June 20, 2013

From NEHJ: Jersey boys

From Russia to Montreal to the Upper Midwest, they have come from across the globe. Along the way, they’ve drawn inspiration from different cultures and grown up idolizing different teams across various leagues. Some spent their formative years aspiring to play the game at its highest level, while others were cutting their teeth in the fields of business and graphic design.

They’ve all followed decidedly different paths, but Chris Bonvino, Guy Darveau, Justin Lappen and Yana Korsunsky have one thing in common: They all play roles in the making of the most cherished uniform in all of sports, the hockey jersey.

We caught up with them to talk about their backgrounds and what’s prepared them for their respective jobs; design trends throughout various regions in the U.S., provinces in Canada and throughout the world; and what exciting developments are on the horizon for hockey sweaters.

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Chris Bonvino
Gemini Athletic Wear

Founder, CEO | www.geminiathletic.com

What team did you grow up idolizing?

I grew up in Minneapolis. When I was in third grade, my dad took me to a Gopher-Fighting Sioux game. The Gophers came out with their squeaky-clean look and blonde hair. The Sioux came out and looked like criminals. They had beards, mustaches and long dark hair. They started a fight before the game. I said, “I want to play there, dad!” I actually grew up liking North Dakota and went there.

What was it like to have your company so well-represented in this year’s NCAA tournament, including by the national champions, Yale?

That was fantastic. That was the fifth NCAA team that’s won with our jersey on. It’s really fun. It was really neat to see the Yale guys. We like them so much and they were the underdogs. They beat teams with 18 and 19 NHL draft choices with their three draft choices. They’re well-coached, have great equipment guys. They’re just really good people.

Do you notice any trends by state or region when it comes to design?

I think a lot of it has to do with the NHL, the different cuts of the jersey. The original Nike Edge jerseys were a tighter cut, more like a football jersey with long sleeves in a sense. I think they’ve fallen back with a more traditional, looser-fitting style. We do a hybrid that’s right in between those as well. The socks have been a big change. The Edge sock has been something we’re doing a ton of, and I think all that comes from what the NHL is wearing. I think a lot of teams want to emulate that.

What exciting development are on the horizon for hockey jerseys?

We just got the Flow Knit II, which is proprietary to our company, ready to go for this year. It’s the same weight, but it has a little more stretch to it and is antimicrobial. The antimicrobial makes a difference. You worry about some of these kids getting on hot streaks and not washing their jerseys for a week. It has very good wicking. It’s soft and it’s substantive. It takes twill lettering.

The other big development has been dye sublimation, which we do internally.

 

Yana Korsunsky
LutchUSA

Managing director | www.lutchusa.com

Did you always have a passion for uniforms?

That really came with time. I’ve been watching the KHL since I was little. I’m from Russia originally. I never gave much thought to what a uniform was like, but I always loved how colorful the Russian uniforms were. That’s always drawn my attention. Now that I’m working here, I get to see all the intricate details and what goes into it to really put the uniforms: all the details, the design, the people, how many hands this jersey touches before it makes it to the final customer. It’s incredible.

What’s the design process like for Lutch?

It really depends on the team. It fluctuates. The Russian National Team comes to us and asks us to pitch ideas. We normally give them two to three jerseys to choose from. We have our designers look back at the history of the team and see how the jersey has changed. You have to keep up with the times. Jerseys are evolving. So you have to look modern, but it needs that retro sense too. It’s about where hockey came from. What they did last year was they posted those three options on Facebook and had their fanbase choose. We focused on the positives and what fans like to see their team wearing. It was a fun, overpowering experience.

Do European jerseys have more flair by design?

They definitely have a different edge to them. I follow the NHL and love it as well  As far as the flair goes, it’s just different. But I have to say I love the classical look of the NHL. It’s all about keeping something the way it’s always been and not diverging from that. But then again, there’s something to be said about being unique and standing out. Either way you go, I think it’s a choice every team has to make. It’s a good choice either way. If you’re in need of — let’s put it this way — having someone really give you a creative jersey and giving you something unique, that’s something we specialize in.

 

Guy Darveau
SP Apparel

VP sales/marketing | www.spapparel.com

What prepares you for a job like this?

I grew up in Montreal. As a hockey player for many years in junior hockey, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, I was expecting to be a pro hockey player or work in the hockey industry. I’ve definitely been able to experience both of them, a little bit as a pro player. I had a shoulder injury in my last four years as a player, so I had to look at a different avenue. I was definitely fortunate to get a job many years ago with CCM Sport Maska. It’s all about the love you have of sports. Hockey has always been a part of my life.

What’s the design process like when it comes to the specialty jerseys for unique events?

We design jerseys together with the customer. We have three full-time designers, and those guys are so excited to have opportunities to create new stuff. Let’s say there’s a breast cancer special event jersey. They usually give us the green light to work on the uniform for them. We’ll create two to three different concepts and then present them, then they can decide on the adjustments they want to make.

Are teams leaning more toward the classic look or something cutting edge these days?

Well it’s 50-50. In Canada and the U.S., it can be so different from East to West. New England is so much more traditional with the embroidery press, the twill numbers and vintage look. If you go to a location like California, they’re a lot more open to the sublimation process and more jazzy-looking jerseys. They’re looking for special things you don’t see very often.

Do you notice differences across each of the provinces in Canada?

In Western Canada, it’s fully sublimated. From Toronto to the Maritimes, it’s still more traditional. In Quebec, there’s new excitement about sublimation where teams can create something unique, but a good-looking vintage jersey is something that looks fantastic, too.

 

Justin Lappen
Fourteen Graphics

Owner, president | www.14graphics.com

What prepared you for a job like this?

In high school, I took a graphics class that really got me into screen-printing and designing. This led me to pursue my passion in college and later to start my own business. While growing up I played hockey, soccer, lacrosse and any other recreation sports I could, so sports have always been a big part of my life. When I realized I could build a company by combining my two passions, there was no way I couldn’t pursue it. As I began designing more and taking on new sports, I began to closely pay attention to what people were fans of in uniforms for each sport.

What’s the process like of working with a team and designing a jersey for Fourteen Graphics?

When a team first comes to us inquiring of uniforms, we like to see how much creative freedom we have with the uniform design. After getting the team colors and logos we then put together one to two mockups for the team to look at. After a few revisions we then move forward to the production. Our only goal when it comes to designing the uniform is that our customer is 100 percent satisfied with the complete uniform. We understand that they will be the ones wearing the uniform, not us, and are the ones who need to be happy with the design. We do offer input along the way about how the design will translate to the actual uniform.

Have you noticed any geographical trends when it comes to the design of jerseys?

We have worked with teams all across the country and have noticed that most teams are on the same page with their design concepts and what they are looking for. Organized sports teams like clean uniforms with simple yet classy design elements, while club or league teams like crazier designs and more elements in their design.

What’s your favorite jersey of all-time?

The 1980 USA hockey jersey. The design is very clean and conveys the team and country nicely. Also, the history behind the jersey has a lot to do with why it is so great. My favorite NHL jersey would be the Boston Bruins’ ’45-’49 gold jersey. It has that retro ‘B’ in spokes and has a simple color scheme to go along with a good amount of stripes and accent pieces.

This article originally appeared in the June 2013 issue of New England Hockey Journal.

Photo by Getty Images

Twitter: @JesseNEHJ
Email: jconnolly@hockeyjournal.com