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Zeus' signature on Salernitana's salvation

We interviewed Amilcare Elvo, the Campania-based company's Designer Sport Performance, to learn the secrets of the Granata miracle

Zeus' signature on Salernitana's salvation We interviewed Amilcare Elvo, the Campania-based company's Designer Sport Performance, to learn the secrets of the Granata miracle

Salernitana's salvation, between the improbable and the miraculous, has been one of the most beautiful stories to follow in this last part of the championship, with the Campania team leading a crazy chase until the final celebration, despite the defeat in the last game of the season against Udinese. Accompanying the Pisciaiuoli on the granata shirts was Zeus, the technical sponsor who has been making the team's uniforms for three years now. A partnership that reinforces the bond between the team and the territory, ever stronger after this last season together.

We decided to interview Amilcare Elvo, Zeus' Designer Sport Performance, to find out more about these jerseys.

Hi Amilcare, how did you get involved in technical and sportswear to the point of creating Zeus?

The Zeus brand was founded in Torre Annunziata in 1999 and exports its products around the world to more than 50 countries. It is currently the technical sponsor of football, volleyball and basketball teams including US Salernitana, Frosinone Calcio, FC Crotone, Callipo Calabria Volleyball, the Cameroonian Federation and the Hungarian Volleyball Federation, and in the past it has been the supplier and technical sponsor of Italy Hockey and federations of the calibre of RFEVB Spain Volleyball.

Personally, I've been doing this since I was a child, when at school during the more boring hours of literature rather than maths, I used to have fun elaborating and re-elaborating the Serie A football shirts of the time, and being the height of the 90s and 2000s, there was a lot of fun to be had. 

In those years I remember the first Kappa Kombat model, rather than the Mizuno jersey of Batistuta's Viola and the much-loved Lotto uniforms of my Napoli team, of which I am a huge fan. I have a collection of more than 300 jerseys from all over the world, including the Norwegian league, and strictly match worn.

I am currently Designer Sport Performance for the brand Zeus, where together with my team, we design, develop and present sportswear lines for teamwear and licensed.

How did the collaboration with Salernitana come about?

The collaboration with Salernitana was born from the idea of creating a strong amalgamation with the territory, being based just a few kilometres from Salerno, and at the same time being a technical partner of one of the biggest clubs in the south. This partnership, which has been going on for three years now, makes us particularly proud, also because it has seen both parties involved in some truly unique projects.

For our first season, we worked together with the club on an entire collection that, between Linea Gara and Merchandising, included more than 150 items produced with the Granata Centenary logo and to which the square responded with great enthusiasm. At the same time, we launched a limited edition reproduction of 1919 pieces of one of the Granata's most historical uniforms, with the old logo of the Cavalluccio by maestro D'Alma and a two-tone white/celeste collar with laces.

Where does the Jacquard pattern you applied to the first, second and third Granata jerseys come from?

The jacquard pattern has been developed for over 2 years by our company, which always tries to be at the forefront of fabrics and materials, in the wake of the most famous brands on the market. From our point of view, we always try to produce the most technological and up-to-date products possible for our teams, which always demand more comfort and technique. We use to study the best products on the international scene, we do a lot of research together with our partners in the Far East, browsing and peeking through dozens of fabrics mixed together, rather than testing hundreds of different qualities of badges, transfers and applications to embellish the product.

In the case of the jacquard pattern, the latter presents a branded texture that we carried throughout the training and accessories line, sometimes in print, other times in knitwear, adapting it to the general guidelines of the collection, articulated in three intersecting branches, which are the garnet line with ivory details, the grey/grey line with yellow details, and the 'Icon' line in white and light blue.

How do you combine all the components (historical, emotional and aesthetic) of a jersey into one big project? 

Putting together the pieces of a big jigsaw puzzle like a football jersey is not easy, so you need a very long basic study of the product you are going to create, starting with the history of the club, which is an ever-present key, and trying to capture the most iconic moments of a team's history, and those that are closest to the fans' hearts.

In the case of Salernitana, research has been carried out on those jerseys that characterised the club's golden era, those that the fans treasure the most, trying to bring them into the current era, with innovative materials and modern fittings that can best represent football culture without affecting what is a technical performance product. Salernitana is a reservoir of ideas that needs years of work and sponsorship to be exhausted, there are countless stories and successes to tell and every year there is always a new page to write.

How long does the contextualisation and research for each new jersey take?

Generally, for the elaboration of a collection project, we start about 14 months before delivery, trying to skim all the historical, artistic and technical elements of the club in question, and putting them down on paper by drafting several ideas to share with the club and working on the first samples.

The work is always painstaking and nothing is left to chance, listening to all the sources in question, from the producers to the club to the heart of the fans, at the same time also analysing the sales figures from the previous season, and trying to improve the work more and more.

In January everyone was predicting Salernitana to be relegated, how did you experience this desperate and incredible salvation chase?

At the beginning it really seemed like an impossible task, especially when there was the change of club, everything seemed like a big question mark until President Iervolino arrived with big plans for the Salerno square, which I think is quietly among the first in Italy for the warmth of the people.

Then came coach Davide Nicola, someone accustomed to great feats, the creator of the Crotone miracle, who was already dressed as Zeus at the time, and there we began to hope. Victory after victory, step by step, came a great success made of running, sweat and commitment, the icon of what sport represents, and for us there could be nothing better than such a testimony.

One jersey that particularly impressed us was the fourth, with blue and white stripes like Argentina. Is there a particular reason why you chose this design?

The 'Icon' jersey released this year is the flagship of our collection. The blue and white striped template is one of the great classics of Salernitana's history. As we all know, Salernitana was founded in 1919 but the first jersey of that team was not actually granata, or even similar to this colour. In fact, the official uniform until 1922 was white and blue striped, in the style of Argentina or Pescara. There are those who speculate that at the basis of this choice was the desire to follow the fashion of the time. In those years, in fact, it was the tendency for teams from seaside towns to use these colours, with white representing the sky and light blue the sea. 

This jersey wants to be a sweet homage to the history of the Cavalluccio, defined with heat-transferred inserts in a garnet colour, completed with details in mirage blue, giving it a more fashionable, collector's item soul, unique in its kind despite being taken from the historical archive. Completing the jersey are the prints of names and numbers in a garnet colour bordered in light blue 'textured' with a matte/shining effect that embellishes the garment, giving it a notable chromatic effect in television shots. The 'Icon' uniform was only used against Juventus and AC Milan to represent the 'evening dress' of the 2021/22 Zeus and Salernitana collection, of which I am particularly proud.

What has the football shirt become and how has the football aesthetic evolved in your opinion?

In the current era we are faced with a total change of direction of the football shirt product. Up until the arrival of Kappa's Kombat model in 2000, it could be considered a collector's item for niches of big fans, but it would get lost shelved in the corners of cupboards. With the Italy jersey, we began to think of the sports uniform as a product with a very high technical performance, and all the brands began to challenge each other in technological blows, with many of us fans enjoying it.

Over the course of these years, the product has begun to leave the field to arrive on the streets, on the catwalks and on the biggest artists of the world music scene where the milestone of the turning point is surely Nike's collection for Nigeria after Balenciaga had officially 'endorsed' the football shirt as a streetwear piece. As a purely technical article we now realise that home jerseys rather than fourths in collaboration with big designers are the future of this world, where we will see more and more fashion brands on the scene rather than purely performance sports multinationals.

The world's biggest clubs, as PSG teaches us, are increasingly global brands that range from clothing, to travel, to music, distorting what is the true nature of a football club, and putting profits and branding ahead of sporting success, trying to appeal to the general public rather than the warm heart of the fans.