With the World Cup finally upon us, soccer seems to have made its way into just about every aspect of our daily lives. For some, like stylist and editor in chief of German fashion magazine Achtung, Markus Ebner, that's nothing new. For him, as for many fans of the game from around the world, soccer is part of life, whether it's a World Cup year or not. Ebner is the founder of Sepp Football Fashion, a magazine that finds creative, visually compelling ways to pair fashion with soccer (and includes among its contributors Style.com editor in chief Dirk Standen, who has written an essay on the stylistic choices of football coaches). Here's an exclusive look at issue No. 8 of Sepp, and our chat with Ebner about sport, style, and the most exciting thing about this year's World Cup.
Seems like the soccer-fashion relationship has been slowly gaining momentum over the years, but it has finally reached a point of nearly mainstream interest this year. What have you notice about the relationship between the two?
A turning point came this year when Arsenal London decided that they would be dressed by Lanvin. Lanvin menswear is generally considered the most progressive show on the schedule. What Lucas Ossendrijver and Alber Elbaz create is the absolute benchmark for creative menswear. Last season they had every single model with an individual look and hairstyle—it's nearly haute couture for men. So them dressing a football team with good-looking guys like German Lukas Podolski or Brits Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott and catering to that football audience speaks volumes. We have an interview with the two of them in the new issue conducted by my partner at Sepp, Godfrey Deeny, and a genius shoot by Max Vadukul.
Recently, Giorgio Armani, who has been at the forefront of football fashion with his Beckham jacket and his uniforms for Chelsea, inked a deal with my home team, Bayern Munich, where Pep Guardiola is considered the best-dressed coach in the world. He generally wears clothes by Dsquared². So there's a clear sign that the designers are starting to target the players and coaches like Hollywood stars. Also, this year's Ballon d'Or, which was won by Cristiano Ronaldo, came with a full press release by Dsquared² on what he was wearing, with a photo. You could call the Ballon d'Or the Oscars of soccer.
You have some amazing stories with top players in this issue. Can you tell me a bit about how it came together?
We really wanted to get as many top players as possible for this Brazil issue to show our idea of football fashion. Not the typical GQ shoot where an athlete is working suits, but a real showcase for how crazy these guys are about clothes. So with help from Adidas, we managed to get Dani Alves, who is a nut for Jeremy Scott, and the fourth most expensive player in the world, Edinson Cavani from Paris Saint-Germain and Uruguay, who sported the best of Parisian menswear like Givenchy and Berluti. Also, being able to work with Kaká, who with Beckham has been one of the most handsome and prominent faces modeling for Emporio Armani for years. He is handsome and looks great in the clothes. My favorite story is with Portugal striker Hugo Almeida in his home in Istanbul. We traveled all over Europe, always at the last minute, so most of these stories were based on intuition and feeling. I did most of the shoots with Barcelona photographer Nacho Alegre, who loves football as much as I do and is pretty relaxed and not intimidated by agents and stuff.
America is behind the rest of the world when it comes to interest in soccer. Do you think the same can be said about fashion?
Well, I think this year the U.S. team will have a strong World Cup. I am convinced they will survive their group, so that should help to increase interest. I have never understood that soccer is the number one college sport and it does not translate into popularity with the pros. In fashion, on the other hand, I think we all know that America is still the most important menswear market in the world for top brands. I mean, Barneys and Bergdorf Goodman's men's floors are simply the best, with cool labels like Damir Doma or cutting-edge like Tisci for Givenchy.
Do you see relationships between how countries play soccer and how they approach fashion?
Not at all.
What are the most interesting narratives in soccer right now? And what are the most interesting narratives in fashion? Do they cross over or relate to one another?
You know, every World Cup has a certain theme. In South Africa it was the Double 6, meaning that the top teams had two strong central defensive midfielders to absorb the opposing team's attack. This World Cup, maybe we will see the emergence of teams going very far without a real striker, called the Fake 9. Germany might be doing this with Bayern Munich striker Thomas Müller.
In men's fashion, I think we are seeing the emergence of haute couture. Paris shows and labels like Lanvin, Berluti, and Valentino are making clothes made entirely by hand and showing them on the runway.
What might also happen at this World Cup is that an African country might go very far and I think the continent will also be very interesting to many fashion brands very soon.
What are you most looking forward to at this year's World Cup?
The fact that it's in Brazil. We were in Rio for two months working on the issue and our creative director Beda Achermann from Zurich really worked magic in our studio in Ipanema. We wanted to capture the joy and beauty of the new Brazil. Living there, I have to say they play football day and night, every television screen in any bar is turned on to footie all the time. They are friendly, fun, and open people. So all that bad press they have had, I think World Cup Brazil will make all of that go away and we might see a Brazil team claiming the trophy. I want them or Germany, of course.
Plans for the next issue of Sepp?
The next Euro 2016 is in France. We are working on a big project with Jacques Herzog, the architect of many Miu Miu stores all over the world—and also of the finest football stadium in the world, the Allianz Arena in Munich, with his firm, Herzog & de Meuron. He is building a stadium in Bordeaux for the Euro, so what could be more football fashion than him. And producing the issue out of Paris, the fashion capital, and with PSG, the new football capital in Europe, bodes well. We are also planning an event at Colette during the World Cup where the issue is on sale now. So the Euro coming to France is exciting. Let's not forget, for the 1998 World Cup, there was an Yves Saint Laurent fashion show to open the tournament.