Archive Research Project: We Speak To Aitor Throup by Aaron› 13 Sep 2011
The Archive Research Project is a special collaboration between Umbro and Aitor Throup, bringing new life to some of the most iconic items from our extensive back catalogue. Here, we spoke to the influential conceptual designer about how A.R.P came about, and the ideas that have fuelled this unique collection….
How did the process behind Archive Research Project begin?
Aitor: ‘Umbro and I had always talked about doing a bigger collaboration, something that was more focused on a true collaboration in the sense of “what would a collaboration between Umbro and myself look like?” Rather than working towards a specific end goal such as the England kit, because if you’re working on a specific project there’s certain regulations and things like that which need to be done a certain way.
When I first started consulting with Umbro, I was very conscious that we weren’t in a position to do a project like this, simply because I didn’t know enough about the brand. Whatever collaboration I’m working on, I need to have a deep understanding and connection with the other party really. With Umbro, because it’s got such deep heritage and history, it’s a big undertaking to do it justice and interpret it.
So the natural thing to do was to start with a pure exploration of performance and that’s what led us to the England kit. After working on that for about two years, we felt that we had enough understanding and research to expand on and explore. So the idea was to communicate on a wider and at times more pure level the true achievements we’ve developed through those two years. The whole project is designed to showcase all the performance innovation that we’ve developed over that time, and that we’re still developing.
It’s a continuation of that work, but also it’s an exaggeration. These studies we’ve done into range of motion and ergonomic construction, all of that work that I developed with Umbro for the England kit, this is their fundamental principles, the foundations, developed as a unique language.’
The collection is all about these special pieces from Umbro’s heritage. How did you go about picking these items?
Aitor: ‘Umbro is in a very unique position, in that it has these 100% performance items that have become cultural or lifestyle pieces. With A.R.P, it had to have that ability to cross over into both these areas, and pretty much all those pieces that we chose for the Archive Research Project represent Umbro’s history of being able to create pieces that are as iconic in a performance context as they are in a cultural context. And you can go through all of them, if you think back to the 1990s, when a large amount of teams were wearing Umbro kits, and that visual of the drill top in training, in newspapers and magazines where you’d see footballers, it’s a performance-driven visual, but it became part of the culture. And then you see Liam Gallagher walking out at Maine Road wearing it, and all of a sudden everybody wanted to wear on the street as well as on the pitch.’
As these are already iconic garments, how do you then go about ‘improving’ them?
Aitor: ‘That’s not really how I work. I don’t start with the garment, the historical version, and think “what can I do to improve this?” We’ve done such deep exploration into this work, that we’ve generated a new block, a new way of thinking about garment construction. That’s what I started with the England work, and with the Archive Research Project, the first step was to tweak and perfect that process. Then once we’d finalized that approach, we could then apply it to any garment really, so the process of applying my approach to an archive piece is more about filtering it through my process that I’ve developed.
Ultimately what we have is what I always wanted to achieve with Umbro, which is our own a way of branding through construction. So that even if it didn’t have a logo on it, you’d be able to identify it through the build and the construction as an A.R.P garment.
The colour of the pieces seems to fit into this ideology, how was that chosen?
Aitor: ‘To be honest, my goal was to focus purely on what the project is, this exploration of the structural side of a product. So I wanted to put the emphasis on the form, rather than the colour or the texture. In a way, I feel that they’re like blueprints, or a black and white photograph, they’re very diagrammatic. Everything about the product is designed to draw your eye to what’s important about the construction.’
What are your ambitions for the Archive Research Project?
Aitor: ‘I think with the work we did with England, it’s fair to say that there’s already been a positive shift in football kits since then. In general kits seem to have become more considered, and I think we raised the bar and had our work validated. Hopefully the Archive Research Project validates this further. But the ultimate goal is to be validated on and off the pitch. We have a product that has been purely engineered for performance, and has football embedded into it: it’s directional, engineered football product. But it’s curated in a way that allows it to be worn off the pitch. ’
Thanks to Aitor for taking the time to speak to us. Take a look at the Umbro website for more information on the process behind the Archive Research Project, as well as details on where you can see the collection up close.