The concept kit scene is dynamic. Concept designers regularly serve up interesting looks that expand the horizons of shirts and bring together ideas in a way ‘real’ kits never could. With more and more talented creatives entering the world of concepts, anyone who’s even just slightly interested in football shirts simply has to keep a pulse on the fantasy kit scene.
People often suggest that concept kits are better than what teams end up with in the professional game, and indeed I’ve often found myself wishing many of the top concept artists would get a chance to flex their creative muscles with a brand. The leap from concept to professional designer looks intimidatingly long from an outside perspective, but my friend Gus has taken that exact leap.
Gustavo Psonkevich will be familiar to long-time readers as a designer who’s been at the top of the concept game for a while. Not only is he a talented artist, he’s also a big shirt geek, and I’ve had the privilege of chatting with Gus about many shirts (and hummel) on several occasions.
After grafting it out as a concept designer, Gus recently made the exciting jump to designing shirts for pro teams. I caught up with him to talk about his background, what it was like working in the concept space, and how he transitioned to the professional scene.
One of us
Q: Hey Gus! Great to chat with you today, and thanks for taking the time. Could you start by introducing yourself, where you are based, what you do for a living?
My name is Gustavo Psonkevich, I’m 35 years old and I have a huge passion for football shirts. I live in Buenos Aires and currently I dedicate myself exclusively to design, since recently leaving a previous job.
Q: What were some of your favourite football shirts growing up?
Without a doubt, Denmark 86 and Holland 88 top the list. Anyway, I think the shirts that inspired me to start my collection are from the 98 World Cup.
Q: What about manufacturers? I know you share my love for hummel, are they your favourite brand in world football?
Yes, hummel is my favourite brand in the whole world. But it’s followed very closely by Umbro. The double diamond brand has been under my radar for several years and won my heart with the Tailored line.
Q: You mentioned your collection previously. When did the collection start exactly, and does your collection have any particular themes?
Yes, I’m a collector. And although my first jersey was Boca Juniors home 1998, I consider that I really started collecting in 2009 when I discovered eBay. My collection is not governed by themes. If I like a shirt and can afford it, I add it to my collection.
Q: Now let’s talk about your concept designs. What inspired you to start creating concept kits?
Without a doubt, LaCasaca was one of those who prompted me to start designing concept kits. At that time (2018), realistic mockups made from official presentation photos were on the rise. One day I decided to lose my fear of Photoshop and with #JuevesFantasy I gave free rein to my creativity and also gained notoriety.
Q: What are some of your favourite concepts that you’ve created?
My top five is occupied by Boca Juniors away inspired by the Bombonera, the one from Inter with the coiled snake made from a Pirelli tire, the third from the Fluminense Nike x Off-White with which the optical illusion pattern was born, those from Norway for #JuevesFantasy (stolen by an amateur local team) and the two reversibles that I created for St. Pauli.
Q: Who else is an inspiration in the concept scene?
When I started designing, Matupeco and Franco Carabajal were my inspiration locally. And from the outside, Angelo "God" Trofa. Currently there are extremely talented young people such as Il.Graphic, Chenzo, Ian Luski, TB Kits, Demenz Graphic, Rodra Cáceres and Marito Plottier, among many others (the list is really long).
Q: Did you always dream of making it as a professional designer?
No, I was not dreaming about it. Actually, getting to where I got was something unexpected, but I'm enjoying it to the fullest. I deeply love designing football shirts.
From WhatsApp to pro gig
Q: How did you make the jump from concept designer to professional designer? Did you initiate a conversation somewhere, or did someone approach you?
It’s very curious how I started my journey in the world of designing kits. The #JuevesFantasy made me realize that I had talent. At that time Kyrios was a brand on the rise and I knew its designer, Matupeco, very well. So I sent him a WhatsApp commenting that I was interested in designing for the brand and he passed me the owner's contact (Luis Bogado). I texted him introducing myself and showed him some of my designs. He was fascinated and a few days later he offered me to design for Sportivo Luqueño (then the club signed with Lotto). When the designs came out, I received numerous job offers.
Q: Tell us more about Kyrios, who you now work for. Were they a brand on your radar for a while, or a company you grew to know more about?
They appeared on my radar thanks to Matupeco and I began to closely follow their work. From the beginning I noticed that they are always looking to do something different and new. And I think my style is perfectly suited to the interests of the brand.
"Don't wait for it, go get it."
Gustavo Psonkevich Designer, Kyrios
Q: How long did you have to design your first kits? Was it a mad rush, or did you have plenty of time to tweak things?
I had about 3 months to do the designs before learning that Kyrios had not initially landed the contract. With the 2019/20 training line I had a little more time. And for the current designs I started at the end of 2020 and along the way there were some requests (like Guaraní home) that were a real mad rush.
Q: The reaction to your designs was extremely positive on social media (and rightly so!). Were you nervous about the designs before the public saw them, or were you quietly confident?
It was a 50/50. I was calm because I knew how much I dedicated to him and the passion that I put into it. But on the other hand, for me it was a huge step and many times the nerves and anxiety took over. Luckily, as you said, they had a great impact and that makes me very happy. The fans in general loved the designs and it fills me with pride.
Keeping the modus operandi
Q: Did your experience as a concept designer prepare you or help you in any way now you’re in the professional game?
Without a doubt! But I think that being a collector and passionate about football shirts also play a very important role when it comes to designing.
Q: On the flipside, are there any habits or processes which you’ve had to adapt or relearn moving from concept to professional?
What a good question! The truth is that in my case no, I continue to handle myself as if I were designing concepts because that helps me to be more relaxed. Of course, I was forced to improve my design software skills, but my overall modus operandi is the same.
Q: If you could give some advice to a budding concept designer who wants to become professional, what would you say?
Don't wait for it, go get it. Don't copy and try to make each shirt tell a story.
Q: Finally, what sort of things can we expect from you and Kyrios in future? I can imagine you’re already working on kits for 2022?
I think great things are coming, Kyrios has very ambitious projects in mind. The good news is that for next season I will be in charge of the entire Guaraní collection, in addition to Sportivo Luqueño. The templates are currently being defined and it is expected that the designs for 2022 will be on track by July. Although I did not start with them (I am with the design of the Esports team and some more surprises), I have several ideas in mind.
Huge thanks to Gus for chatting with us!
It goes without saying that we’ll be keeping an eye on his work in the coming months, and you’d do well to do the same. And next time you see a fantastic concept, or even if you’re the one wielding the digital pen, a job as a shirt designer might be more attainable than you think.
By now you'll already know how much we love concept kits, so why not pick one up form our store. You can browse our collection here.
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