The 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup is now less than two months away, and already the excitement is reaching fever pitch.
Helping create the most eagerly anticipated Women's World Cup in history is the release of this year's kits, several of which represent the first divergence in design from the men's national side.
The designs were overseen by Cassie Looker, Nike Women's senior apparel product manager, who spoke to 90min about the process and the impact that these kits have had on the game and its players.
The response has been almost universally positive, and asked if she had felt this, Looker admitted: “Yes, for sure, I think with the launch we had in Paris, the response that we received from the media, the people that attended and also the athletes has been really, really positive.”
However, excitement also creates pressure, and in the build-up to the launch, Looker couldn't help but feel the nerves. “Yeh I was very nervous going into there," she conceded. "Just thinking about all the people and how much they had put into it, all the details, the magnitude of what it meant to Nike, Nike Women, global football. It was such a big event.
“Just being there and experiencing it, the show, the music, it was so moving. I was definitely trying not to cry, because I knew I had to present right after the show.”
So how did the process of crafting such acclaimed attire begin? Looker revealed: “For us, it’s been a three-year process in terms of creating the kits.
"And it really started with the fit of the kits. We’re really at our best when we listen to athletes - everything starts and ends with the athlete. So, we sat down and really listened to them in terms of what was working and wasn’t working from a fit perspective for the jersey and shorts."
They then brought a number of elite female footballers from around the world into the Nike research lab and had them undergo 3-D body scans.
The Matildas kit channels Melbourne’s street art scene. The golden wattle and shots of the Australian landscape coalesce in the graphic to encapsulate contemporary Australia. pic.twitter.com/NN1iw56IBT— Heidi Burgett (@heidiburgett) March 11, 2019
Speaking on this video game-like process, Looker explained: “What we found is for women it’s different than standard sizing. If you think of a footballer, both male and female, they generate all their power from their lower bodies, so they have really developed glutes, hamstrings and thighs."
But elongated shorts can constrict the athlete, while overly shortened pairs can become too revealing.
"So we took that information as a starting point, plus their feedback, to start to see how we could create the best fit possible for them," she continued.
Looker professed that making the new kits feel truly bespoke was the most important aspect of the job, and thus the explicit differences between the gender's needs had to be ironed out.
“When we work with the men, they always say they prefer a tighter fit, because it makes them feel like a superhero," she said. "But for women it’s different. They feel like they want to be comfortable, they want to be professional and they want to be covered. So that’s a very different brief."
Asked to single out her favourite women’s shirt ahead of the summer's World Cup, she admitted that the U.S home jersey, which harks back to the famous side of 1999, is close to her heart, as is the vibrancy and dynamism of the Australian Matildas' strip.
However, it was the Lionesses’ intoxicating away strip, decked out with floral embroidery, that seemed to excite her the most. Describing it as a mixture of sophistication and irreverence - the sparring points of British culture - she admitted: “[We] were thinking of British counterculture, really pushing the design in terms of colour and print.
It’s certainly evocative, and, according to Looker, could lead to greater self-expression on the pitch: “It’s a way for us to provide them with something they’ve never had before, and sometimes it’s that self-expression, which you get to see through the dark red and the print.”
And how about the expression that these athletes conveyed when they saw the outfits for the first time? Well, that was the greatest moment of them all.
“I think it’s that expression that you see, you can see how much it moves them. I think that to me really says it all," she confessed. "That’s what we’re trying to do - we’re trying to convey that emotion for them to give them that confidence, and I think it’s really moving to see them."