Marc Jacques Burton On Designing His First Ever Football Jersey For Regal FC

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Photography: Alex De Mora / Styling: Carlotta Constant / Interview: Tom Everest / Words: Buez Hadgu

While Marc Jacques Burton is best known for his luxury British street-wear label MJB, the first annual Regal FC Rooftop 5s Tournament put his team-building skills to the test. 

As well as captaining and curating his own team in the tournament – bringing together friends Kristen Hanby, Roger Gracie, Not3s, Lona and Maeve – Marc designed all three of the limited-edition Regal FC jerseys worn throughout the day.

The first of which, the Regal FC Gold & Black Home Jersey, which launches online today, subverts the traditional design principles of a classic match day jersey to include a variety of personal annotations and signature details from Marc alongside a classic fold down collar that pays tribute to some of the most iconic kits of the 90s.

Being a lifelong Liverpool FC fan, it is hard to believe that Marc is only making his debut within the fashion world of football. Yet, following collaborations with the likes of Mortal Kombat and more recently, The Rolling Stones, the step onto the pitch and into the production of football jerseys is just another way in which he continues to embody his brand mantra – Live Your Dream

In fact, the art of reinvention and the ambition to create pieces for ‘individuals who are leading in their field; unique innovators who are prepared to push boundaries,’ is a thread that ties many of the chapters to Marc’s story together with the ambitions of Regal FC. 

To understand more about the inspiration behind each of the limited-edition kits and to hear more about his ambitions to advance the culture even further, we sat down with Marc to talk about the football-fashion slipstream and the lessons he’s learned from helping to build the Regal FC identity.

This is your first foray into designing something in the football space; what initially attracted you to the idea of adding the MJB stamp to a football kit?

I collaborated with Kangol before, so I’ve touched upon sportswear, but this is the first time I’ve designed something in the footballing world. It means a lot to me because I think growing up as a kid in London, football was the most important sport to me, not only in terms of me playing it but all my heroes were footballers.  Like many other kids who grew up in the country, I dreamt of playing football, playing for England. When I was very young – for some reason – I was drawn to Bruce Grobbelaar, the Liverpool goalkeeper, because he was so entertaining, I wouldn’t ask to watch Liverpool, I would just say can I watch Bruce Grobbelaar? I found his name funny, I loved his style and the way he played and the game, and, in the end, it led me to support Liverpool. 

We had the Euros this summer and there were some beautiful moments there, I think it brought the country together better than ever before. Then, this opportunity arose, and I think it just naturally flowed that way. Certain opportunities come at certain times, and I feel like you need to be ready for them. Because I’ve done a lot in the music world, I think opportunities have naturally followed from that. I’m very particular with the opportunities I take, it must be true to something I love and hit a chord with me. I’ve done a lot of dream collaborations, creating some beautiful projects and this is another special one as I can bring my love of football to the fore. 

You’ve created three independent jerseys in total; tell us about the process and inspiration behind each? 

It’s always a beautiful process to create something new. I don’t like to think about things too much, I prefer to sit down and allow thoughts and ideas to come with me, so I don’t plan it. I can get myself into a very relaxed state where thoughts start entering my mind and I’m virtually downloading concepts and allowing things to drift in and out of my consciousness and into my creative vision. 

The starting point of any collaboration must begin with my brand and the partners involved. We integrate a lot of art into our brand and have some famous prints such  as the lightning and the web. Looking at Chivas Regal, the colour schemes they use and what they stand for, was so rich and has so much power. I wanted to marry both brands. I used some of the distinctive colours of Chivas Regal in combination with the MJB patented artwork because some of the Chivas regal colours like the royal blue, or the gold and silver, I haven’t traditionally worked with before so it’s given me an entire new palette to explore and experiment with. 

How important is it to align with a prestigious brand like Chivas and use their iconography and heritage into the interpretation of the brand?

The ‘I rise, we rise’ tagline of Chivas Regal is similar to how I think. I’m very lucky, I have a core group of friends. and we’re brutally honest with each other, but out of pure love to lift each other. I try to do that with my team and everyone I work with, it’s always been an important message for me that as human beings, we support each other. If I’m working with a musician, if I make something unique for them, I’m supporting them in a way that they can shine and feel special on stage, but they’re also supporting my brand by wearing it. I think that we can all support each other, and we can all win together. A lot of people think for someone to win, someone else must lose. But projects and collaborations like this are built to show how special working together can be for everyone.

How important do you think clubs and opportunities like this, offered by Chivas Regal, is to not only evolving the football landscape but creating a greater scope of creativity for football, fashion, style, culture to live and breathe as one? 

You know, by working together, we add our different cultures and backgrounds, and perspectives. Together, we come up with something beautiful, which is better than what we could all do individually. If we all said Chivas Regal you do a football tournament on your own or GAFFER on your own, I’m sure it’d be good but then you put the three of us together and it’s this really epic collaboration. Chivas enabled me to take their iconic branding and rework elements into a trio of football jerseys which is incredible. It’s interesting to see where we can build on this to make the tournament, the clothing, even bigger going forward. 

Duality is both explicit and implicit in the construction and connotations of a lot of your work; being very luxurious and practical yet also artistically loaded. How did that signature MJB recipe come together in the creation of these jerseys?

Each kit has a different base to it, making everyone different because one thing I’m not keen on as a true football fan is the same pattern used on kits. For example, all the goalkeeper shirts are designed in the same way. That’s one of the issues I have with fashion in general now, it’s such a global business so everyone’s selling the same stuff. Football kits are the same, you know, why do all the goalkeepers at the top level clubs wear the same template kit? There’s a whole room of opportunity to explore in just that one silhouette. With my brand, I’ve always tried to have some handmade elements, variety, and uniqueness, which brings together the duality between luxury and practicality. That’s what we’ve done with the three shirts despite it not being the most cost-effective way to do it, we’ve ensured each one has the handmade elements to it. From the hand-stitch details across the collar of the red jersey to the personal annotations on the gold and black shirt. 

What was the biggest thing you’ve learned from this creative process? 

When I design, art is at the forefront of everything I do. The beautiful thing is that if you have beautiful art, patterns, and print, you can then apply that to almost any material. So that’s something I’ve learned, that if you have such a strong identity it can live on in so many different means. I traditionally work with a lot of denim and leather, and other heavy fabrics. So, because I knew we were going to be playing in these football kits up in Manchester, I wanted to make them functional but at the same time a piece that you could buy and wear to the pub or a fashion show and be proud of and feel good in. That’s the perfect balance between the Italian-made, lightweight essence of the jersey and the prints that are displayed on each one. 

How did you walk the line between stamping the signature MJB identity onto the kits but remaining loyal to the staple football jersey aesthetic and the commercial appeal that so often underlines everything that exists within the football world?

For me, I love having a hand-finished element on a football shirt and that’s what I wanted to do, because you don’t see that anymore. Looking back at the old football shirts you know from the 60s or 50s, you see the badges have clearly just been hand sewn on and the stitching is not quite perfect, but it’s beautiful. It’s unique. So, I wanted to bring a retro element to it. I love slight imperfections; I think it’s beautifully refreshing in the world when now everything is so globalised and mass-produced in the same way. 

How important was it for you to create the full kit too? Bringing the entire vision to life rather than just being restricted or isolated with a jersey…

When we first got the brief, it was initially just to make a shirt and I immediately said we need to create the whole kit. That’s important and I do it in my brand through matching sets which I think so many musicians have taken to. It’s a big part of our identity. I think a football kit is a beautiful story that has a flow from the whole top blown into the shorts and socks. That’s how I naturally design clothing, thinking of a whole fit so it was just a natural carry on when I was doing the football kits.

Traditionally you like to operate with several, different luxury materials, leather, denim etc. How did you approach the material choices and constructions of the jersey?

I realised that the best way for me to grow as a human being is to work with other people that have different mentalities, different mindsets. This transpired into my art; I’ve never worked with these types of materials so applying the print was different. The process wasn’t as simple as I thought it was going to be, it was slightly more difficult. But that’s the whole challenge of it all, just to think through another perspective, it’s exciting to be evolving in this way. 

How much of this experience was refreshing to you? Being able to operate a little bit out of the ordinary and put your imprint on a realm which has previously been more conservative… 

Finding that balance of trying to hit the two worlds of fashion and a technical football shirt that can be worn and played in was refreshing. It’s an opportunity to look outside the normal lens in the way it’s represented. Which is why I collaborate because life is all about learning, growing, pushing your boundaries.

Where do you traditionally look for creative inspiration and how, if at all, did that change in the creation of these limited-edition jerseys?

I’m a very independent thinker. I download what I feel and what I see. I’m not one of those guys that buys loads of samples and gets inspired that way, but like any other kid, I had my football kits with big memories and those were in my thinking. 

What, if any, other kits did you have in mind when you were first handed this challenge? Are there any kits from past and present that you always look to for its design, appeal, or identity? 

Big memories of mine were the Umbro England kits. You know, the first big memory for me was the 1990 World Cup where we got to the semi’s and tragically lost to Germany with Gazza and Lineker crying. I’ve watched that tournament back so many times. I was given a VHS video of the highlights and I was very young and I probably watched it endlessly for about five years. So, that is one kit that really stood out.

If you could see one person playing and competing in these kits – in or outside of football – who would it be and why? 

The person that’s probably given me the most joy in the footballing world is Steven Gerrard. Just what he did for Liverpool, the important goals he scored, the energy, the passion, out of the whole footballing world he’s an idol, and because of him, I was a big Adidas boy with the predator boots growing up too. So, yeah, I mean, probably saying Stevie G.

You’re so deeply inspired by music and consequently, the brand is so entrenched in all genres of music and by so many different artists across the world. But, from your point of view, why do you think both football and music have such a special unspoken, deep-rooted affiliation, whereby those who are musicians would often love to be footballers and footballers are often besotted by artists? 

It’s a really good question. I first made it in America, and I see the same thing with rappers and NBA stars in America, that they mutually respect each other. I think it comes to a deeper side to us as human beings where we know we shouldn’t, but naturally do compare ourselves to other human beings. We always think that we want something else, and we look aside which is natural. If you’re a sports star, and you go to a Drake concert or a Rolling Stones concert and see Drake or Mick Jagger on stage in front of 80,000 people, you’re like, wow, I would love to do that. And I suppose the biggest musicians have careers that go on forever. But sports stars, the footballers, those moments they are living in if you score the winning goal in the Champions League, or the FA Cup? Those are beautiful moments as well. As humans, I think the answer as to why we have evolved is because we are always hungry to improve.

Over the years, what lessons have you taken from football that has either inspired your creative process or the way you look upon and see the world?

The way I see it, no matter how much someone does the research, it’s important to only do projects you genuinely have an affiliation with, so with football, I grew up living and breathing it, it’s so important to me. So, I think, we should use people from those worlds. If I was a professional skateboarder, I’d want my stuff designed by someone that skateboards, and comes from that box, I think we sometimes need more of that where people that have grown up in that world.

How do you interpret the design around the modern world of football currently; what more do you think can be done or what boundaries do you think can be pushed around the game? 

It feels like there’s real commercialisation, some of these big brands that are designing the football kits are generating huge revenue streams. Sometimes it feels like they are just looking at it from a commercial perspective, like, right, we can save money by doing the same template, and I feel like you need to do the opposite. We need more diversity; we need more creativity. It would be really nice to get different designers from maybe different cultures and different backgrounds to create those.

I am seeing shifts. I think it’s interesting to see more creative third kits and fourth kits, they’re following the lead from the fashion world where there’s a lot of beautiful collaborations happening, you look at what Paris Saint-Germain or Juventus are doing with the Jordan and Palace collaborations. I’m seeing different worlds collide together. But it would be cool to have localised production,  localised designers imprinting their identity onto their team’s jerseys. 

Shop the limited-edition Marc Jacques Burton x Regal FC Jersey on the GAFFER Store.

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