The Union Creators’ Collective: Part 3

Photo courtesy Philadelphia Union

October 2019

The mood in the room is surprisingly loose considering the measured tone of the first meeting and the anxiousness-turned-joy of the second. We’ve crossed a threshold and everyone feels it.

Our hosts are light-heartedly making jokes and genuinely enjoying the moment too, they’re the lucky ones who’ve already seen the kit. That they opened their design process to us at all, to fans and observers, novices and critics, is in and of itself a first: this has never happened in Major League Soccer. Trust is a hard thing for corporations to foster with their customers and fans, and at least in this moment the Union has succeeded in bridging the gap.

We, on the other hand, are certainly loose but nervously buoyant too, knowing what we asked for but not what has been created for us.

Doug is back, his sick puppy is presumably well, and he kicks things off by letting us know that “Ernst has seen the kit and he loves it.” It’s only the second time the sporting director has been mentioned in this process, and the first was his preference for “no pink.”

Fair enough.

It was this stage in the design of the team’s previous away kit that was most tumultuous, the white shirt with the blue sunburst on it that started as a Bimbo kit and became and Artesano one. The problem back then? The colors on the sample weren’t quite right, too dark and not crisp enough. Feedback was required to get the narrative corrected so that it came through in the fabric, but no redesign was possible so far down the production timeline and generally no one left completely happy.

There is a measure of this process that feels a bit like the game “Telephone,” and even if the message is garbled at the end, it still has to be delivered.

Adidas’s compromise with the team was not to print the back of the jersey, a small concession that gave birth to the custom “backtags” that The Ertz Family et al produced for fans who customized their jerseys.

When life gives you lemons,…

That shirt is suddenly elevated from this vantage point, considering the Union won silverware in it and ended up pairing it with blue shorts instead of white sometimes. Subtle changes, but meaningful ones.

Nevertheless, this time around no one seems worried about any design minutiae and no one knows that the Union are a year away from a trophy. We simply eat our pizza, review a slide deck on “how we got here,” and await the unveiling.

It’s a torturous few minutes.

The reveal

“Maybe Phang doesn’t fit into the Large anymore…” Doug says, looking out into the empty office space.

No more jokes, Doug, WE WANT TO SEE THE DAMN THING!!

Then, all of a sudden in walks Anthony Fontana.

He’s wearing the full kit and we finally have the real thing in front of us… and what a thing of beauty it is. We’re smiling and frankly clapping, over the moon with the final result.

Photo courtesy  Philadelphia Union

“I love this kit,” the genial Homegrown says, doing as much posing and flexing in this conference room as he does on the field. He’s a magnet of a personality and the perfect choice for modeling our vision. “Whoa,” he says, finally seeing himself in the reflected in the darkened windows, “I look really good in this!”

He does, though. It’s not boastful or braggadocios, just the truth. He looks GOOD in this kit.

Honestly, who couldn’t? This is the most interesting kit the team have ever launched.

They lightened the lightning bolts a bit, softened the background blue enough to make it a change kit from the Union’s usual navy. Most crucially, they kept the yellow accents on both the shirt and socks.

It’s everything we asked for and adidas nailed it.

As one of my colleagues said about one of our other choices and then reiterated when this masterpiece came to light, “It’s pure.”


  1. Scott of Nazareth says:

    Great series Chris! Thanks for sharing!

    So when do they change the home kit next?

  2. Awesome!! Really enjoyed the series! So the Ubare the first to do this kind of fan design?? Gotta love that! Really hope to get my hands on one soon!

  3. So I’m a little confused. The Athletic has been reporting that only Atlanta has qualified (via jersey sales) to have a third kit. Is this a third kit ? Is this a new Away kit ? Or is Adidas allowing 3rd kits if the club pays for its development?

  4. I like this new kit. If it was the sole lightning bolt, like that Roma kit, in yellow with blue – whoa, that would have been awesome!!!!
    That being said, I’ve already ordered the new one for my kids, who also loved it.
    Thank you for sharing the process …

  5. Went to the Union shop and got me one!! Really cool! Thanks for the insight into the process!!

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