the years of success that followed.  

There is a love of retro football shirts at the moment. How do get the balance right between looking back and blazing a trail of your own?

We always look to do things in a new way but sometimes the past can influence that. We have a great responsibility to respect the history of the great teams we work with while moving things forward and creating future classics. There is a huge love for nostalgia and zeitgeist; every generation likes to look back to the shirts they remember from their youth. Equally, football is very much a part of streetwear. It’s great to see skateboarders and musicians wearing oversized ’90s and ’00s football shirts. There’s a connection to them as clothing items, the symbolism of shirts. They come in all colours, styles and graphics, so there’s a wealth of options for people to customise their own look.

“FIRSTLY, WE LOOK AT THE KIT AS A UNIFORM WORN BY THE TEAM, BUT I THINK WE’RE ABLE TO DO THAT WHILE KNOWING THAT IT WILL WORK WITH OTHER OUTFITS. WE WANT THE SHIRTS TO BE VERSATILE PIECES OF CLOTHING THAT CAN BE WORN IN MANY WAYS”
"We want to disrupt. We want to lead and the only way you can do that is by taking risks"

What are your biggest inspirations when it comes to the look of a shirt?

I take inspiration from as wide a pool as possible to make something that is unique and separates how we look compared to our competitors. We always do our homework, which includes a visit to the stadium and museum, talking to the club and visiting the city for a cultural immersion. Creatively we look at many things to inspire the actual design. We also have a seasonal creative direction, which is a sort of lens through which we look at the design of the shirts. In 2020 it is through the lens of art, trying to make things with our hands in a way that we maybe haven’t previously. You can see that in the shirts this season: less digital, more emotional.

What’s the balance between how a kit will look on the pitch and how it will look with a pair of jeans?

Firstly, we look at the kit as a uniform worn by the team, but I think we’re able to do that while knowing that it will work with other outfits. We want the shirts to be versatile pieces of clothing that can be worn in many ways. It’s always an interesting part of matchday to see supporters wearing the shirts with their outfits, their own styling and look that reflects their personality.

What do you enjoy most about the process?

The first pen mark of a design in a season is exciting; the first design review and seeing all the team’s ideas is amazing. The arrival of the first design samples is great, seeing them realised and starting to come to life. But my favourite moment is seeing the kits on the field of play for the first time, worn by the best players in the world. It’s that raw buzz and excitement I had as a kid. Unbeatable.

Do you feel a responsibility towards fans?

Of course. We’re fans ourselves so we know the feeling, but we’re also the ones who want to push the industry forward and try things. We want to be the first but within that lies risk, which these days ends in social media comments. We read them and listen to all points of view but it’s impossible to please everyone. I’m pretty sure that most of the iconic shirts nowadays from the ’80s and ’90s – such as the bruised banana [Arsenal, 1991-93], snowflake [Manchester United, 1990-92], etc – had a similar split audience back then, but without social media for people to easily share their disapproval. Ironically those old divisive shirts now make the ‘top 10 greatest ever shirts’ lists and are lauded by the very people who criticise the more expressive designs we do now. The bigger issues are that when designs leak they are very often inaccurate, sometimes based on a description by someone and then drawn by someone else.  

Talking of expressive designs, tell us the story behind United’s third kit.

The story is about stripes. In the first ever season United played at Old Trafford 110 years ago, they played one home match that season wearing a striped shirt. That is quite unusual, and formed our story. We found United had played in striped shirts in other periods of their history and that it wasn’t actually such an unusual look for the club. We took that idea, redrew the stripes from the different eras, hacked them and then modernised them in black and white. We used red accents on the kit to bring in the core DNA United colours, but reconfigured for now.

What was the motivation behind it?

We wanted to disrupt. We want to lead and the only way you can do that is by taking risks. United also live by this mantra: a team that has always played attacking, risk-taking football, and been a trailblazer. We both felt that it was the right time to do it, so we did something we knew would provoke conversation and reactions. The home and away kits are designed with different stories at their heart but built around the club’s DNA. This kit, to quote the famous fan banner at Old Trafford, will be “Hated, adored, never ignored”.  We were inspired by the customisation culture of football shirts and wanted to create something that would take it a step further.

Are some clubs happier to take risks than others?

We work with all clubs differently, as they are all unique. It’s always a partnership and our aim is always to try new and exciting things. Sometimes we see those things realised and they can be very bold or progressive; other times they aren’t, but are more subtle and refined. There’s room for everything.

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