Yeah yeah, Chile may well have walked away victorious from the COPA America with the trophy lifted high but you'll have to hold the phone when it comes to winning the garment battle. Suited in style thanks to Romai Sportswear the Jamaica kits caught the appreciative eye. Going in search of this aesthetic match-winner, we spoke to Senior Designer at the brand Irving Perez.
Can you tell us about the relationship with the Jamaica team and the brand ― what's it like to be able to work on projects with the country?
"We have a great relationship with the Jamaican Football Federation. They have made our partnership very easy which has translated into the creation very special kits. I believe this to be a once in a life time opportunity to get to work on projects with a country so unique and special. The Jamaican brand is recognized all over the world and it is a challenge to live up to the expectations of not just the team's fans, but of football kit followers all around the world. It it is one of the opportunities I will be always eternally grateful for."
What can you tell us about the overall inspiration and objective with the Jamaica kits and what you have been able to achieve with them?
"The idea in mind was to design kits that expressed the Jamaican culture and its spirit. The Jamaican national team has always had very loud and vibrant kits and, as such, that was the direction we wanted to take, but with a modern spin to it. We also wanted to make a statement so I used the unforgettable 1998 Jamaican World Cup kit, that is ingrained in any football fan's mind as the epitome of what a Jamaican footballer looks like, as our main inspiration for the new kit. With this as the inspiration, it was easy to find the elements needed, such as the colours and patterns, to conceptualise and design the modern version of the Jamaican footballer. I believe we achieved just that with the expressiveness, yet cleanness of the kit. I also believe we brought back to life the essence of the Jamaican team in that the previous kits were very basic designs. The team was in need of that extra spark and I believe the kit was successful in that."
It looks like you have freedom to try new things especially when it comes to interesting shapes and patterns, is that fair to say?
"The history of the Jamaican kits makes it relatively easy to explore a variety of cool patterns, shapes and colour combinations. Combine this with creative freedom inherent in the youth of the brand and you get a rare opportunity to express a whole new design concept to the world of football fashion."
It's so electric and vivid on the pitch, where did the shapes come from?
"The pattern showcased is a mix of the modern chevron pattern you see popping up everywhere now and the Jamaican flag. The idea for having a pattern on the kit, again, came from having in mind the 1998 World Cup kit."
Can you talk us through the design process for these kits? How many iterations do you go through before you've reached the final project?
"Sure. With any club or international team, they are many ideas and concepts thrown into the ring. There was no exception for this design process. I designed several variations the Jamaican kit with the same idea and inspiration in mind. We signed with the team early in 2015 so we did not have the regular 18-month design timeline that the other more established brands have. We had our first presentation of the kit right before the 2015 Copa America so it was an interesting task to undertake in the shorter timeline but I think the design that we ultimately went with was the right one."
It must be special to see these on stage at the Copa America, is that a particularly proud moment?
"It's funny; I have been asked this question many times since I began on this project by my close friends and family. And every time I think about how to answer, I am overjoyed with emotion. Most people who know me, know me to be absolutely in love with football. I grew up playing football (and still play football today), watching football and designing kits as a hobby. If you would have told me 2 years ago that one of my designs would appear in 2 Copa Americas, 1 Gold cup, in one final vs the team I am most passionate about (Mexico), and then again this year in the group stage, I would have called you crazy. This kit is very special to me in that not only did it showcase at the international stage for the past year and half, it was the first national team kit I designed. For me, to say I felt proud would be an understatement."
Photography by Christian Gideon for SoccerBible.