The fashion industry has been slow off the mark when it comes to platforming women’s football.
But in the midst of this year’s Women’s World Cup (and a well overdue broad explosion of interest and awareness in the women’s game) we’re finally starting to see the fashion industry wake up to the power of the sport. We’re talking high-profile collaborations and product drops, the game’s biggest ballers taking over global billboards, and reserved seating on fashion week front rows. Women’s football and fashion have finally collided in a way that’s existed in the men’s game for generations, and it’s about time.
Football’s association with fashion continues to find new meaning as we are in the dawn of a cultural shift within the women’s game. Despite the term once averting our attention towards new iterations of the noughties-style football jerseys like those found on Balenciaga’s catwalk in their AW20 season or the 10-piece football-infused capsule collection by Aries X Umbro in 2021, today we find the essence of women’s football repeatedly woven throughout the fashion industry, and not just an afterthought.
Last year, emerging UK designer and fashion lecturer, Hattie Crowther, relaunched her football-themed corset collection in response to FIFA’s decision to allow Qatar – a country where homosexuality is illegal – to host the men’s World Cup. Hattie’s work was a protest against inequality and a celebration of identity, and we’re now seeing more and more storytelling-led style enter the women’s game – although not all are as politically charged.
For this summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup, we’ve seen kit designs champion heritage and culture. And yet this isn’t a ‘new’ phenomenon within the jersey culture space – just last year Nigo, the founder of Japanese streetwear label BAPE and creative director of KENZO, designed Japan’s away kit for the men’s FIFA World Cup – it’s the first time designers responsible for high-end, runway fashion (real ‘fashionistas’ if you will) have been at the centre of international women’s kit design.
Jamaica’s kit from adidas was designed in collaboration with British-Jamaican designer Grace Wales Bonner, whose textile patterns were inspired by those found on traditional Fair Isle knitwear, combining the traditional Scottish style with twilight colours of the Caribbean. The South Londoner is a lifelong Arsenal fan, and so football has played a crucial role in the designer’s work over the years. For example, her first collaborative release with the Three Stripes in 2020 saw Wales Bonner release a capsule inspired by outfits donned by Rastafari icon Bob Marley during the 1970s, with the capsule bringing a new lease of life to the adidas Samba – a shoe originally designed in the 1940s for footballers to train on icy, hard grounds. Since then, Wales Bonner has become somewhat of a cult hero amongst football fans and especially followers of the TikTok fashion trend, ‘blokecore’ or ‘blokette’.