TALKING TOFFEE CLUB & AWAY DAYS BREWING CO

Dynamic Meta widget allowed only for Posts listing source or in Post context

Pete and Niki Hoppins are English ex-pats living the American dream in Portland, OR. Married (to each other) with two kids; they are the owners of the English football pub, the Toffee Club in Southeast Portland and the founders of one of the nation’s most original and popular amateur football leagues—the Toffee League. You can now add brewery owners to their list as they opened Away Days Brewing Co next door to their pub in August of 2019.

Let’s talk about the Toffee Club first, how did that come to be? 

(Pete)

It’s always been a dream of ours to own a bar, but maybe in retirement, like we’re gonna like finish up the corporate jobs and then move back to the UK or somewhere a bit more tropical, open up a bar and semi-retire. But it actually all kicked off when my brother Jack moved over to Portland and we asked him, “Okay, well what are you gonna do?”

We were brainstorming ideas about what he’s going to do in Portland. And then that snowballed into bringing the idea of owning a bar to life sooner than we thought. We were throwing around ideas of what this could be and I think we’d already built the deck—the concept of what it could be—before we even started seriously looking into it. We specifically thought about Portland. We were like, “what’s Portland missing?” There wasn’t really a proper pub, like an English pub. That kind of culture doesn’t really exist. 

There were football bars, but there was an opportunity to combine pub and football culture together in an authentic way and bring that to Portland. So we looked at a bunch of different venues. And then we saw this, the current space, which was basically a warehouse, but it’s in a really cool, developing part of town. As soon as we saw this place, we were like, “This is it.” 

(Niki)

We definitely saw a gap in the market as well for a more inclusive space to watch football. There are a ton of football bars in Portland. But as someone who loves the social side of football but didn’t grow up with a team, I would often be in these football pubs feeling quite out of place, or like I didn’t know enough. We wanted to create a space that anyone could come to whether you’ve grown up as a born-and-bred football fan or if it’s your first time watching; whether it’s men’s or women’s as well. The Thorns obviously have a huge following in Portland, but there are not many places that have given them a focus or a real-life place to shine. That’s been really important for us from the start.

So the pub, in a sense, is very traditional with the food, etc. but it does feel very modern. It is like a modern space with the soul of a pub.

(Pete)

That was our challenge. How do you create an English pub in a warehouse, an ex-strip club in Southeast Portland? How do you take that space and make it feel like a cozy, welcoming pub? That was definitely a design challenge when we started, and that space has evolved over time. We opened the pub with three pictures on the wall and two rugs and a few tables. It’s really grown over the last few years.

We first met you guys when the Toffee Club opened three and a half years ago. How has it evolved since then?

(Pete)

It’s interesting, we went back through the original concept and the deck, the original idea behind it. Now feels like, three and a half years in, we are getting to where we always wanted to be. It was definitely a struggle at first. I think it was a little bit of having the confidence to fully realize what we wanted to do, but also to convince other people who haven’t grown up with this culture to understand what you’re trying to do.

We knew that Portlanders love football. And they love beer. And a lot of them love English stuff. But the pub culture makes it a different concept to the sports bars that people are used to.

 (Niki)

Another thing we always dreamt of is becoming the “Clubhouse”. So in England, each team has a clubhouse. And everyone goes to the clubhouse after matches. It’s the home team and the away team and both go and have a drink at the clubhouse. 

And that, I feel, is something we have finally rallied around this year. We now have an over fifties team, over forties, over thirties, and first division men’s teams in our football “club”. We have an outdoor women’s team, an indoor women’s and coed outdoor teams. We also have an indoor futsal men’s team and we encourage them all to come back to the pub afterward. We give them a pitcher of beer and chips for free after their match, so we’re finally becoming that clubhouse space to our teams.

(Pete)

We didn’t have the football angle dialed up when we first opened the Toffee Club. It was more of an English pub that shows football. I’d say that’s the biggest evolution that has happened, is that we’ve got the football dial turned way up now. At the same time, we don’t want to alienate the people who just want to come in for some nice food and a pint, a chat, a quiz, whatever. Those people are looking for the English pub environment which is still very much at the core of what we do.

So you built a pub. You’ve started a league with it sounds like over 30 teams. And then you decide, “okay, let’s build a brewery.” How did that happen?

(Niki)

This was a brewery before, called Scout Beer. They actually opened around the same time as us. They were doing that build-out at the same time as we were. And they, for one reason or another, decided to close here at the end of last year. So they contacted us at the beginning of November and asked if we wanted to take over the space. 

It had been something we’d always talked about very much in theory. And at first I was just like, “no, no, a pub and two kids is plenty.” To take over a brewery sounded ridiculous. Then we started talking about it as a team and actually realized the opportunity of starting a very different business over here, in the same proximity, bringing in a different kind of clientele to this area, using economies of scale with our team and our kitchen, and actually building a brand that had real growth potential was an interesting opportunity. 

We started negotiating and we weren’t 100% set on the idea, by any means, but as soon as we start negotiating, we realized we could move in here and have the space set up as a turnkey operation. 

So then the fun project was starting to build this brand and make it very different from what the Toffee Club is. People will know it is the same owner if they dig a little deeper, but we didn’t want and didn’t need a bigger Toffee Club. So the goal was to create something very different that will bring certain kind of guest to the brewery, who also will appreciate the Toffee Club. And the other way around.

(Pete)

People get it. What separates them is the idea that Toffee Club is this English football pub and then Away Days is like your European away day, your trip. You are going away to watch your game for the weekend in Barcelona, Amsterdam, Porto wherever it is in Europe, and this space represents that.

The Toffee Club is going to be kind of constrained in a way. It’s always going to be rooted as an English pub in Portland. Whereas Away Days, we can literally do anything with this brand. It’s going to be interesting. 

(Niki)

Toffee club is much like less about the brand and more about the community, whereas here we have real potential here with the brand, you know? So it’s really fun to think about that. We’re suddenly selling a product rather than an experience. The beer has to be the first thing we’re selling.

And this is something that you can potentially do to scale.

(Pete)

Yeah, for sure. 

(Niki)

But we don’t need two Toffee Clubs.

(Pete)

But that will always be at the center of it. However big Away Days gets it just kicks off from the pub. Like if we have a massive distribution of Away Days one day, it all comes back to the Toffee Club, That’s the original foundation and spot where the culture was created.

So obviously starting a pub is quite a big undertaking. In my mind starting a brewery is even a bigger undertaking. What have been some of your biggest challenges starting this project?

(Niki)

Opening a second business with two kids while running a business and Pete full time at Nike has been just a whole new level. We signed the lease agreement [for the brewery] in January, we got into the space in February, and we were open the first week in June just before the Women’s World Cup, which was a month of madness, anyway. So, yeah, it’s been a crazy nine months. But we have learned so much. We’re lucky to have an incredible team. Our pivotal moment was hiring our Brewer, Marshall. He has really taken our vision of what we wanted the product to be and is honestly executing above what we ever could have hoped for. 

(Pete)

That was our biggest fear or concern. We like beer, and Jack, my brother, is educated in beer, but we have no experience in brewing or the production industry. But this is a beer town and we’re coming in with a new point of view. All beer in Portland now is good. It is really good. So we’ve got to be at least really good. But Marshall, our brewer, is so, so good.

You mentioned point of view. So when you think about Away Days Beer, what is that point of view?

(Niki)

Lower ABVs, alongside the European styles, are a big thing for us. A lot of people agree that beer just went way too hoppy, too heavy, and too boozy. It was almost like you had to endure a pint rather than enjoy it. Lower ABVs is a trend back home, but it is always something that’s always interested us. Just a more sessionable drink. We love a day drink so we want to be able to have a few pints and still feel okay rather than having one that will knock your head off. 

 (Pete)

You know the lower ABV is a trend in New York and in Europe as well. Well, it’s always been in New York. People want to drink more over time and hang out with friends. And that’s like our culture so why shouldn’t we bring that up to Portland. And we combine that with the West Coast flavor.

So you guys have been opened since June, officially since August. Are you guys already starting to see where you want this business to go?

(Pete)

When we started Toffee Club we really had to figure it out as we went. Whereas Away Days has been a lot more strategic. We’re taking the learning from three and half years of Toffee Club into this space. The space is great. People love the beer. The branding is on point. But the most exciting part of it is getting the beer out there to the world. That is the new and exciting thing. We are all about new challenges. That is what keeps us going, keeps us interested. 

(Niki) 

We did this event for Octoberfest and we were packed from start to finish. It was a really good moment. We had only been existing online for two months and we were doing an event. I was thinking, “Is anyone actually going to turn up?” 

We have the infrastructure now to get our name out there. We can use Toffee Club as a starting point but most of the people who came out were just from the beer community, the Portland community. 

One thing we do know is that our growth has the potential to be a lot faster than it was at Toffee Club. We definitely have to have the confidence to be more aggressive here. At the Toffee Club we relied on word-of-mouth at first. Since then we have learned a lot about how to market, how to promote, how to connect, how to get people to know about us.

We are really impressed with all that your family has been able to accomplish to continue to take chances on creating new things that resonate with and foster community. You have really been able to build a community with the Toffee Club and even now with Aways Days, we can tell it is more than just about selling something. There is a deep connection there to family, to Portland and to the football-loving people here. 

(Pete)

You know we talk about the Toffee Club like it’s a community. And that’s been the thing that has kept us going. That’s been the most satisfying part of this. Considering the amount of effort we put into this, we could do something else that would be a lot easier and make money (laughs). These things take years as you know. It’s about doing something you’re passionate about and other people will follow, hopefully.

So you have to be really passionate about the thing that you are doing and we have created something that we really are into.

That definitely comes across. The Toffee Club and Away Days are authentic to you guys. It seems like a place where you guys want to be, hang out, and have a pint with your friends. That authenticity shines through and I think that is part of what attracts so many people to you and your brand. 

(Niki)

We love it. But we are still figuring it out every day. It’s not like a formula…Our operations have become more streamlined, but in terms of a brand, a business, and a community—how do we continue to elevate and to grow?

I always like to ask this question to wrap things up: if you could go back a year ago, to before you started Away Days what would be one piece of advice you would give yourselves? 

(Niki)

I would go back even further and go back to opening Toffee Club. This is actually a conversation I had with a friend a while ago. We’ve spoken about it a few times. She asked, “if you could back to when you were concepting Toffee Club, what would you change?” I told her, “if you could have told me how much money and how much time would go into it, how many weekends wouldn’t have had as a family, how many tears, how many sleepless nights, how many arguments,” I would have said, “definitely not. I’ll keep freelancing with my nice hourly rate and live a comfortable life.” Then she said, “you’ve only talked about the bad things, but what the community that you’ve built and the experiences that you are building for people? What about all you have learned? What about what it has done and is doing for your family?” And I was like, “you’re right. I’d do it again.”

That was a really good moment. When she asked me I went right into the stressful things, In 20 years time we will look back on this and say, “wow!” Or we’ll be like, “We were crazy, what were we doing? But it was amazing. We built something.”

(Pete)

I think if I was to tell myself anything. If I went back three years ago. We could have gone for it more at the start. To be more confident in ourselves and in the vision.

A CONVERSATION WITH ANDREA PEREZ, VP/GM OF JORDAN BRAND

Dynamic Meta widget allowed only for Posts listing source or in Post context

We spoke to General Manager of Jordan Brand Women’s and Kid’s, Andrea Perez about the PSG Jordan partnership, expanding Jordan’s presence among women, inspiring women in sports, sneakerhead culture, and a whole bunch of other critical issues like the Vogue x Jordan collab. She dropped some gems on us including the story about how she asked a leading Nike Executive at her college in Guadalajara, Mexico, “How do I work for you?” which ultimately led to her getting a job with the Swoosh. Check out some of her insights and memorable stories in the following conversation.

One of the great things I’ve learned since being involved with Jordan Brand is the whole thing around the culture of basketball, and how that culture of basketball is not only what happens on the court. How that culture has evolved into having so much influence across many other things, including soccer, and obviously sneakers. The first shoes that you desired were from a basketball player and now they are worn by other athletes that you love.

We see the sport influence each other now seeing the tunnel, and what that has done in basketball. Some soccer teams are adopting that from basketball and using the tunnel as a way to be a way to show the personality of the players.

That’s been one of the best things of being involved with Jordan Brand is just learning and being more immersed in that culture of basketball and just understanding what living that culture means. It doesn’t mean that I can’t love soccer any more or even that they are that much different. There is a massive intersection with the culture and the love of basketball and the love of soccer and the love of sneakers and streetwear and all these things that you and I are interested in and have talked about for years.

So you’ve worked in Global Football and Jordan Brand and you have seen how the culture of Jordan goes far beyond the basketball court. How do you think that same type of cultural relevance can occur in soccer in North America?

I think the culture of basketball intersects with so many things. It intersects with skateboarding, with dance and hip-hop, with new forms like gaming and other new forms of expression, and even with soccer because there has been a mutual admiration with the two sports forever. It is less about whether or not that connection exists but more how do we highlight that and grow sport culture, basketball culture, soccer culture, and streetwear culture. Some of the things I have been really proud of since working with Jordan Brand is the work with Paris Saint-Germain. That team, it’s an incredible team coming from a city that is so deeply cultured in soccer, but also in basketball. How do you bring those two worlds together, because they shouldn’t be competing with each other? They should be embracing each other to make something bigger. I think our partnership with PSG does precisely that. It embraces basketball and some of the best things that sport has to offer—the swagger, the fashion, the style, and the Jumpman—and takes it to a team that has swagger, and it’s a team that has that culture. Just marrying those two together and creating something new and telling new stories.

It is interesting to see how American culture, sneakers, fashion, and hip-hip all have a huge influence on Europe and especially the European footballers. We see it in how they dress, what they listen to, and what they buy. The collaboration between Jordan Brand and PSG is one of the first projects to really embrace that. It seems like something that more and more clubs should embrace.

I think that, in general, the culture is becoming more global. Taking that initial ignition of basketball culture from Michael in Chicago and taking it to other parts of the world and combining it with new things gives us something that is completely different. Basketball culture transcends what happens here in Beaverton, Oregon, and even beyond Chicago or Paris. You walk on the streets in Shanghai and see a person wearing a PSG Jordan jacket. It makes you smile and wonder, “did that guy learn about PSG through Jordan or learn about Jordan through PSG?” It could be either and that is fantastic. It is through that blending of culture that creates things that are interesting.

Let’s go back to how you got here. Tell us about your journey to where you are now at Jordan Brand. 

I always was a Nike fan; and a Jordan fan. My dad was reminding me the other day that I made him take me to the Jordan Steakhouse when we went to Chicago, just to see if he would show up. But I always was a big Nike fan. A lot of it came from growing up in Mexico and growing up a soccer player (not a very good one) and we did not have a lot of role models. Guys played soccer. Women did not play soccer. We got the bad times for the courts and got the balls the guys didn’t want to use any more. I would see one brand that was talking to athletes and talking about athletes that were women in a completely different way. I remember the 99ers, Mia Hamm and Brandy and Julie and this company was making ads about them and telling stories about them. I would look at them when I was fifteen and sixteen and would think, “I want that.” I knew that I wouldn’t be as good as them but I knew I wanted to work for a brand like that. A brand or a company that told stories about women athletes in the same way we told stories about male athletes. The only company that was doing that was Nike. So I was always Nike, through and through. When my college counselor asked me what I wanted to do I told him I wanted to work for Nike. He was like, “you kind of want to have a plan b.” I mean this was in Guadalajara, Mexico, not here in the states. I said, “maybe I’ll cook or something,” but But in my mind, I thought, “I am going to go work at Nike.” I used to make my own ads in my notebook and all that jazz.

I had the opportunity when I was in college to attend a speaking engagement that the GM of Nike Mexico hosted and I asked in the Q&A, “How can I work for you?” 300 marketing students there and I only wanted to know was how I could work at Nike. In the end, he gave me the opportunity to have some entry-level interviews which were amazing. I didn’t get any of those three jobs that he recommended me for but then they called me for a job that I thought was Assistant Marketing Director. I got the job and I was super stoked, but it was actually the Assistant to the Marketing Director, which is really different, but it was a great entry path for me. I learned a lot about the brand and I learned from a guy that was outstanding and I ended up working with him later on down the road in global football as well. I got the chance to learn and stretch doing different things while still doing my job. I ended up in Portland a few years after. I was in the marketing organization for a number of years. I lead the World Cup ’14 efforts for Nike, along with all of our innovation and athlete plans around that period of time. It was a fantastic experience spending a few months in Brazil helping with everything. It was incredible. Learning more about that country and culture because Brazil is a country that we go back to where the culture of soccer, the culture of basketball, and the culture of the street are really engrained and interwoven together.

Later I was the Head of Soccer for North America and I had the chance to lead the team during World Cup ’15 and what that meant for us. It was a chance to re-cement that love for the Women’s team and make it massive. And then seeing results later in ’19, even though I’ve only been on the sidelines cheering for the team, has been incredible.

*Andrea has worked as Global Vice President and General Manager of Jordan Brand for the last three years.

When you were the Head of Global Football, what did that role entail?

I was the Head of Global Football for North America which meant Canada and the US. Our biggest thing has been, how do we make soccer a great part of the culture in the US and Canada? How do we support growing the game? How do we support growing the culture? How do we support the players and leagues that make this a great thing? It includes pitching product that we think is important, particularly in North America. I’ll give you an example, jerseys—jerseys that were different and significant for the Women’s Team and the Men’s Team and why that’s important. The job includes everything all the way down to marketing, merchandising, and selling those products. No day was the same. There were days when I was talking to external people all day and trying to make relationships happen that will push the game forward. There were a lot of days talking to people in product, trying to develop the product that the North American market needs specifically. There were days when I was out on market travel meeting with consumers and retailers creating the future by getting insights about what’s to come. So no single day is the same and I think that is what makes it exciting. Now you know we have a woman leading North American soccer that came from a completely different background than I did and she is having amazing success and has an amazing team. It’s great to see that it’s not something that is entirely dependent on a person. The culture and the support for the culture that Nike has in North America are so big.

Can we talk a little bit more about something you touched on? How does it make you feel as a female leader in the industry at a time when there is so much focus on and positive attention for the women athletes? Also, what do you think the future looks like for female sports?

I am incredibly excited for what is to come with women’s sports. I think a big part of growing women’s sports is how do we make women’s sports part of popular culture? To see 2019 and what that meant, even for us as a business and for the athletes themselves, was just a massive step forward in making women’s sports a part of the culture. Recently someone sent me a picture of a kid in a stadium with no shirt on and with black sharpie had written “Lloyd” and “10” on his back. It was incredible to see a boy admiring a woman on the field, which shouldn’t be surprising in this day and age but in a way it feels like a step forward that we are now embracing and creating a culture that accepts and promotes that. Guys and girls can grow up admiring both guys and girls. You don’t have to be restricted by your gender with regards to who you can look up to as an athlete. All of that has been fantastic.

I am very excited about the efforts we are doing in the Jordan Brand and even in basketball with people like Maya Moore, Kia Nurse, and Asia Durr and the roster of athletes that we have. And seeing what the team is doing in terms of elevating them as athletes just gives me goosebumps. It is really exciting.

So your role with Jordan involves a lot on the Women’s side?

I do, yes. I lead the women’s business for the Jordan Brand which has been a fantastic journey from two years ago when I took this position. Starting with “Hey, how do we want to create this line? How do we want to build it? How do we want to grow it?” to working with a team that is just amazingly passionate about making sneaker culture for “her,” something incredibly relevant and connected to basketball, authentic, and connected to the women that have always loved the Jordan Brand, but also connected to women who are just starting to learn about the brand and embracing it.

So there are a lot of female sneakerheads, but there has to be a huge opportunity there for growth and connecting with females around the world.

When we started, one of the very first things that we did was we went a spoke to women all over the world—North America, Paris, Shanghai, wherever, we went there. Having the opportunity to connect with many women, some of them had always loved the Jordan Brand they didn’t feel left out the were saying, “Hey, we love Jordans.” Others hadn’t really heard of them but told us they were cool and told us what they needed. We are in an amazing position where we have people that are so loyal and excited about the brand that we can count on to help us be better and stay connected. But we also have a massive opportunity with women that are just becoming interested in the Jordan Brand because of the work that we have done with women that are learning more and more about sneaker culture and streetwear culture and want to be a part of it through the lens of basketball culture and Jordan. And also with women who discover our product and say, “Hey, that looks amazing, I’ve never heard of you guys but this shoe or this Vogue collaboration you did is amazing,” or “I love Aleali May. I love what she is doing. I follow her in the fashion world and this shoe that you’ve made with her is really amazing.” So having these projects and creating those bridges that bring people to the brand is one of our main objectives.

Can you talk a little bit more about the Vogue collaboration because that seems like a huge way to connect with a new population of women?

We did it about a year ago. We wanted to partner with people and brands that are amazing in their field. When it comes to fashion, who is more amazing than Anna Wintour herself? She is a fashion icon. We wanted to make something that was true to Jordan, like an AJ3 or AJ1 but also something that was true to her 100 percent. It has some amazing details. The leather is incredibly soft. It is a bright red, which is a very fashionable color. She did the video about it and was very excited. The detail I love the most about the shoe is it has a translucent base and on the sole, it says “AWOK” which comes from Anna Wintour’s signature approval for anything that goes into the magazine. For us, having Anna’s permission to include “ AWOK” on the outsole meant she gave the stamp of approval to the sneaker as well.

Let’s talk a little bit more about the PSG/Jordan partnership. The women’s side also has the Jordan kits so that is another niche to increase Jordan Brand’s connection with females.

You know, Nadia Nadim is one of my favorite female players so I am excited that she is wearing the Jordan Brand. But beyond that, I don’t think that soccer’s fandom is separated by gender. I think that soccer fans are soccer fans no matter what. I would go to games with my dad in Mexico since I was little. In Paris when you look at the stadium men and women are there. They are fans of the game. There are women who connect with the game through playing and there are some that are fans. To be a part of the soccer culture in a city like Paris that loves the sport is huge. It is going to be embraced by men and women.

We see women all the time in the PSG Jordan product. Aleali May was part of the campaign. PSG Forward Marie Kototo was a part of the launch campaign. So we’ve embraced dual-gender positioning for PSG from the beginning because that is what the fans look like. We wouldn’t be true to the game if we weren’t embracing both genders.

How have the women of PSG responded to being on the one club in the world that wears the Jumpman?

I haven’t connected with any of them personally about it but, I see them posting on social media and seem to like it. Playing for PSG is very special. So playing for PSG and now wearing the Jumpman is unique and connects you to one of the greatest athletes in the world and connects you to a different part of the culture has to be exciting. 

Everyone knows who Jordan is. It must be something to not only play for PSG but to wear that Jumpman on the pitch.

I want to touch on something. I think there is a particular confidence that you get from wearing Jordan. It’s the shoe a lot of people wear to graduations, to weddings, to so many significant things. Gameday shoes are Jordans. And we (at Jordan) have such an opportunity with women to create that same emotion that a man feels or a sneakerhead feels when you wear your Jordans. To have that also embraced by women. Why should they only feel confident when they are wearing heels? You can be just as confident wearing some Concord 11s. You can be just as confident wearing an amazing pair of AJ1s. You can feel that same way. I like to say that the Jumpman in a way is like a super-power and what our team does every day is to bring that amazing feeling and culture to more people—for them to feel that same confidence and to feel that sensation. [For these footballers] to feel that sense of empowerment when they step on the pitch. Look good, play good, right? Relating it back to the athletes on PSG.

We follow you and have seen that you have posted where you have given speeches to young female professionals. Can you talk a little bit more about that and what that means to you as a female executive and be in a position to inspire the next generation?

A lot of what I am doing, more than just making speeches, is making one on one connections. I have blocked out on my calendar three hours every week for anyone that wants to talk to me and wants to ask for advice. And it is not specific to a gender, and it is not just Latinos. Anyone that contacts me by any means and wants to talk to me. It has been an amazing experience. It came out of being asked for informational frequently and I was feeling like well, 1. I was pushing them out a lot and not doing them, and 2. When they were in the middle of the day I was giving the people the attention they deserved. So now I have them at the end of the day at a certain time and it allows me to be completely focused on the person. It allows me to not be worried about myself and the things I need to do. Everyone that comes has a problem or an opportunity and they are trusting me as an advisor to help them with their problem or opportunity. So I have been doing that for a number of years and it has allowed me to talk to hundreds of types of different people. A lot of them are here from Nike which allows me to stay in touch with younger talent. But a lot of them are from outside from within the industry, or people that are trying to break-in, or just people that are trying to do really random things with their life that think I can give good advice. But sometimes you just need a sounding board that is invested in your success as a human but not necessarily too tied up in it emotionally that is able to give you something like their version of the truth; help you see a different perspective.

So that is all I am trying to do. Being a mentor is really important to me. A lot of people mentored me along the way. I wouldn’t be here without those mentors that I’ve had. A lot of them are still working in the Global Football side of the business.

That’s one of the things that really keeps me stay connected to the Jordan Brand. The Jordan Brand, as I learned when I joined, is a brand that really values mentorship. They really value education, things that are really important to Michael. As a brand we have a community program called “Wings.” The Wings program is about mentorship and education. To be a part of the journey of this brand and to be a part of a program like that makes me feel amazing when I come to work.  It’s never been about selling shoes. It’s not even about the culture. It’s truly about changing lives and changing lives with a very hands-on approach.

So what are the things that inspire you the most when you come to work and the things that you are excited about in the near future here?

I am someone that gets a lot of inspiration from people. I am very inspired by my team. I work alongside a team that is brilliant. A team that is ready to tackle any challenge. A team that has each other’s’ backs. Every day they come and they have the Michael-mentality of greatness. They have our consumer’s mentality. We like to call our consumers the “Fearless Ones.” They are people that are focused on the path. They are not talking failures as failures but as opportunities to learn. There are things that are easily said, but not easily done. But my team is fearless every day and is not focusing on any obstacle on the road. That’s what excites me the most when I come and have a day where I can interact with them for most of the day. Those are great days.

In addition to that, it is the consumer—looking and talking to all these young women who love the brand and this journey of basketball culture, and the players themselves. They are focused on their pursuit and their dreams. How can the Jordan Brand be an avenue and a partner for them to accomplish their dreams? Whether it is wearing the Jumpman and the confidence that instills of facilitating something on their path. Those things are the most inspirational for me.

So you have been successful in your career and have had great mentors. If you could go back and give the 15 or 16 year old Andrea one piece of advice what would be?

Never focus on the next opportunity. Focus are where you are now. And I would tell her to be nice to everybody because you never know. We work in an industry, in sports and in soccer, and you continue to cross pass with people from the past. The more you can embrace them and learn from them and get to know them as humans, the better your life is going to be because you are going to feel like you are always working with friends.

KTTP “GETS SMOKED”: THE STORY OF SMOKEY BARBERS

Dynamic Meta widget allowed only for Posts listing source or in Post context

More than a decade ago, before he was the masked barber to the England’s most illustrious footballers, Smokey was doing time for some poor choices he made in his youth. Looking for a way to break up the monotony and get out of his cell he talked his way into getting a job as a prison barber.

 

There he honed his skills as a tonsorial artist and his listening ear as a much-needed therapist. After getting out Smokey looked to earn an honest living with his newly acquired skills. Although he admits that at the time he was not that great of a barber, after all, he had only been cutting heads for a year on the inside. His is not an overnight success story, though. He found his fair share of disappointment and adversity as he looked to make it in London as a barber.

 

 

After he was posted up in the right location, the ethnically diverse Surry, Smokey got on his grind. His status as the premier barber to London’s elite did not happen by accident. Smokey hustled to find the clientele to build his brand and name. He would go to the training grounds of local clubs offering to cut hair and pass out flyers.

Redding manager, Steve Clarke, also helped Smokey cement his influence in the world of English football. Clarke asked Smokey to come every week and cut his players’ hair. Not only did he help the Redding footballers look fresh but he brought the team together by creating the barbershop atmosphere in the changing room.

 

 

Among his many skills, Smokey and his crew are master marketers. Starting with the name Smokey. After starting his trade as an honest and upright entrepreneur Smokey tried to get away from the nickname that was associated with his troubled past. Originally he called his shop D.O.’s using his government initials. But patrons who knew the barber as Smokey would refer to the shop as Smokey’s. Instead of correcting them he used the familiar epithet to his advantage, adopting a memorable catchphrase to describe getting fresh cut, “you just got smoked.” The term stuck and before long kids were spreading the word and letting their peers know, “hey yo, I just got smoked.”

Another stroke of genius that helped spread the word about the barbershop was a sitcom Smokey and his friends made for YouTube. The show Smokey Barbers went viral and got millions of views which helped the brand gain even more traction.

 

 

Even though the Smokey Barbers brand has gained an impressive following and status, he has not let that fame cloud his perspective. He says being able to advise youth—steering them onto the right path and helping them through their problems is one of his important roles. He also told us how good it feels to give a youngster a confidence boost by hooking them up with a proper cut.

 

 

Smokey is a testament to what a good mindset and hard work can achieve. He has not let prejudice, adversity, or mistakes turn him bitter. Instead of letting the difficult things in his life be obstacles he has seen them as opportunities and let them be the building blocks of his success. Smokey, in turn, has tried to instill that mindset into the youth that sit in his chair. 

 

 

And instead of looking to become a celebrity himself he has chosen to wear a mask letting his work speak for itself and his many happy customers get the shine. When he told his friends that he was going to be anonymous and wear a mask while barbering they scoffed at the idea but as Smokey’s dad told him, “If someone laughs at your idea, mate it’s such a good idea.”

 

 

Turns out it was a great idea as Smokey and his brand have gained a loyal following that includes some of the biggest names in London. The barber isn’t just after a high profile clientele however, he welcomes all, seeing his shop as a place where everyone, no matter their ethnic background or social status can come together.

Besides his amazing story, which, seems tailor-made for Hollywood treatment, we were impressed by how genuine and open Smokey was with us. He was generous with his time and skills as he fixed my hair situation up proper. Make sure to  show Smokey some love and follow Smokey Barbers @SMOKEY_BARBERS on Instagram. 

 

CAN I KICK IT?: MAURICE EDU

Dynamic Meta widget allowed only for Posts listing source or in Post context

If you have followed US soccer in the last decade, you definitely have heard Maurice Edu’s name. Early on in his career he solidified himself in the defensive part of the park and remained there for some time for the red white and blue. After being drafted #1 overall by Toronto in 2007, Mo went on to play for storied Scottish club Rangers, winning 3 league titles. Later he made stops at Stoke and the Philadelphia Union. And who can forget that infamous no-goal call on a Mo’s volley in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa?

We understand most people know that side of Mo, Mo on the pitch, but we wanted to dig deeper and get to know the man off the field. So we bounced over to his house in the Inland Empire of California and sat down to chat about making the transition from playing to commentating, what it is like being an example for kids like him, his love for the artist KAWS, and of course, kicks. Check out each part of our conversation below and make sure to follow Mo on Instagram @MauriceEdu.

Mo on going from playing to commentating

One thing is clear when you sit down and talk to Mo Edu. He loves soccer. That passion led to a successful professional career. It led him to the World Cup. That same love for the game as led Mo into broadcasting and analyzing the sport on TV. Part of his aim with his new position in the sport is not all that different from what meant a lot to him when he was a player: provide a unique voice and connect with audiences and demos that may not have always connected to the game. Mo wants to help grow the sport by bringing in new fans that look like him and connect with him in an authentic way.

Being an example to  kids like him.

Part of Mo Edu’s ethos as a player and as a broadcaster is exposing the sport to young black kids. It is important for him that he is an outlet for this community, that they can look to him and see what is possible, and hopefully see themselves taking a path similar to his. Mo mentioned a few times that when he was growing up there were not very many people like himself that he could look up to and relate to. He has been fully aware of this throughout his career. This has given him the opportunity to be someone that young black soccer players can look up to and aspire to be.

Mo and his sneaker journey.

Like many of us Mo loves sneakers. Mo caught the sneaker bug early. But, as most of us can relate to, his parents weren’t copping sneakers for him when he was young. By high school, Mo’s love of sneakers, especially Jordans was in full swing, and in order to satiate his love for sneakers, he got his first job at a pizza joint. The money he earned from the pizza spot went directly into Mo beginning to get more involved with the sneaker game and it was then that he started building his impressive sneaker collection.

Memory Lane

Mo takes us back to that night in South Africa, a goal that should have stood.

CHRISTIAN FERRETTI: DESIGN, FOOTBALL, AND GUESS

Dynamic Meta widget allowed only for Posts listing source or in Post context

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.

Christian ON FINDING HIS ESSENCE AS A DESIGNER 

INSIDE ADIDAS x ARSENAL WITH INIGO TURNER

Dynamic Meta widget allowed only for Posts listing source or in Post context

 

Nostalgia is a hell of a drug. The sensation when you are reunited with something you thought you lost forever is unparalleled. That’s why when adidas partnered with Arsenal as their official kit maker for the ‘19-‘20 season onward, we knew we were in for some feel-good retro vibes. Celebrating a reunion 25 years in the making, the Gunners and The Three Stripes are back and better than ever. 

Leading the charge in the design department is adidas Design Director Inigo Turner, who’s been with the company for 14 years and has carried his passion for kits since childhood.

“I always loved it as a kid, always been obsessed with football shirts. Growing up in Manchester, I used to draw kits as a hobby.”

Inigo went on to study art in university, and turned his pastime of designing football shirts into an internship with adidas, self-training along the way and rising up the ranks in the company. He now oversees all major club teams including Arsenal, Manchester United, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, and Juventus, and works closely with colleagues who craft the international jerseys. 

He has seen a vast progression of kit designs from his youth to his current tenure, and one constant he has discovered is that much like the past, the current kit fashion really emphasizes the streetwear potential of performance clothing. No longer seen solely as functional pieces, even to the casual observer, the off-field aesthetic was just as important as the one on the field.

“One thing you would see kits being worn on the pitch by your idols and then on your favourite band on stage…these kits stood for individual expression. Like a tribal piece. Football fans can be very tribal.”

The rise of football shirts in streetwear has increased the exposure of the game off the pitch, making the visual design of kits a matter of paramount importance. A well-made jersey can be remembered for generations due to its impact in football culture and how well it can be worn off-pitch as well as in-game. One kit immortalized in football lore was the “Bruised Banana” away kit used by Arsenal from 1991-1993. It was one of the last kits adidas had made for Arsenal in their first run together. It received the alliterative moniker due to its contrasting yellow and black pattern. Inigo himself holds the shirt in high regard. He witnessed the cultural impact firsthand in the early 90s.

“It’s got its place in history, and it’s an amazing shirt, it falls into one of those ‘best shirts all time’ lists, in that period it was one of the most iconic”

With Arsenal’s global prominence, the adidas design team could hardly contain their excitement when they rejoined forces, envisioning all the new stories they could craft together. This quarter-century homecoming was written in the stars, and Inigo knew his team wanted to pay respect to the club’s rich history and iconic players. 

In honour of their renewed vows, adidas decided to revisit the classic Bruised Banana shirt to celebrate their past, present, and future. However, the design team was keen to do their own interpretation of it, balancing between creating something new and paying homage to Arsenal.

“We go to the club, we go to the stadium, the landmarks and look for visual clues or things which we can use to create graphics ideas around new stories to tell”

In the case of the new Bruised Banana kit, the Royal Arsenal Gatehouse was a focal source of inspiration. The building features lightning bolts built in its architecture and these bolts are used within the shirt design as well as the typography around the Emirates Stadium. Diagonal lightning bolts running across the kit, using a grain graphic so that the color contrast is not as strong as in the original design. This softer gradient is easier on the eye and implemented to abide by new European kit rules that did not exist for the old kit. 

A second source of inspiration came from art deco styled “A’s” throughout the Emirates Stadium. The art deco style features bold geometric shapes and intense color schemes, both prominent in the kit with the hard edged bolts and bright shade of yellow. 

But even throughout this intensive creation process, with all of its layers and intricacies, the design team still has one focus in mind: 

“First and foremost, football shirts are functional performance garments and taking that idea and leading with it, focusing on how the athletes would benefit wearing it, use of fabrics, cuts, and application of where logos are positioned.”

A couple years ago the design process for kits was revamped so that adidas could reconnect with its roots and make kits that would perform in a match and on the streets. This dual life of a football shirt means that functionality and storytelling must coexist in harmony. This challenge brings out the best from its designers. In the adidas headquarters, the entire creative team, including those responsible for kits, boots, balls, gloves, and shin guards work in one shared space to bounce ideas off each other and as a result end up creating some truly remarkable work. Case in point, Bruised Banana 2.0. 

Undertaking this new age for both Arsenal and adidas, who both have such extensive and rich histories, is no simple task, and Inigo understands the magnitude of this partnership.

“adidas in the 80’s was synonymous not just with football but also with fashion and music, covering several cultural movements. It was a huge part of my upbringing and to the position I have today.”

As Inigo and his team embark on this new journey with The Gunners, they have already put their best foot forward in celebrating the team’s glorious past and promising future. The Bruised Banana is back, and we must say for a shirt named after old fruit, it looks pretty fresh.

FOOTBALL CONNECTS DOTS: A WOMEN’S WORLD CUP STORY

Dynamic Meta widget allowed only for Posts listing source or in Post context

This summer I was getting prepared to shoot the Women’s World Cup in France and a very unexpected thing happened. The type of thing that can only happen when you have a Grandmother that has lived through three generations. A few weeks before I was set to get on the plane to France, I was having a conversation with my mom and she tells me that my grandmother mentioned that she thinks we have cousins that play on the Jamaican Women’s National Team. I have to be honest, I took the news that we may have family that plays on the team with a grain of salt. Not saying I didn’t believe my grandmother, but I needed more proof. 

A week or so goes by, and then I come across an article that ESPN put out that sparked my curiosity about this potential family that I have that may play for the team. The article shared the story of how Cedella Marley helped save the Jamaican women’s program and helped them get to the World Cup. After reading the article I immediately text my mom to find out the last name of the girls that my Grandmother was talking about. After a few texts back and forth, a conversation with my Grandmother and a few google searches it turns out she was right, well at least she was right about the last name of these sister’s that played on the team. 

The family connection was still yet to be locked in, but just a few days before I left for France, I get a call from a distant cousin, who now, thanks to my grandmother connecting us became not so distant a cousin. We talk for about an hour, I learned that she was born in the UK, and moved to the Northeast United States and built a life with her husband (who is from Jamaica) and raised two daughters who grew up loving and playing the sport of soccer. I learned that her oldest daughter just finished playing at Boston College and recently signed with Roma women’s club. I learned that her younger daughter is going into her senior year at Rutgers.

Allyson Swaby

Chantelle Swaby

I learned a little about the struggles the team had leading up to the cup. I learned from first-hand sources about the shortcomings of the Jamaican federation and their allocation of resources to the women’s program that was written about in the ESPN article about Cedella Marley helping the team. After the conversation, we were not sure of the exact connection between my Grandmother and her parents but what was important is that we knew we were family. We set a plan to try and meet somewhere in France. 

Fast forward to the second group stage match, Jamaica against Italy in Reims, France. The most random place for almost 4 generations of a family line that started on the tiny Island of Jamaica to finally connect. I met my cousin Diane Swaby at the train station in Reims and we had lunch before heading to the match. We both learned more about each other and our families who, although somewhat strangers, were connected by parents and grandparents that have been blessed with so many years on this earth. 

That evening I was there on the sideline and shot the match between Jamaica and Italy. I felt like it was an opportunity to give something to the family that even then I had yet to meet. I made it a point to find the Swaby family in the stands along with their friends who made the trip from the Northeast to France and get pictures of the whole group. From the warmups to the walk out of the tunnel to the National anthem to the final kick to greeting friends and family after the match, I was on a mission to capture every moment so that I could share not only with family but with the team as a whole. Their journey to the cup was not all glitz and glam like other countries. Despite a lack of support, marketing, sponsorship, and planning the women on that team made it to play at the biggest stage. I wanted to make sure I did that justice. 

I actually didn’t get to meet my cousin’s till about 3 days later, in Grenoble, a day before they played their last group match versus Australia. We met in a small pizza shop in the city center. It was funny because I felt like I was the old relative that your parents would force you to say, “hi” to at the family gatherings when you were little. I’d like to think I am a bit cooler than one of those creepy uncles, hopefully. Either way, Chantelle and Allyson Swaby have a fan for life. Chantelle is back with the National Team right now at the Pan American games and Allyson is back in Italy getting ready for the Roma women’s season. Football has been in my life since I can remember and to this day it never ceases to amaze me. It has the power to bring joy, pain, cross borders, end wars, or maybe start them. It is universal. It has a language that is understood all over the world and it connects dots, even dots that you never knew existed. 

Check out the rest of my favorite photos from the match vs Italy below and be sure to follow both Chantelle and Allyson Swaby @chantelleswaby and @allysonswaby10 as they continue to do their thing on the pitch for both club/school and country and the rest of the “Reggea Girlz.” 

CHAMPIONSHIP RINGS WITH JASON THE JEWELER

Dynamic Meta widget allowed only for Posts listing source or in Post context

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.

 

PORTLAND VIBES WITH LINDSEY MILLER

Dynamic Meta widget allowed only for Posts listing source or in Post context

If your idea of a perfect job is something that blends your love of soccer with the opportunity to travel all over the world to new and exotic locales planning events with some of the most incredible and talented people all over the globe you probably want Lindsey Miller’s job. As the Event Manager for adidas Soccer North America, Lindsey finds herself deeply involved in many of the releases, events, and activations that so many of us follow along with on social media. Lindsey has been able to take her passion for the sport and apply it to a career that is so much more than just a job. Full of passion, intelligence, and hustle, Lindsey is in the epicenter of what adidas Soccer is doing in North America and is a key part of the brand efforts to grow the sport in the US.

We sat down with Lindsey to hear more about her story, her role with adidas, and some memorable projects that she has worked on.

Follow Lindsey: @ellkayyemm

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Nashua, NH

Can you tell us about your soccer experience growing up? Did you play college? Where?

I’ve played soccer for as long as I can remember. I followed around my older brother in our backyard and our basement and we’d play wherever we could. I played on an all-boys team until I was U-12. For club soccer, I played my most competitive years for Seacoast United (New Hampshire), as well as on the NH ODP team and then Varsity High School for 4 years at Bishop Guertin High School. I then was lucky enough to get a scholarship to play at the University of Virginia—GO HOOS! It wasn’t until my senior year of high school when I committed to play at UVA(that I knew I was going to play soccer in college) as I was pretty sure I was going to end up playing college basketball instead. Looking back I can’t have imagined going or playing anywhere else.

Can you talk about your path to working at adidas? How did you end up there and what your role is with the brand?

Out of college, I knew I wanted to work in something around sport or athletics and got pretty lucky getting hired for a small event production company based out of Colorado. We owned and produced events—anything from triathlons, mud runs, and 5Ks to beer festivals. I was at that company for around 5 years and then my old roommate/colleague got a job at adidas HQ and he then basically convinced me to apply for an events role that had opened.

A few interviews later, I was hired! My current role is within our Marketing/Communications team as the Event Manager for all North America soccer activations—so anything from product launches to grassroots events to working with our European clubs to activate when they are in the US.

What have been some of your favorite events or launches that you have worked on?

Working on anything around World Cup was obviously a dream come true as it’s incredible to see the planning that goes into it. I think the Predator relaunch in 2017 was also a really cool project just because Predator is such an iconic franchise and seeing the excitement from it being brought back into the market was amazing.

As a kid that grew up playing soccer, what has it been like to work with an iconic soccer brand like adidas?

The last 3 and a half years have flown by and sometimes I have to take a step back to realize how lucky I am to work at adidas and do what I do. Being able to work in the world of soccer has been an absolute dream and I love coming to work every day.

My job has given me opportunities to not only meet an incredible group of people but also has given me experiences I’d never imagined I would get. I got to go to the World Cup final in Moscow last year and am going to the Copa America final in Rio this year. I’ve been in the same room as Messi and Kaka. It’s humbling to think about how lucky I am.

How would you describe the football culture?

The great thing about sports and soccer, in particular, is that you can connect with so many individuals across the globe. And that’s probably my favorite part about it. It is not just one-sided. There are so many aspects to the soccer culture that some people forget to recognize. There’s fashion and there’s a cool factor to it. There’s a language to it and there’s a community. I love that.

That predator relaunch was amazing as have been some of the experiences you’ve had through your career. Is there any advice you can pass on for people looking to start a career in soccer?

My advice for anyone looking for a career in anything they are passionate about would be the same—it’s all about managing and engaging in relationships with people that you already know, and then getting out of your comfort zone and connecting with people you don’t.  You’d be surprised at how deep networks run.  To be connected, all you need to do is ask and set up a phone call with the right person.

I’ve always had a hard time reaching out to people I don’t know, but it’s much easier to connect with someone if you have a mutual friend to do so. Long story short, just network as much as you can—and be a sincere person. That always helps.

If you had to choose one, Predators or Copas?

AH! This is not a fair question!!! The new Preds are SO comfortable and I love that I don’t have to break them in. They feel like slippers. The Copas are just classics though!  You can’t really go wrong either way, but if I had to choose, I’d go Predator.  Also, younger me would be mad at older me if I DIDN’T choose Preds because they were my favorite cleat growing up.

Sambas or Gazelles?

Gazelles! In all of the colors, please!

MAKING MOVES W/ DENISE JONES

Dynamic Meta widget allowed only for Posts listing source or in Post context

We had the pleasure to catch up with our own multi-talented and unboxing leading lady Denise Jones. Born and raised in LA she tells about how football represents a family, culture and a global fashion. How her style is inspired by sports, people and mostly her own journey.

Follow Denise: @youknowdenise

Photo Cred: @stephyperea

Can you share your first memory of football?

I was like eight or nine and one day and my dad, he’s really my stepdad, but he raised me like his own, surprised me with an entire Nike set. So it was like a matching Nike Ball, matching Nike shinguards, matching Nike cleats—pink and green. And I didn’t even like pink at the time, but I was just like, wow. I don’t know how he did this, because my brother and I would have hand me downs or play with like tennis shoes. And so when he came out with this, even my brothers had their jaws dropped and I clearly remember this.

I feel like when you’re raised amongst boys, it can go one of two ways. You’re either like the princess or you’re one of the boys. And I was one of the boys. And so, as we all did everything together, we all played soccer together, we all did swim together, we all did karate together. And so when it was time for soccer, that was like my dad’s like forte.

So I fell in love with the sport, just playing. And then that memory with my dad, because he was the one that taught me how to move up and down a pitch and how to be aggressive in the game, that is probably the first one that I really remember. 

Can you tell us about your football journey?

It’s such a funny story. So after that experience, I was playing soccer heavy. Growing up until like 7th grade. And I remember not really knowing if it was what I really wanted to keep doing. So I took a step back from soccer. And so I played basketball all four years of college. I did swim during like three of those years as well. But it’s so difficult to manage to be a student, being a student-athlete and then also working. Hard to manage it all at once. 

But it’s so funny because during my internship at Power 106 things came full circle with soccer. Because at that point I had gained so much familiarity with soccer, swimming, and basketball. And when I was talking to people at the radio station everyone was passionate about soccer and it was mostly because I want to say like 80% of the radio station, honored jocks, and producers were Mexican American. So it was like something we all connected with. Everyone loved soccer. So that’s where a soccer Sunday started and that’s how I got back into the sport.

Can you tell us about what you do for work?

I’m very well connected in the entertainment music industry. I started in radio, at like a Gospel radio station and then transitioned over to Power 106. It’s the number one Hip Hop station in LA. It was my dream to always be there. So I ground my way into music, from an intern to a producer to the street team. 

Currently, I am the sideline reporter for Lakers nation, a host for Kicks to the Pitch Unboxing and I also host football events when it’s in season. So I do a lot of sports reporting. And recently I’ve also been helping more on the consulting and business development side when it comes to like immersive experiential marketing with companies such as Nike.  

I have a lot of fun. That’s first and foremost. I have a lot of fun and that’s literally number one in all my jobs to make sure that I’m having as much fun as possible. Because if not, it would be impossible to juggle everything that I do.

How would you describe the football culture?

The great thing about sports and soccer, in particular, is that you can connect with so many individuals across the globe. And that’s probably my favorite part about it. It is not just one-sided. There are so many aspects to the soccer culture that some people forget to recognize. There’s fashion and there’s a cool factor to it. There’s a language to it and there’s a community. I love that.

When did your love for sneakers and streetwear begin?

My love for sneakers and streetwear began actually with basketball. Because it was a sport that I played in high school. So when I was like 14, 15 years old. I remember we were fundraising for these ugly shoes, I think it was like a Shack Shock or something like that. And for my birthday someone surprised me with Kobe’s and it was really awesome because I was like, heck yeah. Like at that moment I recognize the value that comes from wearing something that you like as opposed to wearing something that you don’t like. I started just connecting the dots. If I was happy with what I was wearing and I was happy playing. And I started like really growing into what my look and my fashion is.

How would you describe your style?

So I’m a tomboy. Like, again, I grew up with boys. I’m half black, half Mexican. So I feel like I’m always trying to make sure that I’m interjecting both cultures. In what I’m wearing because people see what you wear first before they recognize who you are. And so I, I love the Hip Hop scene, but I’m also big on like nortenas and cumbias and like bright colors. And so I’m making sure that I’m applying that to what I’m wearing.

I remember my first sneaker I purchase was the Jordan 1 Chicago. And it was only because I felt like the red embraces the Mexican culture part of me. It could have also just been me convincing myself that I was doing this for buying this shoe for a bigger purpose. That was my first Jordan 1 that I copped out of pocket. I still have those to this day.

.