Meet Dan Farron, the designer behind the viral Nigerian Jersey which sold out 3 million copies in 3 minutes.
– By Toyin Eleniyan
Q: Tell us a little about your background and how you joined the Nike team in capacity of the design director?
A: Originally from Southeast London, I studied Fashion Design at University, specializing in Sportswear during my final year. My first professional work in design after finishing my studies was at Umbro, where I had the opportunity to work in multiple fields, from performance to sportswear. Living in the Northwest of England gave me a deep insight and immersion into football culture. From there I moved to Nike Golf in Portland Oregon, but Football remained one of my passions, and I joined the Nike Football design team in Amsterdam. In 2015, I moved back to the Nike Headquarters to the position of Design Director, Nike Football. As a sport, Football is hugely enticing due to the speed of change and evolution within the sport, plus the sheer global reach; these make for an exciting working environment.
Q: What was your brief when designing the Nigeria kit?
A: The Nigeria kit was briefed as a collection. A group of designers from graphics, product and footwear worked collaboratively and built a concept that breathes culture and performance. The on-pitch kit will always be the ‘shining star’; but the beauty of Naija was the full collection with all the additional pieces. We really wanted to take the Naija culture to an international audience, so that it was visible not just within Nigeria itself, but on a platform for all football fans worldwide.
Q: Where did you draw inspiration?
A: The team drew inspiration from multiple sources; for the overall concept, we were inspired by the fusion of music, fashion, art and sport across the globe amongst Nigerians. The more research we undertook, the more we saw the links between athlete and artists: they are all connected in some way and inspired by each other. For the kit, we were inspired by Nigeria and Nike’s kit from 1994 – a special era for football kits – as well as a bold graphic inspired by eagle feathers. The home kit has to be a strong identity for the players and especially the fans, whilst the away kit is a stealth/smart design for the modern-day player; and there is great overall harmony between the two.
Q: Kindly talk us through the design process
A: At Nike, everything starts with the athletes; we started to build this performance product in 2015 based on player insights from across the globe. We are constantly driving new innovation to keep improving performance levels, even before we approach and consider team aesthetics. The next stage is to create a concept or story that ties to the football federation and fan culture, a critical step that involves deep research into both aspects. The designs for the collection are reviewed internally by football and design leadership before we present to the federation and players for their comments and contributions. This design process allows us to really push the boundaries of design so that we can take Nike football into a new era.
Q: The response to the Nigerian kit has been unprecedented, was this something you anticipated?
A: If I am honest, the answer is both yes and no. At every stage of designing and producing this collection, I have been amazed and delighted by the broader reactions; but I also knew we were creating something incredibly special. Initial presentations to players and the federation in November 2016 produced an amazing reaction. Nike put together the launch of a lifetime this February, adding Naija to the long list of innovation and collections for Russia and beyond. Since then, the public reaction has been incredible and the team is truly humbled by the outpouring of love for this collection.
Q: When thinking about Nigeria, what does Nigeria invoke in you, what first comes to mind?
A: There were 3 Nigerian qualities that drove this collection to fruition, and the first of these is ‘Supreme Confidence’. I have never known a nation so confident in their team no matter the stage or opposition; it is incredibly infectious and during qualification I found myself pushing this confidence to my design colleagues.
Secondly, the ‘Youthful Squad’: it’s a special time for Nigeria with lots of exciting young players honing their skills all over the world in the best football leagues. As well as on-pitch talent, they also connect so well and seem to be enjoying life, football and being together at training camp. When you work with the team or see them together, they are friends. It’s a genuine ‘crew’.
The third and final thing that comes to mind is ‘A True Football Nation’, with a tradition and history within the game, and a great connection with Nike and our ethos.
Q: What influenced your decision to include the transcribed word “Naija” on the collection?
A: Naija came as we worked with athletes and looked into Nigerian culture. Naija felt more descriptive of a culture within a nation. It instantly resonated as a youthful approach to wrapping the collection up. Both Nike and the federation agreed it was a great moment to call out this new generation and exciting future.
Q: In addition to the jerseys and training kits, there are off the pitch pieces too. What informed this decision to create a wider encompassing collection?
A: Football culture is in a special place right now. It’s not just about the jerseys but about multiple fans and followers looking for diverse football expressions of their teams. Fashion and street wear are critical parts of this cultural shift, never before have the lines between performance and lifestyle been so blurred. That’s why everything outside the 90 minutes has to drive this point of view for athletes and fans. Players always get a full wardrobe for every tournament, so as we broke that down into looks, we wanted to make sure every look defined the moment and was something that these guys would love to wear.
Q: You undoubtedly would have had to research Nigerian culture and footballers, what were the most memorable and interesting finds?
A: Nigerian confidence was a key theme as we worked with footballers and fans throughout our research, but it was definitely balanced with a humbleness. The players were fantastic at giving feedback and instrumental in the final result you see on and off pitch. Iwobi and Iheanacho were great when we revealed the collection – they got straight into how they will wear the looks, especially which sneakers they would combine with the travel tracksuit. For me personally, researching this project introduced me to Naija hip hop and now I am obsessed! I listened to it throughout the process and now it transforms me to the key moments of the collection coming together every time I hear certain songs.
Q: Aside from your own creativity, who and what were the most influential factors in the design process?
A: The entire team we put together for the project was incredible, demonstrating diverse skill sets that made this collection so special. They challenged design boundaries to give the federation something completely fresh. At every stage, we pushed the looks and design as hard as we could to drive the youthful essence. Like everything at Nike, it was a team effort and every person involved made significant contributions.
Q: Did you anticipate the frenzy that accompanied the sales of the Nigerian kit in particular?
A: I have been travelling with one of the graphic designers for Naija over the last few weeks and the morning of the launch we landed in London. I didn’t expect to see the queues outside stores, that was pretty mind blowing and we’re all tremendously honoured that the work has been received so positively!
Q: Lastly, considering the current squad and form of the Super Eagles, what are your predictions?
A: The squad is fantastic and I have been following them closely, watching every match in qualification and the recent friendlies – they are playing really exciting football. As the tournament starts I’m sure my newly found ‘Naija’ confidence will kick in and I’m definitely excited to watch the Super Eagles play!
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the Spark magazine. Find the magazine here to read other articles.