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Style Trumps Victories: How Venezia, a Modest Club, Became the Most Fashionable Team in World Football

What boy in his childhood did not dream of going out into the yard in a Milan shirt with the name Shevchenko on the back, or a blue and garnet Ronaldinho jersey? Even cheap Chinese synthetics from the nearest market seemed to be a desirable artifact — everyone's favorite logo on the heart and their idol's name on the back were always enough.
Christian Steward
By: Christian Steward

In this case, the big question was why football stakeholders would set out to invent anything else. Especially given that clothing sales depend much more on the status of players than on design styles and the quality of fabric. 

Today, together with 22BET, we tell you how a club from the second Italian league, which does not grab stars from the sky, managed to become a grandee in the world of sports fashion. 

In modern football, we have the amazing case of Venezia, which sells out seasonal collections in a matter of days without household names of players in the promotional material and has been flaunting the status of "the most fashionable team in the world" for several years. Today, we dive into the story of a club from the Italian second league that rose to prominence in the world of sports fashion without making any marquee signings on the pitch. 

Until the 1980s, football clubs hardly accepted the sale of replica shirts as a sound business model. It took years, even decades, for the basic jersey to become more than a recognizable uniform for confrontations on the green turf. Now, behind almost every variant of seasonal releases, there is an army of designers from the largest sports brands defending the club's identity in colors and uniforms. The constant search for ideas is no longer just an alternation of drawings and fonts from year to year.

However, even today, not every top club sends absolute style masterpieces to the stores. While some teams from medium-sized leagues unleash the craziest ideas, applying a pattern imitating bare muscles to the jersey or flirting more ceremoniously with their small homeland's national and cultural heritage, others make do with the basic templates of their brands. Often, even the giants of the Champions League do this.

A few seasons ago in Italy (and where else would this happen), a team decided to become a fashion reference not only for all other football participants but also for those outside the industry. Its seasonal collections sell out almost instantly; people who pay little attention to football talk about them, and foreigners buy them more often than local fans.

The Sinking Venice and the Little American Wonder

Venezia appeared on the Italian football map back in 1906. In over a century, it has gone through mergers, bankruptcies, and renamings more often than recording great victories on the football pitch. At the pinnacle of Italian football, the Serie A, the club spent 14 seasons but was never a serious contender for the Scudetto. Their highest ranking was only third place. In the Italian Cup, Venezia was a little more successful. However, the legendary victory in the 1940/41 season over Roma is remembered only by the most honorable veterans of the fan club.

The last time the team got on the radar of the general football community was in the 2021/22 season, before the start of which it triumphantly returned to Serie A but could not gain a foothold there, instantly returning to the sidelines with a relegation to Serie B.

The team’s new management was not embarrassed at all. Of course, no sports project can ignore the competitive component and not dream of victories. Still, at the current stage, Venezia is much more focused on building a recognizable fashion brand and attracting attention to the project, even from a non-football audience. Although it may be a hasty decision to draw conclusions based on the results of just a few seasons, it is still difficult to argue with the fact that Venezia has incredibly and unconventionally relaunched its brand.

The world's largest sports media, represented by the Soccer Bible, for example, include club kits in their lists of the best kits of the season, and authoritative publications dedicated to street culture, such as Hypebeast, also write about the brand's new collections. The very first season after the rebranding was marked by a complete sale of all the released shirts, and a year later, Venezia broke this record four times.

In addition, the team has gone far beyond the borders of the city and Italy: 96% of the sold merchandise is sent to customers from other countries, among which new fans from the USA, Great Britain, Western Europe, Japan,

Through Fashion to the Stars

As we mentioned above, the fate of Venezia in recent decades has not been the most enviable. At the beginning of the 21st century, the club went into bankruptcy three times, and after one of the procedures, it was passed into the hands of the city itself, albeit for a short time. In 2020, the situation stabilized after the purchase of the project by American company VFC Newco, whose president, Duncan Niederauer, previously worked as the executive director of the New York Stock Exchange. This was the second attempt in five years by American businessmen to rebuild a new Venezia, but it seems to be the only one that will become a really important page in the club's history.

Duncan Niederauer brought with him, perhaps, the main face of the project at the moment, brand director Ted Filippakos. The man from New York is a former agent who has taught at sports universities and has written a lot about American and world football, burying himself in the problems of these sports in the 21st century. Finally, he had the great opportunity to demonstrate his view of what football can be. This was Ted's second visit to Venezia: the first time he got into the club's structure back in 2015, but quickly left, apparently feeling the inconsistency of the first iteration of the Americanization of the Italian team.

In his new position, Filippakos quickly identified new priorities: building a brand that is interesting not only to a football audience but also at least a mixed one, and at most one that is completely far from the sport. The basis for this was excellent, it was just necessary to add more Venetian identity to the visual part of the club, full of history and romance of an absolutely unique Italian city.

Venezia started off by refusing to cooperate with Nike. It seems to be too audacious a move against the backdrop of the brand's unconditional dominance in recent decades. However, the new management had its own plan: to return to work with the Italian manufacturer Kappa, which has long been synonymous with the word "vintage." At the end of the twentieth century, dozens of teams were dressed in the corporate style. After all, there is almost nothing more effective than striking at nostalgia.

In addition, Venezia secured special conditions in the new partnership: the partners from Kappa promised maximum creative freedom and support to old and new friends. And even more, the beginning of the team’s new history was marked by the release of four uniforms for one season at once—top clubs rarely employ this strategy.

Visual references also massively milked nostalgia and introduced urban identity into each possible set. The new variants of the jerseys used the Venetian texture of the walls, the signature mosaics of Ca' d'Oro, the stars of St. Mark's Basilica, the lagoon colors, and the city's flag. The designers also made additional changes — the club logo with a winged lion and many stone relatives, which tourists can easily find on the city streets. The new minimalist logo retains the details of the previous version, including the proud head of the king of beasts, but at the same time has become much clearer and more readable.

The club's new approach to the presentation of uniforms played an important role in the brand's popularization. Instead of selling new jerseys with photo shoots and videos of stone-faced footballers dressed in their signature colors, Venezia made Greek model Theopisti Pourliotopoulou their face. The team also presented the uniform in a non-standard way: literally every new frame showed how successfully sports equipment can be introduced into everyday style and looked more like another photo shoot from a brand of Gucci’s caliber.

The kit redesign successfully coincided with the club's main football achievement in recent years—Venezia spent the 2021/22 season in Serie A. However, they were relegated back to Serie B the next season, where they got bogged down in the middle of the table. Currently, the club is third in Serie B and hopes to be promoted to Serie A again. 

As for the kit, it continues to take new forms, settling in the wardrobes of people from all over the world, and does not fail to surprise fashion experts with new ideas. For example, the club entered the 2023/24 season with a black and white striped set with a scarlet polo collar, rehashing the classic clothes of Venetian gondoliers. A branded presentation from the lagoon was included in the promotion.

Such grandiose successes and media attention worldwide required Ted Philippakos to make a selective restructuring within the project. Only after shifting the focus to contact with the general public and the Venetians did the project transform in this way.

Trendsetter Team and Its Corporate Identity

If you are walking in the center of Venice and find yourself in an expensive boutique, where instead of designer clothes, you find hangers with football uniforms, do not be surprised. This is another part of the club's new corporate identity, which has separated its merchandise store from a small, cozy stadium and turned it into a modern showroom in the city's tourist heart.

White stone floors, Afghan carpets on top of them, expensive leather chairs, houseplants, and walls crammed with footage from trendy photo shoots may confuse old-fashioned football fans but they have already become a must-see point of interest for ardent fans and tourists from all over the world.

In recent years, the football uniforms that fill the Venezia store have been the responsibility of unequivocal professionals from the world of fashion. Among them is, for example, the Fly Nowhere agency from New York, which regularly works on the design of merchandise and other branded apparel for clubs at the level of Manchester United and PSG. Or the German designers from Bureau Borsche, whose resumes include collaborations with Balenciaga, Rimowa, and Supreme.

The club's staff includes former Off-White employees and participants in the Venice Art Biennale, who are responsible for creativity. The fashion collections of "Venice" already include not only sports equipment but also branded umbrellas, raincoats, fishing hats, and even swimsuits.

Finally, Venezia, which seemed completely detached from all the must-have trappings of modern sport just a few years ago, has begun to invade social networks. The club’s account made fun of Elon Musk's upcoming purchase of the company on Twitter (at the time), urging "fans about 12 years old" to subscribe to the team's new TikTok account. In general, the club's creatives like to fit into almost any current thread or trend to draw attention to themselves once again.

But in addition to pursuing outright hype, Venezia continues to express admiration for and love for its native city. The club's updated website regularly publishes poetic essays on the Italian pearl and interviews with local cultural figures. The 2021/22 season and the hype around the team's return to the country's top division came to life in a book with photos from street photographer Eric Scagiante.

In addition, the project cooperates with the American non-profit organization Save Venice, which monitors the preservation of Venice's artistic heritage. Thanks to this, the organization receives 5 euros for each T-shirt sold. The main event in the club's history in recent decades, the return to Serie A, was celebrated by Venezia in the most pompous way possible—a parade of gondolas and boats.

At the same time, interestingly, the project has enough critics even among the local audience. Some old-timers spit on the redesign of the corporate logo; others are not delighted with the kitschy design of the clothes themselves. Almost everyone says in exasperation that they expected to dominate the pitch rather than become the most fashionable club in world football.

However, if the American owners of the team find an opportunity to deal with competitive moments with the same passion and audacity as building a fashion brand, Venezia has every chance of unconditional success. In the meantime, let's just enjoy the best jerseys in football right now.

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Christian Steward
Written by: Christian Steward
Christian Steward is an Exclusive Reporter for Betimate with over 10 years of experience in conducting reseach and analyzing data in order to provide approriate statistics for Betimate's Board of Experts.

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