With the highly anticipated European Championship just over a week away, one of Europe’s largest sports retailers, Sports Direct has teamed up with clothsurgeon for an exclusive collaborative capsule as part of its “Just A Game?!” campaign. HYPEBEAST caught up with the brand’s founder Rav Matharu to discuss the upcoming collection as well as breaking down some of his main inspirations.
Establishing himself as a fully-fledged fashion designer revered for his craftsmanship and deconstructed designs, Rav’s journey, however, began in football, playing professionally for Leeds United. “To become a professional footballer was my ultimate dream from the age of seven. I had a good run at it, but then at 21, that lifelong ambition came to a halt as a result of short-term contracts with clubs.”
Rav’s passion for the game on the field also inspired his voyage into design, where iconic kits and stand-out boots helped him appreciate the wholeness of the sport. “I would say football boots sparked the initial obsession with the product.” He continues, “When the predator first came out I glued bike tire rubber to my Ruud Gullit Lotto boots to see if the ball would swerve.” Resonating with his love for storytelling and research he says, “Notably the kit that I found super exciting was the Newton Heath Manchester United one. It was interesting as they really dug into their heritage to create something new, and that’s a way I like to work myself.”
“Inspired by my shattered dream to become a pro footballer but everlasting love for the game – it’s that merging of a broken past and brighter future that informed my interpretation of Just A Game?!”
With the competition being postponed for a year, this collection has reignited Rav’s passion for the beautiful game. “I have so many emotions about the game: excitement, anticipation and hope. To pull together a collection on what football ultimately means to me for Sports Direct has been a really cathartic experience.” Possessing a deep history with football, the sports retailer allowed Rav access to its extensive kit archive to build a completely unique collection built on heritage. “Being allowed to use fabrics from international teams all over Europe meant I had the opportunity to visualize the message of what an amazing and universal sport football is.”
Bringing his signature deconstructed aesthetic to the table, Rav begins with a base silhouette before crafting each piece from an array of archival jerseys in a patchwork design. With materials used in sporting kits evolving dramatically over the years, the vast range of fabrics, colors and teams merged into one collection forms the essence of the capsule. “The beauty of the way the product is constructed makes each piece in the collection unique and exclusive to its owner.”
“Lifting men’s and women’s national kits from the Sports Direct archive was a great experience because there was such a rich collection to choose from.”
Operating from its East London atelier, clothsurgeon’s luxury bespoke service often commands a high price tag due to the intricate details involved. However, Rav insists that items from the “Just A Game?!” collection be made accessible, keeping to the true camaraderie nature of the game. “Items from the collab with Sports Direct have been costed in a way to truly celebrate the 90-minute game,” he says. “The silhouettes are crafted with the precise attention to detail you’d expect from clothsurgeon, using high-quality materials and trimmings. There have been no expenses spared.”
For Rav, working with the sports retailer is a full-circle moment, having been one of the first places he’d applied to once graduating. Speaking on the significance of the partnership and the collaboration’s relationship to the brand identity, he states, “This collection is a continuation of our story as a brand and a true collective effort — a bespoke appointment with Sports Direct and the world of football. The contrast of performance kit materials with luxury wool suiting highlights the story of my career in football to fashion and the admiration for street culture and Saville Row luxury and craftsmanship.”
Championing long-lasting design, clothsurgeon is formed on the idea of upcycling items and reimagining them into unique garments. Rav believes that there’s space for the world of football to play its part in that sustainability mission. “I enjoy taking existing products and reinventing them to continue the lift of vintage or deadstock garments.” Continuing, “The donation of deadstock kits to grassroots level would be a good way of moving it forward into football — adding the team logos and sponsors over existing kits would paint a beautiful story, especially if professional clubs were to partner on this.”
You can watch clothsurgeon’s Rav Matharu break down some of his most iconic football moments in the video above. To find more information on the latest “Just A Game?!” campaign, you can visit the Sports Direct website.