Just a couple of avenues up from the LeftLion offices sits Art of Football, a Sneinton-based arts and fashion brand that centres around - you guessed it - football. They’ve seen their bucket hats on Ian Wright’s head, they’ve collaborated with Umbro, and they’re still only just getting started. We chat to Director Luke Cuthbert about immortalising people’s memories, the importance of community, and their plans for the future…
Art and football aren’t necessarily thought of as two things that go hand-in-hand, yet you’ve proven that there can be a real connection between the two…
We definitely see a clear link between football and art. They’re both emotive. Football brings joy, despair, hope - different feelings that art can make you feel. We’re massive football fans ourselves, we’re immersed in football culture, and we try to showcase all of the ways that fans connect with the sport. Football has become really commercial in recent years, yet we want to see it not as a commodity, but as a community - and I think people like that about us.
You have such an interesting range of artwork styles. What is the design process like behind the scenes?
There isn’t really a set process. What we’ve tried to do is build teams out of different creatives within their own fields. So we have graphic designers, illustrators, photographers, and we just keep in touch with them about what’s going on in football, or they’ll bring a moment or idea forward and we go from there. It’s about trying everything and seeing what works. We want to be the most creative brand in football, so we try not to take ourselves too seriously.
Do you feel a sense of pride knowing that you’re immortalising people’s memories and dreams into tangible, collectible items?
Absolutely. When we first started out, our purpose was to really serve and celebrate those moments that made you fall in love with football. It’s such a powerful thing. So I definitely feel proud when I see people wearing our stuff, knowing that we’ve done our small part to connect with a big moment in their life.
There are some amazing designs that the world will never see, just because the results went the wrong way. We had some brilliant ideas for if England won the Euros that won’t see the light of day
You’re always really efficient with releasing artwork, coming up with cool designs almost straight after Champions League finals and play-off results. How do you pull that off?
We plan for all major events to make sure everyone’s ready to go the day after the final whistle. Sadly, that does mean there are some amazing designs that the world will never see, just because the results went the wrong way. We had some brilliant ideas for if England won the Euros that won’t see the light of day, for example.
You recently launched a collaboration with Umbro and Helping Rhinos. How did that come about?
That was actually the result of a cease and desist from Umbro, because we had some drawings of old kits that they thought had their logos on. From there, we got talking to them and they liked our creativity and felt like we should actually be working together. So we agreed to collaborate with them, and really wanted to use that to do some good - that’s why we decided to donate some of the profits to Helping Rhinos.
One of your key focal points on the clothing front is bucket hats, which seem to have had a real resurgence. Why do you think these are such a core component of football fan culture right now?
After everyone was locked up for two years because of COVID, a lot of people just want a fun, festival feel to their look. And a lot of our bucket hats reference past kits, so there’s a nostalgia element to them - people can think back to when they first started getting into football and supporting their team.
We’ve started expanding - we have a studio in London now, and we’re building a team there. But we always want to keep our base in Nottingham
Speaking of fan culture, what’s the landscape like in the AoF office in terms of who you support?
There’s definitely a wide range. Since myself and Gabe [Cuthbert, Luke’s brother and co-founder of Art of Football] are Forest supporters, we’ve pretty much forced everyone to have Forest as their second team. But we have fans of Arsenal, Wolves, Liverpool, Crystal Palace and Gillingham. We used to have a Derby fan in the office, but I think he chose a good time to leave, after what happened this season!
As a company, you seem very proud of your Nottingham roots…
We’ve started expanding - we have a studio in London now, and we’re building a team there. But we always want to keep our base in Nottingham. Obviously, for Gabe and me, it’s the city that shaped us, we grew up here, and it’s really important for us to remember where we came from. We want to become a global brand, but we will always keep our roots in mind.
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