Interview With The Man Behind The Designs, Chris Williams
Have you ever wondered what the story is behind Who Are Ya Designs? Perhaps you wanted to know a little bit more about the thought process behind the designs. Well I recently had a chat with the man behind Who Are Ya (Chris Williams), so that you could get a look at the history of the best damn soccer t-shirts around!
What gave you the idea to start this business?
I had been to several matches in England and noticed all the vendors outside the stadiums selling fun and often irreverent “unofficial” shirts. These shirts spoke to me as a fan a lot more than just your standard Nike or Adidas logo shirts that you would get though the team shop. I felt like these unofficial shirts were more insightful to the subtle aspects of being a fan of a particular team and were a better representation of the atmosphere of actually going to a match. On return to the states, I researched several U.K. companies doing these same types of shirts and through a lot of research found that there were many Premier League loving Americans buying them. Having a design and advertising background I knew that I could fill this niche stateside thus making it easier and more affordable for fans to get something for their team that was more “out of the box” than your standard jersey or shirt with a logo on it.
What were some of the first designs you came up with?
We initially launched the site with about 35 designs. The vast majority of those were based on songs and chants you would hear in the stadiums such as “Glory, Glory Man United” & “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. In addition, we wanted to offer something for Americans who had a love for the game, but didn’t necessarily have a team overseas. Designs like our “Nutmeg” and “Throwball” filled that niche and continue to be great sellers for us.
There seems to be a lot of love for the Premier League in the store, tell us a little about your love for Premier League football.
Growing up in Florida and playing competitively through college, I had several coaches and mentors who had played professionally in England. Their time with clubs like Southampton, Portsmouth, Manchester United, Millwall and Liverpool peaked my interest in in the English game. Also there is a huge population of English expats in Florida and we had many family friends who spoke so passionate about their clubs from back home. I suppose all these factors and the desire to learn more about the history of the game and many of these clubs is what led to Who Are Ya.
Who Are Ya shows a ton of love to the USMNT as well, what was the last World Cup like for business?
World Cup years are always better than non-World Cup years, and even better when the U.S. makes it out of the group stages. Even though we may do a lot of Premier League stuff, we are still Americans, and are passionate for the USMNT above all. As the designer I have to say that the U.S. stuff is always some of my favorite stuff to work on and we’ll always carry a lot of it on the site. The way we look at it, the World Cup is the the one chance we have every four years to turn non-soccer fans on to the game we love, and growing the game in the states has always been our number one priority.
Personally which design are you most proud of?
There’s been so many it is hard to say. Quite often the designs I love the most are not the best sellers and other designs which I’m indifferent about end up blowing up. However, last summer prior to the World Cup we did a line of limited release U.S. shirts and one in particular stood out. It was a design called “Sea To Shining Sea” and it had sort of a old school sailor tattoo vibe to it. I’ve alway loved stuff like that and was excited to be able to work it into a design. After I designed, I knew it would be a good seller. What I didn’t know is that several customers would love it so much that they actually got the tattoos. I guess the fact that someone loved my design so much that they would want it on them for the rest of their life was really flattering. I just hope they still like it 20 years from now.
Which design's popularity has shocked you the most?
I think the design that surprised me the most is our #MURICA design. Not really being from the Twitter generation I guess I underestimated the power of the hashtag. Thank goodness the son of one of my business partners is of that generation and suggested it. It has been a big success with U.S. fans.
It seems like people are really responsive to the collaborations with Free Beer Movement, Howler Magazine and KICKTV. How much fun was it teaming up with each of them?
We love to team up with like-minded companies who share our passion for the game and represent the fan’s perspective. As I said, growing the game in the U.S. has always been our number one priority and partnering with companies that have that same goal is a win-win.
There have been rumors that some of the designs currently on clearance are making way for new designs. Can you give us a little preview of what's to come in 2015?
We always like to keep our catalog fresh, therefore there’s always a good selection of $12.95 clearance shirts in order to make room for new stuff. We’re going to kick off 2015 by adding some new Premier League shirts, however starting in the spring we’re excited about diving into more North American clubs. Those will probably be a mix of current teams as well as some of the historical stuff we love so much. In addition there will be a few another line of apparel which will probably launch mid-year, but for the time being I think we’ll keep that one under wraps.
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