‘I’m from the South West of France, more Rugby Land than Football.’ Nathan Aubugeau, the founder ofRetro Football Gangtells us. ‘But as a French-born in the 90s, it was easy to be a fan of football with “Les Bleus” victories at World Cup 1998 and Euro 2000.’ He’s not wrong. The achievements of Les Bleus inspired an entire generation, they became Gods and Legends, who ensured that their legacy will live on for eternity.
If you take any given sport, in any era, then that squad assembled by France, is perhaps the greatest of all time. It was a team absolutely drenched in quality, from Zidane to Henry, Viera, Petit, Thuram, Blanc, Desailly, and the list goes on. Each of those players represents the most incredible era in French sport at any level. ‘In 98, My father and everyone shouted with joy, I understood that it was delirium and that it was so much more than just 22 men on a pitch,’ smiles, Nathan.
Let’s not forget, there was a time when France had become perennial underachievers, the nearly-men, who many believed would never fulfil their destiny. All that changed when Les Bleus showed the world what they could truly do. For those like Nathan, who grew up in France at such a time, to feel the electricity of a nation drunk on success, must have been intoxicating.
There was also another great love for Nathan, and that was music, ‘My parents met in a choir, and my father worked in radio,’ he explains, ‘Music was predominant in my life without me necessarily realising it. I had quite a few CDs from a very early age, but it was really Rap and R&B that I loved, from the unique album covers to their unique style and flow.’ It was this passion, coupled with his love of footballing nostalgia that set him on his road to his own destiny. In 2018, with no money, and no experience in building a business, he began the adventure of a lifetime to create a brand that would immortalise the real culture of football and music through fashion.
Through sheer hard work, determination, a willingness to learn, and not to mention, a hell of a lot of talent, Nathan created Retro Football Gang, a brand inspired by the 90s and Hip Hop Culture. The boy from South West of France has come a long way since the days of worshipping Les Bleus and now resides in Madrid, where he has seen his designs worn by the likes of Brazillian and Real superstar Vinicius Jr. Not bad at all really, is it?
The love and appreciation for footballing nostalgia and culture are absolutely overflowing with creativity. We see this across fashion and design, and Nathan has created something quite special and unique with his brand. His distinctive bootleg, fan-made designs made for a specific player or team, such as Maradona, Totti, Ronaldo or AC Milan, Lyon and PSG, slap you right in the face and grab your attention straight away. Not only that, but it is the creative photography and filming that he uses that really help bring the brand to life. It is clear to see how much work has gone into each piece, and he captures the culture around it with the photography used to highlight each item.
It was a pleasure to catch up with Nathan and learn more about the brand, his love for Olympique Lyonnais, the legend Juninho Pernambucano, and what the rest of the year has in store for Retro Football Gang.
immortalising the real Culture of football
During my International Trade Masters Degree, I did internships for streetwear brands. My first was in Rotterdam for Stripes Clothing, a brand that produced clothes in prison. This experience really marked me. Then I did other internships in New Zealand and Spain, and I finally realised that I wanted to create my own brand.
It was 2018 and I couldn’t find any cool football brands, so I decided to create my own. I wanted to mix it with who I am as a person. I am a pure nostalgic individual, who loves football and rap. What followed happened naturally. My aim is to pay tribute to the best of football by drawing inspiration from 90s culture. I make products to connect people to each other, to remember their best time at the stadium or on their sofa with people watching football games.
My vision for Retro Football Gang is to make pieces that are out of the ordinary, to raise awareness about football from before and to immortalise the real Football Culture that is of a city and its people, in collaboration with local artists, photographers and models.
The culture of football is so broad and important that we learn a lot about sociology
Football is so global that you can touch all people around the world. All human beings have already seen or heard about football. Football has so much visibility with its fans, with its players erected as Gods. The culture of football is so broad and important that we learn a lot about sociology. Even people who don’t like football can appreciate it through the jerseys, the supporters, the architecture of the stadiums, and the passion it gives. For me, music is the same, and the two go hand in hand. Coming from a small town, it was mainly the radio that allowed you to listen to rap. So, I would listen to the popular rap at the time, the commercial rap, and I loved American artists like 50 Cent and Snoop Dogg, and in France, I listened to IAM, 113, and Sniper. All of this helped shape who I am.
His hatred of defeat made him vulnerable, which made him even more endearing
My team is and always will be Olympique Lyonnais. I learned to read thanks to the French Football Magazine, Onze Mondial, and I remember that the team of the month was “Olympique Lyonnais”, and that’s how it started. I was so crazy about Lyon that at 8 years old I was looking on the internet to buy a house in Lyon. Juninho was my idol and had the leadership of the very best players. He was elegant, had incredible game science and always made a difference when the team was in trouble. His love for Lyon and his hatred of defeat sometimes made him vulnerable, which made him even more endearing.
Madrid would be my ultimate dream
One of my most significant achievements is the Maradona tapestry (it is on pre-order until the end of the month) but the next jacket not yet released is crazy. The biggest challenges I think are always looking to reinvent yourself, to come up with original ideas and to defend a certain idea of popular football with authenticity. At the beginning of our journey, there weren’t many brands doing Bootleg designs. Now there are at least a dozen others. One of my biggest challenges to date was that I was starting with 0 euros and with 0 skills in Graphic Design, but YouTube was a perfect teammate. If you see my creations of 2018 and today, it’s something else! I would like to make products with a higher added value than t-shirts. It is hard to work alone, it could be good to have a teammate. I think though, for 7-year-old Nathan, the dream has already come true with Brazilian football players from Real Madrid wearing my t-shirts. I think developing merch for a professional club would be great, why not in Madrid? Now, that would be my ultimate dream.
Thanks to Nathan Aubugeau for his time. To learn more about Retro Football Gang you can visit their website here.
If you would like to follow their journey on Instagram, click here.