Venezia FC 22/23 collection.
Venezia FC 22/23 collection.

Fashion FC: Venezia’s rebirth

Venezia FC: catwalk-ready kits and cutting edge communications

Agustín De Julio
Agustín De Julio FMH Contributor

If you’re not an avid fan, you probably won’t remember this team for any spectacular cup runs or legendary players. Their greatest sporting achievement is winning the Coppa Italia in the 40s. From then it’s been a modest history, with solid runs on the Serie A and long spells at the Serie B.

Despite this, Venezia FC has gathered a remarkable cult following in the last few years. Why, you ask? Their kits are simply irresistible.

Fashion on the pitch

The relationship between football and fashion has evolved a lot over the years. This relationship can be awkward at times, as the rough and rowdy popular culture of football does not always go well with the hyperfocus on appearances of fashion. But in many cases, their differences have been bridged. Kids have been emulating footballers’ haircuts for decades. Certain football kits gain legendary status and become popular fashion icons. And in the case of the casual subculture of the 80s, football and fashion really came together to create a whole new visual identity. 

At FC Venezia they knew about the potential of aesthetics on the pitch. They clearly had thought about how certain shirts are instant classics, like the 1990 Germany home kit, or the new and much debated marble inspired Italy shirt. They also thought of how some other shirts are best forgotten (looking at you, Christmas Napoli jersey). In the 2010s, when faced with a deep institutional and financial crisis including their third bankruptcy in ten years, Venezia FC had to have a sit down and think about how they could keep the club afloat. In doing so, they found a whole new identity for their club.

A new sheriff in town

In 2015, Venezia was acquired by an American group, and Ted Philipakos was appointed as chief brand officer. The Serie B club had poor prospects and support in the city was dwindling fast. Philipakos’ vision for the club was wider than football, he told Esquire. He was aware of the possibilities of social media, and the freer exchange between popular culture and football. His new club’s story would be more than just what happens on the pitch. One of the first orders of business was to break the partnership with Nike and to hire Kappa for their apparel. This tapped into a 90s aesthetic revival in football, but more importantly, the deal left the Venetian board with full control over the design of the jerseys. For the next season, Venezia had launched four iconic shirts, accompanied by a full blown marketing campaign. And the face of this campaign, modelling all four kits, was a female Greek model. Venezia was here to change the game. The shirts became a global phenomenon, especially popular in Asia, Europe and the US.

You win some, you lose some

Good results have been elusive for the Venetians. The advent of their brand new image coincided with a good run on the Serie A, but that didn’t last long, and the club is in the bottom half of the Serie B at the time of writing. As a football club, they continue to struggle. As a brand, though, Venezia continues to thrive. The German design agency Borsche has been put in charge of the club’s visual identity, after working with high end fashion brands such as Balenciaga or Supreme. The club has dabbled in high-profile collaborations with renowned poets and designers. They have developed a distinctive communication style on social media, and they remain a global favourite. But not everyone is happy with this. 

Detractors call it a matter of style over substance. Many regret the overemphasis the club lays on business, and think that if a similar effort would be placed on football, the club would be doing much better by now. Die hard fans have communicated their unease with the radical change the club has undergone – and have even provided feedback on the shirts. According to some accounts, attendance at the stadium is still meagre. Venezia has pulled off a true aesthetic revolution in football. But can they survive solely on this? What will happen when the next big thing comes around, and for example the new Air Jordan PSG shirt drops, or a new club decides fashion will also be their USP?

Thinking points

It is not uncommon for football clubs to find and promote the traits and culture that distinguishes them from the pack. There are clubs of immigrants, clubs born from an industry like mining or education, and now, fashion forward design clubs. Does the boardroom culture of Venezia or Angel City FC go against the traditional values of the game? Should football. results, and glory always be the highest on the priority list? Or is Venezia right to find their own niche? 

Find Out More

Watch BBC Sport’s report on Venezia FC here.

Esquire reported on Venezia FC and its relationship with fashion. Read it here.

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