‘Nike by The NATIVE’ is the latest special-edition jersey between active wear staple Nike and the influential Nigerian publication The NATIVE magazine. The magazine’s founder, Seni Saraki, also runs a football academy in his home state of Kwara in North Central Nigeria. The magazine touts itself as the “reliable pulse of the African millennial” and the partnership with Nike seems natural given that the publication’s website declares that it “definitively covers the music, art and style of tomorrow: today”.
The design team, which includes The NATIVE co-founders Suleiman Shittu, Teniola ‘TeeZee’ Zaccheaus, Olushola Fagbemi and Ademide Edgal, created a distinct street-style feel for the special-edition jersey.
The jersey has a conspicuous tire mark inspired by ‘adire’, a traditional Nigerian fabric. According to CNN, the tire marks are a nod to a style of football known in the country as ‘Monkey Post’, where car tires are often used as goal posts in street games.
It also features Nigeria’s international dialing code, +234, which, the creators say, is a tribute to Nigeria’s diasporic influence and community.
“For us the main thing in our collaboration with Nike was to make the jersey representative of Nigeria, of people in Nigeria and those in the diaspora, so they can feel proud to wear it,” Saraki told CNN.
To complete the jersey’s unique design, the Yoruba word “Ilé”, meaning “native”, is written boldly across the back.
“We thought it would be cool to have an actual Nike jersey with a local Nigerian language on it. That’s unheard of; it has never happened before,” Saraki said.
He went on to tell Boss Newspaper that they “wanted to create something that wouldn’t look out of place both on the field and on the streets. In Nigeria, the football shirt has always been a vital piece in anyone’s wardrobe. Taking inspiration from adire (traditional Nigerian cloth) and the street football culture with the tyre marks, we wanted to create a jersey that felt like home.”
Selling out at a pop-up shop last year that was meant to test the public’s reception, the jerseys went on to sell out on Nike’s website within 14 hours of its release.
Charles O’Tudor, a brand strategist and engagement consultant, told CNN that Nike’s interest in Nigeria is a strategic move to reposition the brand and take advantage of the country’s massive youth population.
“This is massive, and it can only get bigger and more global because other brands will start looking at [Nigerian] icons,” O’Tudor said. “There is something good that is coming out of Nigeria that is not government sponsored. It is from the private sector. All we hear from the Western media are the negatives, but this is positive – that a global brand is investing in Africa and in Nigeria because they believe in the possibilities.”