11 artists, 11 communities, 11 unique designs.
Toronto FC has partnered with adidas to bring to life the Starting XI program: 11 artists from around the city were invited to use the white canvas half of the Community Kit to showcase and celebrate the diversity of Toronto, to leave their mark on the club.
From an Eagle Feather to the 6ix to pirate tattoos, the city skyline to flowers in bloom along the fence of the neighbourhood practice field, the 11 designs bring to life the vibrancy and multiplicity of Toronto.
Four players – Lorenzo Insigne, Federico Bernardeschi, Ayo Akinola, and Lukas MacNaughton, who has since been traded to Nashville SC – joined the community on April 20 at the MLSE Launchpad where youth had the opportunity to work with the artists to create their own jerseys.
“I'm very proud to be here,” said Bernardeschi. “It's a wonderful day because we have the kids here to customize jerseys and we will do a great job together.”
“This is a very good initiative,” he continued. “We will have fun designing a personal jersey.”
Speaking a few days after the event, Akinola concurred: “It was good to meet every single one of the artists. Just seeing them helping the kids out, helping them draw their own little design and putting it on their jerseys was a really cool experience.”
The players will each be collaborating with an artist to create their own custom kits.
Roza Nozari (@yallaroza) will be incorporating Akinola’s vision into his design, mixing elements of his heritage with the most important thing in the world and a multilayered element that both catches the eye initially and then reveals itself upon closer inspection.
The collaboration began with conversation between the artist and the athlete.
“Just talking to get to know us a little bit better,” outlined Akinola. “They were picking our brains, we were explaining to them who we are and what we represent. I was telling Roza I was born in the US, raised in Canada, but my background is Nigerian, so I want to incorporate those three countries because they represent who I am.”
“Family-based as well – my mom, my brother, and my dad,” he continued. “I want to incorporate that into it, but also I want it to be in a way where from afar you can see that it looks big, but once you get closer to it, you can start to see little details of what it really represents. When you get closer to the jersey, you can start to see little pieces, like ‘Oh snap! There's actually details in it.’”
Bernardeschi too was excited to get his design onto canvas.
“Yes, absolutely,” he smiled, giving a hint at one possible inspiration with a big laugh. “Maybe with my tattoos.”
The 11 artist designs as well as those of the players will be auctioned later this summer at a fundraising event by the MLSE Foundation.
Both the project and the Launchpad event were a nice change of pace from the usual day in the life of a professional athlete.
“That was my first time at the MLSE Launchpad, so it was a cool first experience,” said Akinola. “There were basically two separate stations: inside the classroom where the artists were to see what the kids wanted to put on their jerseys and then the other station was more activity-based – one part was like a drill and then the other was a competition to score through cones.”
Judging by the noise in the background the kids had a good time.
“I did, too,” added Akinola. “I was sweating a little bit. I was into it.”
One kit, infinite possibilities. One Toronto, infinite visions. All for One.
The artists, players, and kids have had a chance to make their splash, fans will too as BMO Field will be hosting a workshop at the next three home matches (April 29, May 6, May 17) where fans can customize their own Community Kit.