A tree grows in Austria. With the imagination of artist Max Peinter used as blueprint, a team led by organizer Klaus Littman brought the eerie pencil drawing, “The Unending Attraction of Nature”, into physical form. FOR FOREST serves as a warning wrought in the middle of a football pitch and will only run for a few more days.
The striking visual of FOR FOREST includes 300 trees, each weighing around six tons standing, swaying at center pitch of the Wörthersee Stadium in Klagenfurt, Austria. This exhibition is Austria’s largest. As in the original drawing, it’s curious how the trees hold an eerie reign over the pitch, reminding the viewer of a time looming, as Littman puts it, “that one day the naturalness of nature could be admired in its specially assigned vessels, as is already the case today with animals in zoos.”
When asked about the installation’s purpose or intended commentary Littman stated,
“It is an invitation to reflect.”
There is indeed a reverence present amidst the trees—a quiet that pervades a space artificially bustling with life.
The original piece is a thought experiment that brings questions of sustainability and spectacle to the forefront: What if forests weren’t accessible anymore? Once the rise of industry and pollution has removed nature from its natural state, where do the trees go? Where do we go to see them? For all the excruciating detail brought to life, Littman’s 2019 exhibition does not seek an answer. Instead, he is content in adding dimension to the original questions asked.
It should be noted that inside the exhibition grounds, football appears not as the focal point, but as coincidence—the matter of fact around the spectacle. It acts as a shield with its modern metal columns and stadium beams as a skeleton for nature on life support. Littman commented as much, “The architecture of the stadium offers the ideal conditions for this and emphasizes the dignity of the object. It strongly emphasizes the contrast between artificial and natural: on one side the man-made stadium with its steel, glass and concrete, and on the other the colourful and living forest.”
For all the complaints about modern football, FOR FOREST paves ample runway for grievances even more severe. Here, football plays equal parts protector, captor and museum archiver with the joys of nature doled out in 90 min increments to the select few. There is some grand parallel about the joy of football being as vital as the joy of life itself, but we’d be better served contemplating how to stop burning the trees, lest the modernization of the football turn into the very least of our concerns.
The warning persists until the end of the month. FOR FOREST is open to the public through the end of October.
For Guess Senior Menswear Designer, Christian Ferretti, his muse, his obsession is football—beautifully erratic 90’s gradient-laden football shirts to be exact.
A career deep dive with Christian begins with his journey in America, which swings the narrative back and forth to his native Ecuador.
“It’s hard sometimes when you’re in a different space and you tell people your dream and they feel like it’s too big for you. They felt like I didn’t know the language. I didn’t know what I was doing. I was too new to this country.”
In the face of his doubters, Christian refers to an unshakeable inner voice. It was a voice so deeply undeniable that it spurred him to employ a seamstress. Even as an immigrant working construction and cleaning houses in the States, he felt the unflinching hunger to create the “different clothing” he envisioned.
Following that same inner voice, Christian would complete formative fashion studies at the Art Institute of California, Hollywood near the age of 30. He ascribes the kind of desire to adopt formal schooling at a later age to something driven by faith in something above,
“It was in the end that voice from God. It was that certainty that something was going to happen at the end of that college career.”
HOW IT ALL GOT STARTED WITH CHRISTIAN AND DESIGN
CHRISTIAN AND HIS JOURNEY TO COLLEGE
Then Guess came calling.
Suddenly, the textures, the patterns, and the gradients of the football kits he had pinned up as a child in Ecuador started carrying weight and inspiring his design work. The football fan’s obsessive nature paired with the surgical know-how of a fashion grad made Christian a force in menswear. Deciphering the language of knits and outerwear, puffers and polos, Christian talks about creating variety and volume all to “communicate confidence” for his shopper.
CHRISTIAN ON GROWING AS A DESIGNER AT GUESS
CHRISTIAN ON HOW HIS ACCOMPLISHMENTS ARE ALWAYS FOR OTHERS
Confidence in clothing is something the football fan is well-versed in. Christian, as a collector, eschewed some of the more popular kit picks for choices of rarity and reminders of home. He starts with a David Beckham tech-fit Galaxy kit from 2011.
“Beckham is one of my favorite players, so to me, this 2011 jersey with the tech-fit on it is one of my favorite ones. It was one of the hardest to find actually. In that time for tech-fit, they didn’t even call it small, medium or large. They had it by numbers: 6, 8, 10. I loved how fitted it was and it felt like performance and it felt like it protected you from injury. It almost made you look like a superhero.”
Christian on why he collects kits
Christian talks about the adidas “Tech Fit” Beckham LA Galaxy Kit
Even with his more popular pieces: the class of ‘92 Man United kit, Christian is drawn to particular details entrenched in memory.
“I’ll never forget the “kung-fu kick … I’ll never forget Cantona jumping into the stands.”
Then he goes full gradient.
“I really loved the gradient on the pattern and how it goes from blue to white. That’s always something that’s been attractive to me because when I was little I used to draw a lot of geometrical patterns in a notebook. After that I was always attracted to this jersey and the courted piping along the edges with the color combinations where the pops are red. I think this may be one of the most beautiful kits.”
Christian’s love for 90s kits, especially from the J League
No other kits were embraced more by Christian’s memory than that of his native Ecuador. Two to be exact: the kit of his hometown club, Barcelona S.C. and the legendary Reebok Ecuador kit. On another real full circle tilt, among the kits of football lore, lies his custom-designed Guess X Association jersey exhibited proudly among his collection. It’s J Balvin-inspired. It’s loud. It’s a poignant reminder of the need to follow the dreams, inner voices, and obsessions of youth.
We admit that talking about a guy who mashes up kits is a bit on the nose for our brand, which, is all about the mashing up of culture and football. However, Floor Wesseling is somebody who truly embodies the ethos of KTTP. The Dutchman grew up listening to Hip-hop, wearing Raiders Stater Jackets, and collecting kits from all across Europe. Wesseling is a graphic designer who worked for Nike designer National Team kits and currently is the Art Director for the Dutch National Team or KVB.
Floor’s latest project “Blood In Blood Out” is named after the 1993 film depicting the lives of Paco, Cruz, and Miklo as they struggle with the issues of identity, race, family and gang violence in their East LA home(Vatos Locos Forever). The collection also deals with similar ideas using kits and their crests as symbols of identity that inspire loyalty or animosity. It is a nod to European heraldry, the evolution of the kit as garment, and a social experiment meant to troll some of the long held and sincere hatreds in world football.
A central theme of “Blood In Blood Out” is the power of symbols and the way they hide in plain sight on a football kit. When commissioned with an art show in Ireland, Floor plastered promo posters across the city with a half Irish half English kit. The community took matters into their own hands. “I Instantly realized I have something here because people are ripping the posters off…They hated seeing that combination.” Floor has even received death threats as a result of his mashed-up rival kits in certain communities where the tensions between clubs is especially high. But as he asked one complaintant, “Who would Ajax be without Feyenoord?”
Trafficking in team colors and club crests as “wearable flags”—he interested in how those symbols appeal to our personal, prickly senses of tribalism. Time and time again, Floor has seen that it’s all fun and games until it is your club that has been given the split shirt treatment.
“They love the projects throughout the years. I always got compliments, until it’s about you. If your rival is shown combined with your shirt, your identity, you get mental at me.”
Is it basic sadism to concoct kits capable of shaking the ardent footy fan? Floor would argue a more positive, purer intention. Through the catalog of controversial custom-mades, he makes no attempt to mask his distaste for his rival Feyenoord. The combination of these well-known public symbols is cathartic. “Unification in the face of obvious rivalry.” He takes a football shirt and uses it to talk about everything but football.
“Not talking about football, just using it as a canvas. Telling the story about Europe through heraldry.”
The most iconic of Floor’s cut and sew pieces include England/Argentina, House of Tudors, and Old Firm United. They quickly eclipse tired homecoming homages and leave you in a state of justified mystification at what two disparate symbols can conjure together. Wesseling is moving past the incediary rival kits and has began to make kits that represent a specific individual’s identtiy. He has made kits representing the entire careers, like the one he did for Ruud van Nistelroy, whose eyes lit up when he looked at the visual journey that the one shirt encapsulated. Floor also details a time when he was approached by a man in such wonder who asked for a Greece/Portugal shirt to represent the culture of his parents, his culture, and his blood.
As a designer, Floor Wesseling is an old pro in the football beautification business. He may be doing it in a manner in which we have never seen, but “Blood In Blood Out” is a footballing mirror. It reinforces what we value when the things we devalue are placed just inches away.
Bling has long been a nouveau-riche term reserved for the necks, wrists, and pinky fingers of the elite American athlete or musician. However, with IG influence increasingly molding global taste, the style of the rich and famous around the world are beginning to blend.
Enter Jason of Beverly Hills, the LA-based jeweler known for his penchant for high-end clientele: namely the starlets of European football. His work and friendship with players such as Didier Drogba, Kevin-Prince Boateng and Antoine Griezmann have made him a known commodity in the beautiful game.
From the jump, it’s clear that Jason’s connection and comfort around American sports celebrities allowed the football stars of Europe the comfort to start a relationship.
“In the United States, we service over 300 professional athletes from American football, basketball, hockey, baseball…What happens is a lot of the guys, even 15 years ago when we started, would come here to either play friendlies or they would come to the United States to vacation in the offseason. A lot of guys would come out here just to party and have fun.”
2003 – His first client: Didier Drogba.
“He came to us then and he had purchased some items from us and was really excited and felt like, listen, ‘we don’t have a lot of jewelers that are back in the UK that sell the type of merchandise you do and the type of custom work that you do. It’s a little bit more of you pick out of a showcase and things like that.’”
From icing out one of the great strikers in modern Premier League history, Jason’s contact list would explode: Boateng brothers, Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezman. In the last 10 years the family tree of Jason of Beverly Hills would expand the entire European continent.
Jason talks with excitement as he recalls visiting the training grounds of AC Milan, Chelsea and Manchester City for a private session with players on the respective teams.
“We oftentimes know the captain of the team and they’ll set it up so we can meet some of the other players. It’s a small knit community just like it is with American sports, so that once you kind of get into the circle and earn their trust, they definitely refer you to friends.”
With social media growing in influence for both the average Joe as well as the €500,000/week athlete, Jason notes that the trends and style of Europe and America were becoming one and the same. He’s quick to point out that European players prior to social media picked up on American style cues from actually seeing the nightlife themselves.
“So guys in Europe, they get to know what’s hot here in the States a lot quicker in real-time, whereas before they would have to actually travel here. Get in the scene. Go out at night. See what people are wearing. Now it’s instantaneous.”
The jewelry game for those who can afford it changed beyond recognition.
“So they could be sitting at home between practice or before a game and they scroll through their Instagram and they’ll see what the newest, hottest fashion is here in the States….The information is transmitted in real time.”
Historical differences between the athletes of Europe and America were rooted in old-world definitions of luxury.
“Europeans were typically a lot more conservative, weren’t as flashy. Not only just the jewelry but their overall dress was so different than American athletes.”
Interestingly enough as the American celebrity began to adopt more European luxury into their wardrobe: Gucci, Saint Laurent, Louis Vuitton, sartorial rules around jewelry shifted dramatically towards the style of the American athlete. The global culture was taking root in both brains.
Take French talisman, Antoine Griezmann. Even as one of the flashier icons in the game today, Griezmann’s custom “Fortnite” chain made waves. It’s a wave that Jason himself helped create.
“The most fun pieces are the ones that really capture someone’s identity, what they love. Antoine Griezmann came to me and he said ‘Listen, I want to do something different. I love Fortnite. I play it all the time. I want to do a Fortnite character.’ He fell in love with the character doing ‘the loser dance’ because he felt like, ‘That’s what I want to do every single time we win on the pitch.’ So we brought that to life and did a little black diamond and green emerald Fortnite pendant.”
Another American tradition readily adopted by the European players is the championship ring. Jason had created the championship rings for the Lakers which caught the interest of a certain Didier Drogba.
“When Chelsea won the Champions League Didier Drogba had called us up and said he was such a fan of the Laker rings that we did that he’s like, “I want to be able to do something special along with the team for all the players, the trainers, and the coaches.” So we designed a ring that he approved along with some of the other players, flew over to London and we did this big gala for all the players and the team officials to attend and each player and the coach and training staff was awarded a championship ring to celebrate their Champions League victory.”
The gesture would be repeated by Griezmann to celebrate Atletico Madrid’s La Liga victory. It made some of the old European guard squirm—the idea that high profile European footballers would practice such an American tradition. Jason’s proximity to the players gives him a different perspective.
“It’s the story behind the actual ring and what it signifies. It’s funny because I feel like the players appreciate it more than anyone and this has all been driven by the players…To see the look in their eyes when we’re presenting the rings, it means the world to them. Even if they’re not a flashy person, it’s more of a memento or trophy that they put in their house, that it kind of memorializes and pays tribute to the championship they won.”
Surprisingly enough all of Jason’s jewelry for footballers have been for the athletes abroad. With global style culture swaying back and forth between the Europe and US, he feels like he’s got a good shot of making some celebratory ice for an American team as obsessed with Americana as the stars of Europe.
Introducing Sabrina Cols. Sabrina is the newest member of the KTTP writing team and our feature for this edition of Female is Football. The Netherlands has long been an epicenter of not only how football is played but how life reacts and exists around it. To help chart the modern rise of the Dutch female footballer, we sit down with Sabrina Cols: marketer, a player, the lioness behind the scenes helping grow the game through her experiences with Nike + the Dutch FA.
I’m Sabrina Cols, 35 years old and I come from Holland. I originally grew up in a city in the east of Holland and moved to Utrecht, where I currently live, during my studies. I got connected with the game of football through my cousins, because they were always outside playing. So when I had the chance to join another sport, after swimming lessons and martial arts it was quite logical that I would join a football club. My mom found a great club and I joined when I was 11. I’ve never stopped ever since.
What was the presence of girls and women’s football growing up. Was it common?
For everyone starting in the 90s, it was there: girls and women’s football, but it wasn’t as big as it is now. In Holland you also have the opportunity to play mixed football, which means that you can join every club. That got a lot of girls started in that time. My club had enough members and could therefore also organize girls teams.
Were these games televised? Were they hard to find and watch?
When I started to play there was hardly any women’s football on television. So you’re absolutely right. It was not broadcasted and the Dutch Women’s team at that time was not participating at the big tournaments. So I had to watch Eurosport to see a little bit of international women’s football and that started during the Women’s World Cup in 99. Especially the USA women’s team stood out for me. They were playing for big crowds, winning the tournament in the end. Really special to see that on tv and to see all these great players from the different countries at that stage.
How hard was it to watch?
It’s really nice to nowadays see the attentions for the women’s games during the big tournaments. At that time I would kamp in front of the tv and try to catch a glimpse on Eurosport to follow the Women’s games during the big tournaments. Players like Mia Hamm really stood with me, with her great technique and scoring great goals. The following years the USA women’s teams made it easy to follow them, because they were really active and into presenting themselves. To me the team that set the tone and really showcasing how you can do that as a team, as players and of course always combined with great success and winning prizes.
What part did style in football play into your life?
Growing up you always see your cousins, friends and the kids at school who wear cool things. In Holland we didn’t have the school uniform or anything like that, so we could always express ourselves from a very young age. Wearing whatever you like. If you are a football player, then you also tend to look at what the football players are wearing and how that meshes with your own style. Sneakers growing up was a big thing. I think that’s definitely something that was as important as wearing the best cleats.
Did you have a favorite brand? Or more of a variety?
Back in the days I like the old school ones: the Air Max Lights, [ones] I was always playing football in the lunch breaks, so so I always needed to have that second pair with me as well. So I would not to not mess up my good pair. I still remember wearing white and baby blue LA Gears, red velvet Kangaroos, the Kill Bill yellow Puma’s during high school. But Nike’s were my favorites. Those are the shoes that I remember.
Now that we know the soccer side of things, Can you talk about what you do for a career?
I started working as an independent [sports and culture consultant] in 2017. Before that, I worked for 10 years for Nike and the Dutch FA. So my background is pretty much in football and the sporting goods business. At Nike, I started with a retail marketing internship and after that I had multiple jobs within the company. My thread within my Nike career was that it was in a way connected to football. At the Dutch FA I was a women’s football marketing manager.
Some of the great memories from my Nike time was meeting the Dutch women’s national team when they got their first women’s fitted kit and supporting the first women’s football photoshoot back in 2008. Introducing also Anouk Hoogendijk (former Dutch international) to Nike. My last gig at Nike was as a kids- and women’s football project manager.
A dream ofcourse to work as a professional in football. Nowadays I’m working as an independent also really exploring other worlds. So I’m still doing projects in football, but I am also working on arts theater and dance-projects and a social impact-project.
How did your football journey start?
I just grew up loving football. I had a great time playing season after season. With great memories of winning prizes, even playing abroad and just having great laughs with my teammates. At some point, I just realized that I maybe was not that good and interested to make it to the top on pitch. So I had to see if I could pursue another career in football. Sharing what I learned and enjoyed on a professional level. Looking back it’s really cool that I managed to do that. I ended up working for my top two companies. Giving a real pulse to Dutch women’s football and work on kids and women’s football within a big multinational.
I’ve been playing and watching women’s football for so long. And I just couldn’t understand why companies like that shouldn’t pay good attention to it. So I am hoping that I played a part in giving energy and help translate how you can make women’s football work professionally. Whether you are a big sports brand or a federation. Not forgetting also to motivate the players, whether they are internationals or young girls starting, clubs and other people involved on how they can also play a role in promoting the game.
What was it like in the early days of working in women’s football at Nike?
Growing up as a young football fan Nike to me always had the best football stories and the best commercials starring Brazilian team, great players such as Ronaldinho, Henry and Zlatan. So of course I would love Nike to do the same for women’s football. But when I started the first conversations in 2007 at Nike Holland there was still a lot to win on getting to know the sport: how many girls and women are playing, how is it developing, who are the big clubs, who are the players to watch, how many people are watching games. So in other words: is the sport really a sleeping giant and how interesting it is business wise. But it was definitely at that time when I got a real good understanding of what sports business means, what makes great product and even better storytelling. It was not the right time, yet.
What was it like in the early days of working with the Dutch FA?
Yeah. I was probably the first full-time women’s football marketer, in Holland, in Europe, maybe in the world haha. When you’re in it, you’re just working really hard and doing your best. But if I now look back, I started in 2008 on the parttime project women’s football and I helped develop it into a marketing category with people working full time and many more colleagues involved by 2017, it was quite unique.
At the Dutch FA at that time, it was really important that they presented girls and women playing, from grassroots to the Dutch national team, in the best way possible. Mind you that at that time the mindset on women’s football was not as good as it is today and the Dutch women’s national team was not as visible and successfull. So we first started with making well though of marketing communication plans, creating it with and for the players, using campaigns around the big tournaments and using quality productions to also shape that image of women’s football. Really inviting girls, women, parents, clubs to join and play football. And setting the stage the women’s national team and getting Dutch fans excited for the other Orange team.
It’s just really cool to think of how it all came together. A lot of girls and women started to play football, female membership was growing constantly. Giving the Dutch women’s team, the OranjeLeeuwinnen (translated: Orange Lionesses) their own identity and a stage to really present themselves to the Dutch fans. We developed and organized the women’s national team games into the national women’s football events. And the final big step was to win the women’s EURO 2017 bid and making Holland the host of the European Championship. Good times.
What does style mean in terms of empowerment/femininity ?
Well, I think to me style means identity. A really big gesture was, for instance, the orange lioness in the crest of the women’s Dutch national team in 2007. Nike changed the crest from a lion to the lioness. Not just having a new kit, with all these new technologies and an even better fit. It’s those elements that makes you want to wear it even more. The players felt really proud wearing that crest and the story got even more elevated when they won the Euros. Really amazing.
It goes beyond being proud of playing for your country if you know that something is made for you. What you wear fits better when you know it’s made with your insights and embodies your thoughts and dreams. That feeling, that’s what makes your style and what makes your identity.
What’s different now that you’re working independently? Tell us about your project “Blood in Blood out.”
What I like about working independently today is that I can do a variety on football storytelling. I love the football culture. I love it when arts meets football and vice versa. So I am proud to part of the “Blood in Blood out” project. What they create is a shirt and they evolved it into an even bigger story. The elements in the shirt represents a career, the roots of your family or just the clubs that your a massive fan of. The piece of art that comes out not only looks cool, but is also really makes strong very tangible statement. I love that.
So with Blood in Blood Out, what are you roles?
I do research on players and story opportunities. Once that’s in process I also help with the production side. Whether it’s organizing the meet up with the player or the photoshoot. Another part is to help connecting with magazines or other media platforms to see if we can team up and present the story around the shirts and players. So it’s those three things: research, production and publicity.
How would you describe your work personality?
Sometimes I just describe myself as a creative multiplayer, someone that you always want as part your team and who can play on multiple positions in any stage of the game. Especially working at the Dutch FA, I started women’s football as a project, so I had to prove that it could be bigger than that. So I had to act as a marketing multiplayer: be a product manager, do event promotion, create and produce promotional tools and see if I could join or create teams to help grow the work. Crazy, I did it all. So yes, it was really great that the team became bigger and more colleagues got involved to join the fun. That’s where I learned to be very flexible, present what can be done, help create great teams and teamwork.
Brands you like right now?
I think for me, I am wearing the Veja sneakers at the moment. They are a very conscious sneaker brand. I think that’s really cool. I like Patagonia for the same reason. It’s very nicely designed. It’s great quality. And they present themselves through the world that we should cherish and love. I try to be conscious in what I am buying and to be smart in how to combine that clothes and shoes that I have. Nowadays I like the brands that do the same.
Closing thoughts on the industry and pushing the women’s game forward?
Yeah definitely. I feel very lucky to have met and worked with many great players, coaches, clubs and people in football. It’s the people and the opportunities through the game that makes it a lot of fun to work on. I think there’s still so much to tell and win. As for the players, the teams and everyone involved just keep going and keep having fun. Nothing is stopping the women’s game to evolve and as it is part of football it is part of a never-ending beautiful story.
Beneath the racks of throwback kits with commemorative patches and dog-eared ticket stubs lies the naked truth: football fans are sentimental creatures. Sentimentality, unfortunately, seldom pushes football culture forward, but in rare moments it does help produce someone like Chris Smith aka @Brickstand. The Manchester-residing, Palace supporter is a fan on a mission to build all 92 League stadiums in English football, brick by Lego brick.
Chris’s passion for football and its stands may be a matter of fact, but his mission to erect shrines to English football took some coaxing. He was neither a Lego prodigy nor a Macauley Culkin Home Alone-type setting up elaborate domino mazes of blocks and trinkets. “I worked at a school and the kids would play with Lego a lot.” Chris just wanted to do something to commemorate his fandom. And so “Brickstand” was born.
Selhurst Park, the current “palace” of Crystal Palace, was always going to be the beginning, but there was this adjacent desire for an anthology. Block by block, Chris built—constructing the halls of Old Trafford, the Stadium of Light, Goodison Park. In the early days, the only breaks from the English landscape were by commission: Barcelona’s Camp Nou being one significant delivery. On the purely Lego-end Chris is still very much a one-man shop. All pieces are purchased by him personally, and just as he stacks every block, he’s also the one hand-delivering the model to your door.
No piece of Lego is actually purposed to create a football ground, which means every goal post, every safe standing terrace is actually full-scale creativity in action to the very micro level. But according to Chris, that kind of creation amidst the unknown is the fun part, and fun for a guy who spends as much time as he does building blocks is paramount.
Chris recounts his joy at not only how his build of Fulham’s Craven Cottage found a worthy home, “The idea was always to give it so it would it fit nicely in someone’s house.” but how enjoyable it was to build the unique stand at Fulham. “Sometimes you end up with one beautiful façade on the back of one of the stands, while the others are just plastic and corrugated metal – then you have this contrast with something Victorian almost.”
Chris references Archibald Leitch, the architect responsible for not only designing Selhurst Park but many of England’s iconic stands with a kind of reverence. The nostalgic beauty of even the foundation material of old grounds is not lost on Chris who laments how similar the plastic and corrugated metal of modern stadiums can feel.
The malaise of building copy and paste stadiums made sure that the fun of building a stadium in the first place began to dry out. Add to that the pure material cost of the Lego and Chris realized he wasn’t enjoying it anymore. “It was getting really difficult to replace the bricks. I couldn’t buy Lego fast enough to replace what I was giving away.”
It became so routine Chris would find himself completing the model, taking a picture and stripping it down for parts. Turns out in the world of gleaming collectible, the un-glamour of it all still rests with the guy who has to build the damn thing. So with the knowhow of Football Manager and the newer, vaster imagination imparted by the Lego universe, Chris Smith decided to build something new.
The idea for FC Brickstand was to design the kind of club that would play in one of the many Lego stadiums he’s built – a club built completely out of Lego and the friends and family that make up Chris’ life. This Lego team would play in the simulated “Diorama Conference” with a full slate of opposing teams with equally whimsical names: Makersfield Town, Olymbrick De Marseille, Connection Orient etc. In the FC Brickstand world, results are shared via Twitter as Chris would stage his “players” in game situations and give the match recap through a caption. This new universe of FC Brickstand was a welcome one for Chris. Laughing, he says, “It can be a relief from following your real football team. It can be an antidote.”
The fictional football club is not a particularly groundbreaking concept on its own merit. Sophnet’s FC Real Bristol or Nike FC have been using the “club” as avatars/mannequins for football culture merchandising for years. And yet, this communal multimedia journey around a club built on Lego immediately depicted something innately deeper than just a Spring/Summer collection.
In today’s landscape of in-game/in-app transactions, FC Brickstand occupies this interesting gap between the completely analog Lego terraces Chris built and the immediate validation of something like FIFA Ultimate Team. For the first time in its nearly 100-year history, Lego was beginning to reflect the football world like a weekly magazine or publication would—one match day at a time. For Chris the switch came at a pivotal time, “It got me re-enthused. I’ve gone back to the start because all the stadiums were built on trial and error. The enjoyment part of it was not knowing how it would work out but saying let’s just start it and see what happens.”
The Brickstand squad continued to take shape with Chris no longer only creating replicas, but emphatic storylines wholesale. The social media community around FC Brickstand in return started following stat and storylines of Brickstand players like star striker and Lego figurine: Conor Muldoon whose goalscoring prowess is directly related to how Chris is feeling on the day of. Yet the supporters of Conor and FC Brickstand love it and engage because the scale and care that these matches are staged with makes it feel real.
FC Brickstand’s unique place in the hearts and minds of football fans is also rooted in the relational aspect to real-world results. When a black cat ran on the pitch during an Everton game, Chris recreated the scene for FC Brickstand within the week with Lego-licensed cat and all. Real football — it seems — gives him all the material he’d ever need.
For someone building a fantastical club, the results are still mired in a heavy dose of reality. Maybe it’s Chris’ Crystal Palace fandom or some deep tenet about football culture thriving despite the lack of winning, but it tells you a lot about the man when FC Brickstand currently sits in 2nd place of something akin to the Lego 5th division. Just like his run at building all 92 stadiums, Chris has created FC Brickstand for the long haul.
In his daily life Chris, who had been fairly solitary in his design of the stadiums, began receiving extra help from fans across the country who wanted to be a part of the team. “I have a guy who approached me and said, ‘I’ll help you do the results and help you with the league table.” After a Twitter contest that saw Brickstand’s fans select the inaugural kit for the team, Chris partnered with a company that custom painted kits onto the Lego figurines. He’s even gone as far as opening up a FC Brickstand membership portal, where for 5 Pounds/year, anyone across the footy internet, can be turned into a Lego figurine and placed in the seat of their choosing. In the vast world of football culture, Chris has invented one of the most creative ways to support.
At the time of writing, Chris is about halfway through building his 92 stadiums. With about a two-week window for each build, Chris estimates he’d have spent a full year of pure building when he completes his run. While daunted by the hours and labor ahead, Chris is quick to point out that his favorite memories involve him hand-delivering a piece and talking football with the super fan who just received the gift of a lifetime. Somehow, even after all those blocks, Chris Smith found the happy medium between the brick, mortar and digital worlds with his sentiment still fully intact.
You can follow Chris and his 92 builds here at brickstand.com and on Instagram: @FCBrickstand