How two local designers are Living" and "Breathing" the American dream through soccer
New York City. Paris. Milan. Los Angeles.
When you talk about fashion, the big cosmopolitan cities come to mind.
Fancy catwalk shows, big name designers, that sort of thing.
Most people don't see Philadelphia as that kind of city. Nor would most people draw any kind of parallel between professional soccer and the contemporary world of design, style and swag.
That's why "Live Breathe Futbol" is such a curious and unique presence in underground soccer circles.
You've probably seen "LBF" gear around Philadelphia – shirts, hats, all sorts of stuff. It's a local upstart clothing company that's enjoyed rapid growth in recent years.
"In the beginning it was just me," LBF creator Ebun Olaloye told philadelphiaunion.com. "Every day I played soccer with these guys. (Co-founder Domenick Cucinotta) was one of those guys. We met freshman year and played from ten o'clock at night to one o'clock in the morning. Every day we played soccer. On the weekends we watched EPL games and that sort of thing. I was in an architecture review, and I was thinking, "Live Breathe Futbol", and that just sort of resonated with me. This is what we are, this is who we are. We went to Drexel – same thing. We went to Penn – same thing. We went to colleges in New York City and it was the same thing. There was something about young guys like us just playing soccer simply because we loved the game. LBF is my way of saying, look, we're going to make a company that (exemplifies) that."
That hunger has led to the fast growth of their company -- a company that began as a mere idea in 2009.
This was evident when the label unveiled it's brand new collection during a Summer launch party at Old City's Gallery ML earlier this month.
Dubbed "40 Years of Rebellion", the collection features gear that celebrates four of soccer's biggest and boldest personalities: George Best, Eric Cantona, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Mario Balotelli.
"We're inspired by guys who are rebellious, guys who go against the grain who live life on their own terms, they don't really go along with everyone else," Olaloye said. "The four guys we picked are guys who kind of meet this interesting intersection between being rebellious, but also being good enough to the point that you can forgive their missteps off of the field. For us, these are those guys. They stood out in their (respective) generations as the sole rebel."
More than 150 people showed up to the launch party, which featured food, drinks, FIFA 13, and the Summer collection of shirts and hats.
It's hard to believe the company started as a solo effort in 2009.
Back then, Olaloye was a junior architecture major at Temple University, with a love of both soccer and style.
The early days featured small scale production and regionalized grassroots campaigning. The presence of the Philadelphia Union and expansion of the local soccer network provided a solid foundation on which to build the brand through Twitter, Facebook, and word of mouth.
People were catching on to the concept.
"It's wild," said Olaloye of his company's growth. "We've built a pretty good following on social media. A lot of people tweet us, and we meet people at games. We've never had an event where we've gotten to physically meet people, and to see this kind of turnout is massive. It lets us know that we really do connect with people and it kind of inspires us more to go back and say, how can we connect with people even more with the next event? It's all about connecting with people and engaging people. It's not about selling a product for us. It's about people who share our lifestyle and love for soccer. This says, look, come out and celebrate with us."
Olaloye was born in Nigeria, and moved to Pennsauken, New Jersey at age 10. He started making making shirts at age 12.
Now in his mid-twenties, he admits he could probably find a steady day job.
Instead, he's thinking about the future of a company that he started with no money and limited resources.
"For us it's all about growth," he said. "It's all about progression and moving forward. The last collection, the fall collection, was five pieces. This is nine pieces. It's almost double the collection in size, but still the same amount of staff that we have. It's always about pushing the envelope and generating conversation about soccer both in America and worldwide. For us, it's about releasing another collection that expands our product offering, as well as connecting with more soccer fans around the world that share our same passions."
Contact Union writer Kevin Kinkead at email@example.com