Words: James Bird
Images: Luis Lopez-Smith and Kevin Kariemu Wa Chege

The word community is used a lot to describe things in football. And when a word is used a lot, the meaning begins to get diluted, especially if there’s not always the bits and pieces to back it up. Last week, Tottenham released their third shirt, a purple and green design inspired by young people from the local community. That word again. So, we caught up with the young people and the studio behind the project to see what this actually meant.

“This is a bucket list moment for me,” Jake Osman, one of the young people involved in the creation of the shirt, says. “When I was younger, I used to sit on my parent’s kitchen floor and draw football kits... so to see the final design come to light is really overwhelming.” We’ve all done that, haven’t we? Drawn our own football kits and dreamt, sketched our own balls, thought long and hard about what we’d do with a clean slate to make our own boots. Actually getting to do that as part of the club you support must feel amazing.

The project was run by local art studio Tottex, a creative outlet and collaborative platform based in North London’s textile community that holds regular workshops for people wanting to get involved in the industry. Founded by Luis Lopez-Smith in 2018, Luis knows how difficult it can be to get started in the fashion world, and therefore how much it means when you finally do. Describing the space, Luis has said, “It's not a WeWork with sewing machines—not that there's anything wrong with that—but everything in here has a purpose and the community element is also really important.”

“Community is about a shared goal,” Luis told me. “Whatever that is. Whether it’s wanting to learn something, wanting to teach something, wanting to put something right.” In terms of this project, that involved going straight to the heart of Tottenham. “We did a big shout out, a big reach out. A real mix of social media and physical posters stuck up around Haringey and Seven Sisters Road calling for groups of 16–24-year-olds from the area who were Spurs fans. We got people to come to the studio, did a brief, and then got started.”
The young people collected pieces of media that they thought represented Tottenham to influence the design. Jake took photos and brought them in. Marlon, another young person I spoke to, just straight up drew the things that represented Tottenham to him. Others brought in textiles, embroidery, the lot. Tottex then worked with the group to transform their raw ideas into actual materials to print textiles with—and the last stage involved a day-long session working in the Tottex studio with the Nike design team.

“At the start of the process,” Marlon tells me, “I was almost competitive. I wanted my designs to be on there. But once you workshop and everyone comes together to create something new like this, I realised I just wanted to make a great shirt for Spurs.”

The shirt, like all of Nike’s this year, is made from 100% recycled polyester, and utilising waste product has been on Luis’ mind since he was a small boy growing up in Wales. “My primary school was in this little town called Menai Bridge, and we had a marine biology unit there at the local university, so as kids, we were really aware of the impact of rubbish, and we would go pick up the litter, which has always stuck with me. Textile waste is a huge opportunity to be creative. Design products from your waste and identify others who aren’t as ecologically minded and use their waste too.”

Spurs wore it last night during their win over Wolves in the Carabao Cup at Molineux, and to round off, I asked Marlon how it felt to see the players he adores so much wearing something that he had a part in making.
“To be involved with it has been up there with everything I’ve ever done. For it to involve the community, the people that actually care, and not just a random designer is great. And then, to see it physically worn by the players is amazing. My whole family have bought it, and it’s the best thing in the world to think ‘God, in 50 years’ time, I can say I was part of making that’. When there’s those wall charts of like clubs with their kits, trophies, and histories and stuff, and to think this shirt’s always going to be on there. Woah. You know what I mean?”

The word community is used a lot to describe things in football, and the project behind Spurs’ third shirt for this season fully merits it.

If you're a Tottenham fan, you might like to listen to When Maradona Played For Spurs—an episode of our British Podcast Gold Award-winning series GIANT. An amazing night. Enjoy.

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