Cornwall may not be known as a hotbed of footballing passion, but one spectacular football shirt might just change that.
Better known for Doom Bar, King Arthur, Poldark and pasties; football in the extreme South West of England now has an identity all of its own thanks to the Kernow Football Alliance and a shirt to be proud of from our friends at STINGZ.
As members of CONIFA, the football federation for states, minorities, peoples and regions unaffiliated with FIFA; Kernow FA are bringing Cornish culture to the world through the medium of international football.
To celebrate what has to be one of the most unique and exciting designs we’ve seen in 2019, we sat down with STINGZ founder Ernie Stobbs to find out how they went about creating a new football identity for Cornwall.
Sartorial Soccer: Firstly, for anyone new to your work, please tell us a little about STINGZ.
STINGZ: Of course! STINGZ™ is a niche sportswear brand specializing in bespoke, or custom-designed performance sports apparel.
We believe in craftsmanship and the human touch, and our philosophy is that no team or athlete is too small to have their own unique sportswear and identity.
We are made up of a small, but extremely passionate team which includes former internationals, sports enthusiasts and design professionals.
How did the link with Kernow and CONIFA come about?
STINGZ: Well let’s start with CONIFA, as in this case the chicken definitely came before the egg. I was listening to the H&J show on TalkSport when Paul Watson was invited on to speak about the up coming CONIFA World Football Cup in London (last year). The relationship started on the back of a Tweet I sent to Paul expressing our interest as a kit supplier. We discussed several teams requiring kit but for me, it was the opportunity to design the referee kit and the Tuvalu kit which kick started the love affair.
Working with CONIFA members is extremely rewarding. We don’t just get to design a ‘playing kit’, we get to design something for the people.
Jay Heaton co founder of Kernow and former director of CONIFA became very interested in our work. He informed us of the opportunity to design Kernow’s first ever football kit and . . . well, the rest is history.
What was the design brief for the Kernow kit? Were Stingz given a blank canvas or were colours set before the design?
STINGZ: We were literally given a blank canvas, but our friends at Kernow made it abundantly clear that they wanted to use white, gold and black as the main colours and that it should be unmistakably Cornish!
There are lots of uniquely Cornish elements to the kit, how did you choose and settle on the imagery in the shirt like St Michael’s Mount?
STINGZ: We started with a collection of uniquely Cornish elements and imagery – the Saint Piran’s flag, the gold bezants of the Duchy of Cornwall shield, and images of Land’s End, the Cornish Tin Mines as well as St. Michael’s Mount. Then we asked ourselves how we could incorporate these into the design in a classy, yet seamless way especially given that we knew the home jersey would be predominantly white in colour.
In the end, the image of St. Michael’s Mount pretty much chose itself – it is iconic and unique at a global level, almost with an air of mystery. It reminded us a lot of Hayao Miyazaki’s animated masterpiece, “Laputa: Castle in the Sky”.
Well legend has it that St Michael’s Mount was the scene of a famous giant-killing so it’s certainly a fitting image for football fans!
Another feature we really love is the central black and yellow hazard stripe!
STINGZ: Haha! We’re glad you like it, and a lot of the fans have told us how much they like it too. Racing stripes have been used on football jerseys in the past, but it’s actually very hard to make them look good, which is why they are often avoided. We just knew from the outset though that the stripes would work, given the contrast between the white canvas and the colours of gold and black, which are quite regal and intimidating. Our design concept was re-affirmed when our good friend, (Chairman of Kernow FA) Jason Heaton, told us his team would “Play to Win” and sent us a racing checkered flag emoji – that was it!
Can you describe a little of how a kit designer works? Is everything on screen nowadays or is there still room for pen and paper?
STINGZ: That’s exactly the point! We never try to limit ourselves. We take photos of elements or features that we find interesting, we use magazine cut-outs, we use good old fashioned pens and pencils and of course we also use computer software. We then put these together and use them to develop different design concepts, and only then do we start ‘formalizing’ them into a proper illustrations. We always try and offer our teams between 2 to 4 varied concepts – some of which are more conservative and others that are more ‘out there’ – they then choose one and we begin the fine-tuning.
How have the players reacted to the design? Are they playing for the shirt?
STINGZ: The feedback has been phenomenal from both the players, the fans and football kit enthusiasts alike. We have custom-designed and made a lot of kits for a lot of teams, including national teams like the Jamaica Rugby League national team, but the Kernow kit still gets a lot of attention. One interesting thing is that the black ‘keepers kit has been so popular that Jay (Heaton) and Braggy (Kernow FA Director of Football Andrew Bragg) actually requested that the black kit become the new away kit and the original gold away kit to be the new ‘keepers kit!
What’s next for Stingz? When will we see your designs on Match of the Day?
STINGZ: You never know! One thing about STINGZ™ is that our team is an incredibly hard-working group of dreamers – it’s easy to forget that we’ve only been around for a year! We think big, but we keep our feet on the ground. We have loved working with all the teams we’ve partnered, no matter how big or small, and we especially enjoy working with the underdogs and emerging teams from around the world, such as the Tuvalu national football and rugby union teams and the Uganda Martyrs University football and rugby teams. But it’s true, we are ambitious, and now that we’ve landed deals with the Reggae Warriors (the Jamaica Rugby League national team), who have qualified for the Rugby League World Cup in 2021, and the Kazakhstan ladies national rugby team (who are ranked 16th in the world and are currently vying for a place in the Olympics), we are confident that it’s only a matter of time before one of the bigger clubs and their fans get sick of the overpriced templates being offered by the bigger suppliers and invite us out for a pint!
Three cheers to that!
Finally, do you have any advice for budding kit designers?
STINGZ: We don’t think we’re really in a position to give any advice, but what we have learnt is this: First of all, never lose the passion – it has to remain fun . . . every time you open that brief or get an email asking for help, it should immediately give you goosebumps! If it doesn’t, then you should seriously think about doing something else.
Secondly, learn to accept criticism – design is an art form, so naturally there will be lovers and haters! Keep an open mind, because some of the criticism will actually help you to become a better designer.
Lastly, and probably most importantly, you must eventually develop your own signature! You need to stand out from the crowd with a unique offering – we get the most satisfaction when someone tells us, “d’ya know what? I saw this shirt the other day and I knew straightaway it was a STINGZ™!” But to get there, you need to practice…a lot! Keep messing around – choose random teams and work with their colours and emblems – think out of the box and ask yourself what other imagery or elements have meaning to that particular team, and dare to try things even if at first they seem ridiculous! Soon enough, you will start noticing your own trademark features and styles!
And one last word: remember to treat each brief with respect – you are being asked to create an identity! And one day, that identity you created could be on a shirt which a little boy or girl somewhere in the world has to save up months, perhaps years, for”.
That’s a beautiful way to leave things Ernie, thank you so much for giving us an insight into the process behind creating a brand new football shirt for the Cornish people to be proud of.
We can’t wait to see more of your designs in the future!