Behind the Lights - Matt Moran

Images elevate athletic movement in this British photographer's visual pursuit

Movement leads to an exploration of ourselves and our surroundings, but also of visual creativity. The lens of this British photographer is an experimental laboratory where his work often intersects with sports. Moran’s gallery is a flow of sensations and hues elevated by movement, and vice versa; a lengthy, ongoing journey between echoes of legendary photographers and contemporary, sometimes even anticipatory, style choices.

“I’ve always felt photography around me. It’s something I’ve always been interested in and developed over time, especially in my college days when I could travel, surround myself with people with similar tastes, and discover many different print techniques. Magnum photographers were the first I was inspired by, as well as contemporary American classics, such as Alec Soth. As for sports, I played rugby when I was young, then moved to London and took up cycling. During the pandemic, I began running a lot in the Devon countryside with my brother. Over the years, I’ve been an assistant for several fashion photographers, so during those runs, I got the idea to connect artistic-fashion photography to running and other sports I love, like cycling. As a kid, I spent hours watching the Tour de France on TV…”

Exploration is about details and curiosity, Matt explains. In a great sporting event, significant details always go unnoticed. In a great athlete, there is always an aesthetic and narrative key that no one has found. His images tell this tale through fragments of a futuristic running culture, an uncharacteristic side to cycling, and a limitless celebration of movement.

“Working for other photographers has given me the confidence to approach different styles. I like to blur, use flash and distinctive elements, angles and colors. My photos are an accumulation of everything that inspires me, and I think it’s somewhat liberating not to be tied to an immovable aesthetic. Every project and event determines my aesthetic direction. Oftentimes, I don’t even have a brief; I simply react to what’s in front of me. I think everything around performance is intriguing: the lights, the starting gun, the tech, and the little details that only a few notice… Getting under the skin of each athlete, performance and scenario is exciting.”

The Glasgow World Cycling Championships, Rory Leonard’s tests, the London Marathon, Hoka, and wander, and Dosnoventa: Moran’s creative flow touches on sports on so many different levels; it is nurtured and empowered by it, and allows him to waltz between reportage and artistic-fashion invention, in part thanks to his meticulous postproduction effort.

“I’ve always been exposed to the fashion world, and I find its influence on sports imagery positive, especially from a photographic point of view. A lot of my personal work has led to collaborations with brands – I feel the time is right for brands to open up to different photographic perspectives. Everything seems connected somehow, and I try to have the same approach for all projects. A short while ago, I shot the Great North Run in Newcastle, where I live with my girlfriend. That project led to a commissioned work on the Night of the 10k PB, a fanzine, and finally a shoot in Japan for and wander… I love to experience and share my work as a scrapbook, where postproduction plays a key role. So much of my work comes after shooting, and I really enjoy laboring over color gradations, the treatment of each shot, and the print process.”

“I would love to photograph the Olympics in Paris,” Moran concludes. He tells us about his present and future, split between long runs in the north of England, where he covers 50 miles (80 kilometers) each week, and shoots around the globe, “And I’d love to follow an athlete for a long-term project, like during the lead-up to a major event. I’m intrigued by the idea of working with a young talent and watching them become a star. UTMB (Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc) and running culture in Kenya are two other things that fascinate me. I also want to run the London Marathon in under 2 hours 40…. We’ll see what happens!”


Functionality, sport, and design in the mind of Hiroshi Nozawa

The visionary founder of Norbit talks about his relationship with the outdoors and sports imagery channeled into the hiking-themed capsule developed with KARHU

The new frontier of aesthetics is functionality. This assumption may seem paradoxical but is made explicit in the research of Hiroshi Nozawa and his futuristic brand, Norbit. It is no coincidence that the philosophical origins of this Japanese designer, capable of fusing beauty, culture and pragmatism, took root in sports. It is again no coincidence that hiking, fishing, and other action sports are the cornerstones of his progressive output.

‘Field, Journey, Chill-Out,’ this haiku-esque claim comprises the essence of Nozawa, his active relationship with the outdoors, and his fashion vision. That vision is echoed in the unique capsule collection ‘Have a Nice Hike,’ produced in synergy with KARHU. “I’ve always wanted to produce more than just fashion attire,” Nozawa confesses, “When I design garments, I think of them as tools that allow me to do as many things as possible. In my vision, waterproof shoes, for example, have the same value as a fishing rod. Everything is functional, and everything revolves around functionality.”

An avid hiker, fisherman, traveler, and contemplator of nature, Nozawa transforms everyday epiphanies into hybrid designs that combine the need for survival and comfort dictated by nature with innovative forms and materials, even for high-end fashion. “The outdoors and everything that comes from it are my great passions. That’s why I want everything I design to be equally usable by those in contact with nature as those who stay in the city.” Nozawa continues, shifting the focus to another topic close to his heart: sports culture, “I am a sport-minded person, and, like many of us from Japan, I love action sports. In collaborating with KARHU, I wanted to respect that incredible sports heritage that the brand enjoys.  ‘Have a Nice Hike’ revolves around the desire to connect the tradition of an iconic sports brand with the best in contemporary technical materials.”

A master of rational harmony, Nozawa is a skilled material craftsman who, after collaborating with renowned Japanese companies like Columbia Black Label and Snow Peak, is now devoting his energy to the exaltation of a functional paradigm. “The ‘Have a Nice Hike’ collection obviously focuses on the concept of hiking. In this case, functionality is related to detail, like the pockets. I don’t like to carry backpacks or bags while hiking, so I decided to add several pockets on the various garments, paying close attention to the functionality of the fabrics used: I often use stretch materials because they are essential for comfort, but in this case, they would have been unnecessary… Each part of the garment has its specific purpose and must be designed to best achieve that purpose. Everything must have a reason.” 

“This kind of creative and stylistic process can be applied to any sport or physical activity,” Nozawa continues. “Snowboarding, surfing, BMX…. In the future, I’m going to launch lines dedicated to and inspired by these and other disciplines. I strongly believe that typical sportswear and more technical fabrics can be made fashionable and worn in everyday life.” However, the future of this alchemist and inventor of silhouettes is not limited to the creative direction of a new, futuristic fashion-sport dimension; it is the desire to leave a legacy for future generations. Nozawa scribbles down that legacy daily in his trusty sketchbook, where every insight takes shape, every material is already imagined and every function already established. 

“My goal is to lay new foundations for the fashion world, to build foundations for its future. I would be happy if, a century from now, people still respected my work and if new generations fully understood the concepts I was trying to convey, and then repurposed them in turn. This is the direction I have taken.”


Christoph Lohse and FILA, personal origin stories to today’s running culture

The former world-class athlete, now Brand Manager FILA Performance, talks about his own evocative relationship with running

Understanding the direction of a brand is always a complex work of decryption, except in the case of FILA and its equally novel-historical trajectory within the running universe. Passion is a manifest characteristic that helps dissolve any doubt or uncertainty, allowing a company to posit each and every subject onto a pathway of conscious and virtuous design. As in the case of Christoph Lohse, former top runner and now Brand Manager FILA Performance. “In the first German national championship I participated in, I was wearing FILA shoes. That was in 1997, so my connection with this brand is absolute, it goes back to the roots of my passion for running…” Lohse tells the tale of a life born and established as a function of running. A multiple national champion, Lohse defines running as an essential part of his existence, a family passion embraced at an early age and, later, translated both into stellar times, such as the 3:37,60 and 7:53,60 PBs on 1500 and 3000 meters, and a managerial career devoted entirely to the rebirth and progression of an iconic brand such as FILA.

“Running is the reason for everything, it has determined my career and my personal path, and still marks my daily life. I have always been fascinated by the evolution of this culture: in the 1970s, my parents were runners, and they were like outlaws; in the 1990s, running was pure competition; now more and more people call themselves runners… Running has become a form of personal expression,” Lohse continues, demonstrating a keen sensibility and reasoning about the new of running shoes that was unpredictable until recently. “In the past, shoes were almost an accessory, now they are a crucial element for everyone: professionals and amateurs. With FILA, we pursue the democratization of running. I am proud that certain technologies are available to everyone.”

Christoph Lohse, former top runner and now Brand Manager FILA Performance.

And the democratization of running inevitably comes through the knowledge and intentions of the key players involved. It is no coincidence, says Lohse, that the team tasked with breathing new life into the FILA running department includes numerous former athletes. It is no coincidence that a monumental narrative intertwined with legendary athletes rises again from the true epicenters of running culture 2.0, the urban communities, and a distinctive stylistic research. “With FILA we are in the middle of a journey. We are looking for the right balance between functionality, style, and brand DNA. It is impossible to make the right decisions without having your fingers on the pulse of contemporary running culture. And you also need to keep the iconic designs and colors of our heritage in mind. I was fortunate enough to experience running as a professional athlete; Now I have to continually stay up-to-date on the changes and additions to this universe, but that’s not a problem. Passion makes you love what you do. When I’m drinking my coffee on a Sunday afternoon, all I’m thinking about is FILA and running….”

And we’ve collected some of those thoughts, diving deeper into the specifics of the relationship between Lohse and FILA, its present and future ramifications, as well as the new direction of a brand destined to remain a fundamental part of running culture.

FILA’s relationship with running began in the early 1990s and involved some iconic athletes, such as Kenyan marathon runners Moses Tanui and Margaret Okayo. How important is this kind of legacy to the brand’s contemporary vision?

Our partnerships with iconic athletes like Moses Tanui and Margaret Okayo are foundational to FILA’s evolving vision. This rich heritage is a constant reminder of the brand’s commitment to blending innovation with tradition. It fuels our passion for developing cutting-edge products that resonate with the ongoing transformations in running, ensuring that our legacy and enduring pursuit for excellence lives on in every stride taken by modern athletes.

There’s a deep connection to the past in your products. The new FILA ASTATINE, for example, is a tribute to a major innovation of the brand, the carbon plate. What role has technological progress played in FILA’s history and what role does it continue to play?

Since FILA took its first steps as a performance brand in 1972 revolutionizing the fabrics in the product for Tennis athletes and mountain climbing, innovation was always in the forefront. For FILA, the legacy of technological progress, epitomized by innovations like the carbon plate in our ASTATINE, is a testament to our relentless pursuit of excellence. We continue to leverage technology to revolutionize sports apparel and equipment, pushing boundaries to enhance athletic performance. Our commitment to pioneering advancements solidifies our place in sports history and paves the way for future breakthroughs, ensuring athletes experience unprecedented comfort and capability.

In the SS23 collection you introduce a new generation of running shoes. What are the characteristics that define them? And, according to FILA, what are the characteristics that define the new generation of global runners?

For the SS23 collection, it was our bringing industry-leading technologies into our running collection. Therefore, we decided to use cutting-edge midsole materials such as Peba-based midsole foams for Astatine and Argon. This combined with advanced upper materials and innovative midsole geometries we created a new generation of running shoes providing outstanding energy return and allowing effortless performance.

Your Sports Performance design and development team have stated that they want to give the best possible experience to all athletes, from beginners to the more serious. What are the secrets to achieving such an ambitious goal?

The most important ingredient to achieve such an ambitious goal is drive. Besides having a talented team working together seamlessly, extensive insights from consumers and athletes, access to advanced technology, personal drive, and passion for running from every team member at FILA are key to our success. The combination of everything mentioned above results in products that cover the needs of every runner.

The running scene is increasingly populated and related to urban communities. What does it mean for you to involve, for example, a crew from Rome in the recent event that took place in the Eternal City?

Collaborating with the Runners of Rome crew symbolizes FILA’s commitment to intertwining our brand with the pulse of local running communities. As newcomers or rather as a come-back brand we know that it’s extremely important for us to be humble to the fact that our products are new to people so we want to start our journey with the passionate local community to gain insights directly from the urban running scene and to craft products and initiatives that resonate at a grassroots level. It’s a manifestation of our dedication to celebrating and nurturing the diverse and vibrant tapestry of running cultures that populate cities around the world.

What future steps are you envisioning and what are the goals you want to achieve? Will the FILA running universe connect with new professional athletes or will it continue to focus on crews and collective celebration?

FILA’s future in the running universe is focused on continual innovation and fostering communal running passions. When we are ready we plan to collaborate with professional athletes to elevate performance standards while maintaining our emphasis on community engagement and collective celebration. Our goal is to create a harmonious ecosystem where elite athleticism and communal passion coexist, driving inclusive growth, and propagating our commitment to every runner’s journey.


Jerome Bernard: Outdoor Man, Vibram Man

The outdoors is the home of Jerome Bernard, Sport Innovation Marketing Global Director of Vibram

“When we talk about ‘yellow blood,’ we do it because those who enter Vibram know they become part of an 86-year history and a clear family vision, shaped by Vitale Bramani and his mountaineering achievements. It all stemmed from a specific need: being safe in the outdoors. And to this day, we remain driven by a strong sense of duty. We are convinced that the sole is a fundamental element for safety: after all, it connects us to the terrain below our feet. When it comes to the mountains and the outdoors, our lives literally depend on the sole. We know we have a huge responsibility, and for that reason, we work every day to raise the performance of our products.”

Joseph Conrad once wrote that the possibility of finding oneself can be found in work. This assumption perfectly matches the professional and personal identity of Jerome Bernard, Sports Innovation Marketing Global Director of Vibram. It is rare to enter into total symbiosis with one’s company and even rarer to modify one’s DNA to stay in sync, influencing and expanding it with a virtuous vision that, for almost a century, remains unchanged. It is Vibram genetics. The genetics of Jerome Bernard. An outdoorsman, an athlete-manager who sought to make this universe his daily cause, following in the footsteps of Vitale Bramani.

“I like to keep coming back to the origins of the company. Over time, the Bramani family has managed to maintain the same spirit and outlook that our founder conveyed. In the outdoors, we sometimes face questions of life and death. And we know these words take on true meaning when you have a real connection to this world. I’ve been climbing for a long time, and many other Vibram professionals are athletes or have had an extensive outdoor sports background. Ours is more of a calling than just a job: we talk about things we know and, at the same time, we are aware we have a unique power at our disposal. We want to turn that into something useful for the outdoor community. Today, raising awareness of the correct approach to the mountains is more crucial than ever. The target audience is changing so much; it’s no longer specialized, and I love that more and more people want to connect with nature. But if you don’t pay attention, don’t get informed, and aren’t willing to adapt, you run the risk of serious problems. There is a significant lack of outdoor culture. Our industry needs to raise awareness about the precise rules and use of materials suitable for different contexts. This newfound love of the outdoors is a huge opportunity, of course, but it needs to be managed from all points of view.”

When Jerome Bernard speaks of awareness, he speaks from first-hand experience earned during the nearly 30 years spent between the offices and workshops of Albizzate, the brand’s historic headquarters. Years of evolutions and revolutions have allowed a family business to expand and establish itself globally. Years of relationships with the sports universe and its protagonists: conscientious collaborations not developed around sterile performance data but by studying the content and values of each athlete. It is a question of identity, Bernard insists, and Vibram’s identity is inevitably conveyed through its impact on sports and dynamics. As Sport Innovation Marketing Global Director, Bernand is one of the leading proponents of this impact.

“One of my first proposals at Vibram was to set up a Tester Team. It was 1997 and I had just joined the company. I thought it was imperative that competent figures be involved in testing our products ‘in the field.’ In 2010, however, we officially created the Vibram Athletes Team, again inspired by Vitale Bramani. Unlike other brands that focused on superstars and unreachable athletes, we decided to represent the outdoors community differently: we wanted to be open to everyone, guided by the philosophy of “Ordinary People Being Extraordinary.” Our athletes have always been accessible; they are our voices and agents in our environmental commitment. They are disseminators who, despite their athletic successes, stand on the same level as us, sharing meaningful testimonies. Our attention, however, is not limited to them. Since 2008, for example, we have partnered with UTMB Mont-Blanc, the world’s most iconic trail running event. It is a unique partnership that involves us personally in the planning of this wonderful event. When we established this relationship, trail running was a niche sport, but I had this feeling it could become a driving movement in the company. I wanted Vibram to become a world leader in trail soles, and fortunately, we succeeded.”

Words confirmed through action, underscored by recent collaborations with monumental brands like Nike and exciting new vertical companies like NNormal, spearheaded by living legend Kilian Jornet. In Jerome Bernard’s mind, these words can be summed up by a single, pragmatic word-manifesto: identity. The precious identity of a brand that aims to maintain its synonymy with excellence while safeguarding and centering its legacy. “The fashion environment is transient and fleeting,” Bernard concludes, “It’s obvious that so many brands have an identity problem and approach the outdoors to find it. The outdoors does have a strong identity. And, in Vibram, this identity is even stronger. That’s why we export it very carefully all over the world, careful not to diminish our history or get swallowed up.

Text by Gianmarco Pacione

Photo credits: Riccardo Romani


At the speed of light, and reason – Football Ansgar Knauff style

Young Eintracht Frankfurt talent and Under Armour athlete discusses his relationship with football

Göttingen is a city of slow rhythms, dictated by centuries of deep academic knowledge embodied in one of the world’s most celebrated universities. Frankfurt, on the other hand, is its antithesis; a financial nerve center that never stops, moving constantly in dizzying rhythm. Ansgar Knauff’s game finds itself at the center of these two identities: learning and application on the one, speed and consistency on the other.

Thanks to Under Armour, we had the chance to meet this 21-year-old talent from Eintracht Frankfurt, who’s already earned a German Cup in a Borussia Dortmund jersey, where he honed his game, and a UEFA Europa League championship with the Eagles of the River Main. “I fell in love with football during the 2006 World Cup,” Knauff tells with an articulate shyness unusual and significant for a footballer so exposed to international limelight, “At the time, someone had given me Michael Ballack’s jersey…. There was this vibration that ran through the entire country. From that moment on, I started playing in the park every day with family and friends, I was always outside, even when my mom called me home after work was finished….”

Passions arise from instantaneous, unpredictable epiphanies. Knauff’s was surely that of the German World Cup, a brilliant gateway to what, in a short time, would transform a passion into an existential focus to which he would devote every iota of physical and mental energy. This process would never have happened without the help of his single mother. “I loved the game from the first second I laced up my shoes. I think I played every day of my childhood. Even when I had no practice, I remember being at my first team’s training camp in Göttingen. Those feelings haven’t changed today: I love being on the field, doing practice and staying late…. I strive every day because I want to reach my maximum potential. I have no other motivation outside of this. Without my mother’s support,” continues an excited Knauff, “I wouldn’t be here. She is the most important person in my life and career, and she has literally done everything for me: she has always supported me, taking me to trainings and tryouts, even far away from home. She always let me choose the steps I thought most appropriate for my development as a player. I look for her in the stands before every game…. It means so much to me to play in front of her and my girlfriend.”

The spirit of Göttingen was reflected in Knauff’s early years of academy and professional soccer. His itinerary was populated by the wisest professors of Teutonic soccer, gathered near Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park. The vox populi of North Rhine-Westphalia still describe the beardless Knauff as a model student, blessed with a speed and execution that few have reached on the continental level. Collective opinion also speaks of him as a unique professional for this day and age, one who puts performance first at the expense of social popularity and fame. A philosophy that, as Knauff confirms, still defines his everyday life. “I’m a normal guy. In my free time, I hang out with my family or take walks around Frankfurt. I’m not really interested in doing anything else. I know that I have to give it my all to achieve the goals I had set for myself when I was 15 or 16, when I realized my dream could become a reality. My goals are always the same: to play as much as I can and succeed as much as possible. To be honest, it’s enough for me to improve day to day. I don’t know what the final destination is beyond that.”

Today’s departure point is the scorching hot Frankfurt square, characterized by the die-hard support of one of the warmest fanbases on the Old Continent. “Playing for fans like that is one of the best feelings that football can give. In the city they stop me on the streets and make me feel warm and welcomed…. When we hit the pitch, they can change the course of a game, influencing the outcome. They’re always pushing us beyond our limits. Playing with and for them is great, especially after the painful, silent pandemic period. A few weeks ago, we played in the cup in Helsinki, and thousands of fans flew into Finland: seeing our fans make that journey motivates everyone to train harder.”

The sober reasoning and tireless mentality of this versatile offensive outside player, an ideal standard bearer in the lightning-fast chessboard of contemporary football, are the main reasons for the ‘match made in heaven’ between Knauff and Under Armour. The Baltimore brand, which has shaped its identity in athletic sacrifice and hard work, is the perfect home for the youthful maturity of the Göttingen native. “Having a partner like Under Armour by my side is extremely important,” Knauff explains, “I’ve fostered an excellent relationship with a brand steeped in history and virtuous sports examples. Our shared direction is toward success.” Success at the well-reasoned speed of light. Success at the speed of Ansgar Knauff.

Photo credits:

Under ArmourIMAGO / HMB-Media

Text by

Gianmarco Pacione


Jack Carlson, Rowing Blazers is sport and culture

Archaeology, rowing, ancient cultures, and Arthur Ashe. Join us in an exploration of the visionary world of the founder of Rowing Blazers

Rowing Blazers is the fusion of enlightened wit, inspired design, and sports excitement. It’s a journey into the colorful fabric and graphics of a young cult brand that’s galvanizing the entire fashion industry. Rowing Blazers is, first and foremost, the brainchild and the ethos of its brilliant creator, Jack Carlson.

To understand this brand, we need to know its founder. Let’s travel back in time and retrace the steps of this 36-year-old entrepreneur-designer who is an archaeologist, athlete, and trendsetter all at the same time. Indeed, today Rowing Blazers shuns hype and mainstream fads, choosing to create their own. In its essence, there are no passing melodies or insignificant echoes; only athletic feats, mindful world wisdom, sensitive research, and an impressive academic background.

Jack Carlson

“The concept for Rowing Blazers stems from a book I created with the same name from 2014: it was a book I worked on for about four years, focusing on the study of blazers used by rowing teams. Rowing has always been my thing; I was a coxswain throughout my academic career and beyond”

Says the former member of the U.S. National rowing Team, who have had the opportunity to compete at (and win) many of the sport’s prestigious events, including Henley Royal Regatta (the Wimbledon of rowing), the Head of the Charles and the timeless Cambridge-Oxford Boat Race. These events inspired Carlson to write his book, Rowing Blazers, which ultimately brought him into the world of fashion, the culmination of an interest that began when he was in high school, where he designed his first blazers for the school rowing team.

“I’ve always been fascinated by blazers, their stories, colors, symbols, myths and rituals. So, I decided to study these garments. Fashion with a capital F has never interested me; I’ve always been more interested in clothes themselves: their history and meaning. Studying vintage clothes is archaeology in a way. Archaeology is the study of material culture; it the study of the past through objects.”

Carlson’s perspective was surely influenced by his academic career, in which he studied archaeology, heraldry and symbolism. But this is just one facet of what he is doing, which lies at the intersection of classics, sport, and popular culture. Rowing Blazers is in fact the complex evolution of an aesthetic known as “preppy”, into a future that finally strips it of social taboos and class connotations, modernizing it with a sense of inclusivity, history, and cosmopolitanism. And this former athlete brings this spirit both to classic American style, but also to his beloved sport of rowing: a fact exemplified by his connection with Row New York, a non-profit rowing and academic program serving students from New York City’s underprivileged communities where Carlson serves on the board.

When I was in high school, everyone wore Abercrombie & Fitch everyday. I was the odd one out, because I wore vintage things that had belonged to my parents: old Lacoste shirts, or cricket sweaters, vintage Ralph. Or I wore sports jerseys or tourist t-shirts I collected on family trips to Turkey or Argentina or Ireland or Japan. The term ‘preppy’ is tricky, especially when related to American culture. It has a lot of baggage, a lot of connotations about privilege and exclusivity. Many brands, especially when I was growing up, leaned into this image and this idea.  With regards to rowing: rowing is also a sport that has historically had a diversity problem, especially in the U.S. In my years on the national team, for example, I didn’t have a single Black teammate. Luckily, these dynamics are changing, both in fashion and sport. I’ve been collaborating for a while with the organization Row New York, which gets kids from different social backgrounds into rowing. They also help them in their academics. Rowing has to belong to everybody; it has to give everyone opportunities. And the same thing can be said for the fashion industry.

Raised between Massachusetts and London, Carlson works with fashion using sports and culture, decking out his creations with meaning and reflection, while also engaging in various prestigious collaborations. Gucci, Umbro, Fila, K-Swiss, and TAG Heuer are just some of the giants that have decided to join their philosophies and heritage with the vibrant creativity of Rowing Blazers. This creativity rushes and flows into a vast ocean of parallel brands, which the former U.S. coxswain seeks to foster and preserve, starting with the iconic Arthur Ashe.

I’ve always been a big tennis fan, and always admired him. Arthur Ashe is much more than a brand: he’s a sports legacy and social legend. In my opinion, he’s one of the greatest figures in modern American history: he fought for civil rights, spoke several times at the UN, boycotted apartheid, and changed public opinion about AIDS. Of course, he also won Wimbledon, the U.S. Open, the Australian Open, the Davis Cup, and more. He was a true American hero. I took over his brand almost by chance, thanks to Donald Dell, the man who set up the endorsements of Michael Jordan and Stan Smith. Through Donald, the Ashe family got in touch with me, and I have the honor of working alongside them. I feel some pressure, for sure, but I’m proud of a project like this, which goes beyond just sports and fashion, just as I am proud of the many connections created through Rowing Blazers. I still remember when David, the co-founder of RB, and I were writing our first extremely ambitious ideas for collaborations on fast food napkins. Rowing Blazers didn’t exist yet; it all seemed crazy…. Now, a lot of those collabs have come to pass. We had no idea how to make it happen, but it did. I guess we were channeling the right energy into the universe. And we want to keep doing that.

Photo credits:

Rowing Blazers

Text by Gianmarco Pacione


Francesco Puppi and Cesare Maestri, running is a shared emotion

Thanks to Nike Trail, we travel through the stories and thoughts of the two most representative runners of Italian trail running

Some athletes are able to change the perception of their sport, pushing it towards the future and unexplored dimensions. Francesco Puppi and Cesare Maestri are doing exactly that on Italian soil, showing us how the meanings of trail running, its potential sporting and professional ramifications, and its innate connection with the natural element all coincide. They are runners, trendsetters (more or less willingly), activists and, above all, friends. They are thinking men, capable of sharing unique experiences and thoughts that always bring them back to an all-encompassing passion. They are pioneering Nike athletes, and we were lucky to meet them at the presentation of the innovative Ultrafly Trails. Their voices speak of humility, parallel growth and an intense focus on nature and its elements.

What were the earliest experiences and landmarks that made you fall in love with running? And how has your sport identity evolved over time?

Francesco Puppi: “I started running very early, at 6 years old. It accompanied me throughout my childhood and adolescence, split between cross-country, track and classic athletics; these are things that I still feel very much related to. I’ve always been keen on athletics, watching meets, the Olympics, and World Championships, and reading as much as possible. As a boy, I identified with Paul Tergat, who I had the fortune to run with during an event in Brescia. I was fascinated by his unique history and the fact that he was an underdog, constantly overshadowed by Gebreselassie. I got into endurance really early, though that also created some problems for me. For my first half marathon, for example, I had to run in Switzerland because I was too young for Italian regulations. Despite all that, my passion has always been very strong. Once I finished university, I started to understand where trail and mountain running might lead me professionally. To this day, I still consider myself a huge running nerd. Of course, there’s more responsibility as I’m doing it professionally and being paid to run…. But the joy of training is still there. I think I could be an athlete without competing, but not without training: it’s part of my lifestyle, my form of freedom, which also spills into the artistic-creative side of me.”

Cesare Maestri: “Unlike Francesco, I started running late, around the age of 17. Before that. I did cross-country skiing in Trentino. Marco Borsari discovered me during school cross-country races. He was a significant person for my career, and just like that I found myself doing training sessions with Crippa. I fell in love instantly with the atmosphere and the running environment, and I knew mountain running would be my thing. It was more natural for me to run in the woods and on trails; it was a matter of background and habit… Stefano Baldini and Kílian Journet certainly inspired me. I still remember meeting Baldini in my town: after seeing him win in Athens on TV I thought he was a legend. Unapproachable. Jornet, on the other hand, gave me a chance to dream. At the time, trail running was an almost invisible niche; Journet helped me and many others to learn about the sport and its unique features. During my early years, I felt like I needed to do certain kinds of training to convince myself that I could go hard, and I ended up getting injured. Now I’ve learned to listen to myself, to be less afraid of what is around me or waiting for me, and my running has evolved naturally.”

Cesare Maestri
Francesco Puppi

Speaking of key figures in developing a sports movement, your contribution to opening up trail running to an ever-widening Italian audience is undeniable. What does it mean for you to be sources of inspiration for local runners?

Francesco Puppi: “I think every athlete has their own inclination; they don’t need to have a mission to ‘evangelize’ sports. As runners, we can have an impact on a variety of levels: in terms of competition, where Cesare and I have made our mark in terms of victories and types of races, coming out of the local and national side of trail running; the professional one, where we were among the first to make a living out of this sport in Italy. Thanks to Nike, we showed that athletes could take alternative paths; and finally, the concept of popularizing, which I care a lot about and where I’ve always felt comfortable. Talking about experiences, studying the dynamics of my sport, the people who shape it, and understanding its future is something I have always enjoyed. In this respect, I feel like I’ve made a contribution through my blog and podcast and by my association that brings together professional athletes in this environment (Pro Trail Runners Association).”

Cesare Maestri: “On a social level and in terms of trendsetting, I’m not as constant as Francesco is. I don’t always feel like sharing what I think or feel.  I try to tell people what I do as an athlete, explaining my training and feelings, motivating my race choices and showing my approach. Over the years, we have been able to convey the concept that an athlete should, first and foremost, feel good about themselves and find their own physical and mental balance. At the same time, we’ve dispelled lots of myths, like showing that trail runners can be competitive on the road as well, and vice versa. Just imagine Italy a decade ago: track runners had a closed mindset, and the same was true for those in trail running. We’ve proven that these two worlds can coexist; that you can be a complete, multi-purpose runner…”

What have been the most important steps so far, in your career and how did they fit into your friendship?

Francesco Puppi: “I could mention so many moments, starting with that first Swiss half-marathon when I was 13. From the outside, people often imagine that certain victories or rankings can diametrically change the course of a career…. This is not the case for me. Instead, I think I have experienced a series of small, gradual changes. For me, like for Caesar, the trail road has been different from those of other contemporary athletes who’ve had a lot more opportunities. Over the years, we’ve racked up victories that have helped make us who we are today, but I can’t say there have been watershed events. The 2019 World Championships in Patagonia is worth mentioning; Caesar and I won silver in different specialties, which allowed us to connect with Nike. Our friendship was born well before that event but definitely grew in Patagonia. We found ourselves sharing a parallel experience and were on a similar wavelength. The 2021 Golden Trail World Series comes to mind also, or this year’s UTMB, where I got on the podium in the 50km. That being said, I don’t really put much stock in individual feats that get a lot of coverage in the press and on the web. I’d like to think that, more than that, Caesar and I have shown consistency throughout our careers.”

Cesare Maestri: “I agree. Everything tends to be progressive and linear. A key year was definitely 2015, when I was recovering from a major injury that stopped me for 7 months. The following year I won a call-up to the national team and found myself shoulder-to-shoulder with the Dematteis twins in various races. Before that season I thought they were untouchable. It definitely raised my awareness. The World Championship in Patagonia was one of the most exciting moments of my life, and it was especially nice to share that achievement with Francesco. Our friendship actually dates back to 2013, when we sprinted against each other during the Scalata della Maddalena, a 7km uphill asphalt race. I always get great satisfaction from running unique or iconic races like Campaccio and Cinque Mulini, even if they’re not really connected to trail or mountain running. And I still feel a strong attachment to the Italian jersey: representing Italy on a big stage with teammates-friends always stirs something inside me.”

Your relationship and individual experiences are also marked by a strong sensitivity to environmental issues. Tell us about that.

Francesco Puppi: “It is an important and complex issue, especially at a time in history when it is increasingly being waved around for attention and publicity. As athletes, we’re public figures, and we have a role to play. We have to act as examples, without forgetting that each of us has our own conscience and ecological footprint. The environment is particularly near to my heart because, thanks to sports, I constantly live in contact with nature. Moreover, part of my university studies focused on this topic. Unlike Cesare, who is professionally engaged in the renewable energy sector, I approach the environmental issue with the perspective of an athlete who practices a green sport like trail running and consequently wonders what kind of message we’re conveying as a community sometimes. Cesare and I exchange long voice messages on WhatsApp almost daily, and when see each other, we share our views on the subject. We are deeply connected to the mountains, the impact that certain activities have on its ecosystems hits us close to home: artificial snowmaking in the ski industry comes to mind. In general, it is good to see that more and more athletes and organizations are taking this issue into consideration. It feels like we’re moving in the right direction.”

Cesare Maestri: “This issue hits me personally. I became passionate about it in high school, even wrote an essay on environmental sustainability, and I studied energy engineering in college. I currently work part-time as an engineer in the design field and am focused on photovoltaics. I hope, at least in part, to make a tangible contribution, though it’s an uphill battle…. My hope is that, at the global level, we can act to find effective solutions as a group. Our sport creates sublime contact with nature, the mountains and the outdoors. This is why it is necessary to raise awareness at every event. Beyond those races we can’t miss, I always try to evaluate each event and choose those that best share my environmental values. Francesco and I share this sensitivity, and our connection with Nike allows us to develop it consistently and create positive impacts in different ways. When we share a project with the brand, the environment is first on our minds, and we set out to create something consistent with our philosophy and thinking.”

We already mentioned the relationship between you and Nike Trail. What has it been like to shape this relationship and how much has it changed your outlook? Are the new Nike Ultrafly Trails the manifesto of a brand that wants to shift attention to running in nature?

Francesco Puppi: “Nike was my first big opportunity in sports, something I was lucky to pursue with Cesare. When we first got in touch with the brand, we were similar in terms of being athletes. We started from similar beginnings, but we’ve taken slightly different paths at the level of activity and expression. Nike’s mission is clear, to help athletes express performance to the fullest, and the Nike Ultrafly Trail definitely hits that goal. Compared to the road running and classic athletics, it is really hard to produce a shoe for trail running. The variables are endless, and a single product has to serve the greatest number of athletes in the widest range of situations… I don’t think there can be a perfect trail shoe; there is the right trail shoe for certain conditions for a specific athlete. The Ultrafly Trail shoes are exciting; they’re focused mainly on competition. They were developed by elite American runners who have given the shoe a clear American imprint.”

Cesare Maestri: “When you think of Nike, you think the best of the best. But for us it was almost a leap of faith. Before the 2019 World Cup, we had decided to build this relationship, but then the pandemic stopped us in our tracks. But the Nike people have always believed in our project and, in 2022, they welcomed us into the brand. We are lucky, because this collaboration is not limited to the product. It gives us the opportunity to put forth ideas regarding the evolution of trail shoes, which isn’t something a lot of brands will let you do. The Nike Ultrafly Trail is really satisfying; I tried a similar prototype last year, which was a pleasant surprise, and now I am using this shoe in lots of races. More than that, it’s really nice that Nike has an innovative vision related to trail running, and that this vision isn’t limited to shoes. There is a lot of experimentation going on and I am seeing lots of progress…. I feel honored to be a part of this brand, and I hope the joint projects continue to evolve.”

Photo credits:

Nike

Text by Gianmarco Pacione


Martin Kazanietz, the ancient and contemporary art of fútbol

The Argentinian artist who celebrates the football faith and its believers

“The difference between me and contemporary kids is simple. What you learn playing for money in the suburban mud is not taught in the academies.”

In an age that is increasingly about numbers, statistics and social glory, is the art of football still important? It is essential for all of us, Juan Román Riquelme would answer, recalling the humble origins of his magical fútbol and introducing the work of his compatriot Martin Kazaniez. In the canvases and murals of this contemporary Argentine artist, football becomes a people’s song, where the most real and tangible figures of the entire soccer system become the protagonists of an imperfect, yet enchanting collective ritual. The religion of fútbol is handed down by its believers, their beers and irrationalities. The religion of fútbol is handed down by its lovers, by their noisy passion and silent deeds. And no place like the homeland of Diego Armando Maradona, the least profane of earthly gods, could have been the muse of this young artist.

Just days after the conclusion of the exhibition ‘Llenos de Todo’ at Galerie LJ in Paris, we caught up with and interviewed Gordopelota, understanding the value of football in his artistic philosophy and life.

What role did football and art play in your childhood?

“Playing fútbol and basketball was all I did most of the time. When I wasn’t in my neighborhood local club or at a random pitch or in the streets playing with friends, I loved playing fútbol videogames too. My parents were not into sports at all, but they encouraged me to practice a lot of it. What they were really into was art, as they both are artists now. We had a lot of art at home: books, comics, movies…. They took me to museums every time they could too. I drew a lot of goalkeepers when I was very young, but then I stopped drawing since I thought I was bad at it.”

When did you realize that you could merge these two universes?

“I started drawing again when I was 25. I met a friend who was a graffiti writer and I started doodling and doing graffiti too. There was no need to be good at it and I loved that, it was a matter of just doing it. I did this a lot for 2-3 years. After some time, I began to be more confident with materials, and I started creating and painting characters. I was still doing graffiti, but I used to replace my name and letters with special images. I was always a big fan of Florencio Molina Campos (a local folk painter who created a naive and caricaturesque world of gauchos) and I immediately knew I wanted to do something related to his work, but with amateur local fútbol world, which I thought it was an unexplored subject in Argentinian art.”

What were your reference points and idols in both fields? Is there a footballer who sums up the soul and DNA of Gordopelota?

“Artistically I have infinite references points, from more classic paintings, to music videos, movies and photographers. In terms of football, I can’t think of any player, because most of the fútbol related artwork I ever did was influenced by local folks playing amateur five a side. But since all my work is full of ‘Argentinity’, I could say Diego spirit is an omnipresent figure in all of it. Especially because he was a great myth or fable that explains a lot of our complex identity.”

The football star system doesn’t appear in your works. You portray the real football, made of beers, barrios, cigarettes and curvy bodies. What do you want to communicate through these subjects?

“I think there is too much advertising image around the football industry and star players. We get saturated of this content all the time. We don’t need art that looks like painted advertisements too. I used to think there was something to communicate with these images. I studied graphic design, so I have a background on having intentions on how to communicate with images. But after developing a good number of artworks, I started shifting from trying to communicate something with a specific image, to a more open and poetic approach to image making.”

‘Camisetas’, football jerseys, play a key role in your works. What are the factors that make you choose a specific jersey?

“Before graphic design I studied filmmaking for a year. I learned the concept of ‘deictic’: these elements merge the tangible world of reality and the abstract world of fantasy. Some small references and details can place you in a specific time and space, even if the narrative is completely fictional. I like to paint some of these like clothing, or a place, or a haircut, so it connects this fictional world of brushstrokes and paint with the world I experience every day in life.”

Your paintings are exhibited in museums all over the world, they were also in Paris. Your murals, on the other hand, populate various cityscapes and mystical places, such as La Bombonera in Buenos Aires. Do you prefer to show your art through canvases or murals?

“I showed in different cities around the world but actually not in museums that much, just a couple of them. Next year I’ll be part of a big show (fingers crossed). I slowly shifted from murals to studio work. I found this way a better way to create the work I wanted to do. I think La Bombonera was one of the last murals I did. I never ever in my life thought I would paint there. It was one of my favorite projects ever, even though I don´t like the result that much.”

Your artistic production also touches on other sports. Will you continue to focus on football in the future, or will you open your horizons more and more toward basketball, tennis, etc.?

“I did a big series that reflected the photos I accumulate in my phone. This were crops of images I found there, and since I still try to practice as many sports as I can, a lot of them were sports related. I’m not sure what will come later. Now I´m finishing a series of paintings that started when Argentina won the World Cup. It´s about big crowds in situations that could be seen as a celebration, but also as protest at the same time.”


Esplora, discover Nepal to discover ourselves

Bikepacking, visual arts and social sensitivity: the virtuous Nepalese journey supported by Briko

Esplora is an invitation. An invitation from a group of creative Italians united by their passion for the outdoors and its many ramifications. Esplora is guidance. Guidance from a pool of young communicators to open up individual and collective horizons, combining visual arts and introspective experiences in mystical places like Nepal. This small corner of Asia is said to be the epitome of natural beauty and cultural richness. Within its ancient borders, Team Esplora, supported by the pragmatic wisdom of experienced adventurer Giuseppe Papa, will embark on a 1,200km journey, intensified by almost 25,000m of elevation. Augmented and supported by Briko’s vision and technical equipment, this venture will mix iconic sites, such as the Bodhi tree, where Prince Siddhartha achieved enlightenment, and mythological routes, such as the dreaded Thorung La, the highest pass on the planet. Marco Ricci and Davide Ciarletta, two Esplora members undertaking this many-sided journey, will contribute their voices to a physical, mental, and documented itinerary, which we will follow alongside Briko.

The outdoors and the visual arts: this combination has been taking on ever more forms and meaning in recent times. Within this global dynamic, how and when did Esplora become a reality?

“Esplora was born out of synchronization. We’re all passionate cyclists and long-time riders; we like to experience different things and go on long journeys. Over time, we have come to understand what fatigue means and where it can lead us. Our first real step towards the Esplora project was on the Alta Via dei Monti Liguri. We already knew each other, but during that collective journey, we noticed how we were creating parallel and related content, so we decided to go in a common direction. Our goal is to share experiences because sharing is what makes us human, and to guide the people around us out of their comfort zones: to discover things within and without. After all, every place can change a human being deep inside.”

How does Nepal fit into this far-reaching thought process? What attracted you to this magical country?

“Again, it was all chance. Or rather, chance doesn’t exist; let’s just say that the dots got connected and were destined to do so. At the last Bologna Bike Tourism Fair, we sat down with explorer Giuseppe Papa. We’d been intrigued by his photos from Patagonia, Iceland, Kyrgyzstan, and countless other parts of the world. After about ten minutes, with his characteristic candor, he invited us to cross Nepal with him. It was special. We’re honored to discover this country with a highly skilled athlete like him, and can’t wait to have him share his 45-plus years of experience with us. We feel safe, and we know that Giuseppe will help us turn problems into adventures. In fact, he’s in India now, cycling at 4,300 meters with his partner Luca, and they’ll join us on the Nepalese border. Overall, we are attracted to Nepal, its history and ancient culture, and our content will try to narrate and channel all that.”

What kind of expectations, convictions and, of course, uncertainties are you approaching this undertaking?

“We’ll cover 1,800km in about 40 days: It’s not an impossible feat, but it’s certainly made more challenging by the more than 1,000m of daily elevation. As is often the case, our bikepacking will also involve many moments of hiking where we’ll have to carry the bike, which will require a lot of energy. At the same time, we’re going to be shooting a documentary, so we’ll be carrying heavy equipment. We’ll be taking it all on with a non-competitive spirit. Esplora projects do not revolve around performance; our philosophy is purely creative and experiential. On a physical level, it’ll be a struggle, but we’re trained and, thanks to Giuseppe, we can handle the various unknowns that’ll pop up along the way: from temperatures to the more pragmatic stuff like meals and nights in the tent.”

The connection with Briko will play a key role on several fronts, allowing you to wear functional material, convey content to a wide audience and, consequently, raise awareness of this trip’s social function. How important is this relationship?

“We are definitely happy, because we think it’s a genuine connection. We were immediately in sync with the Briko people and they’ve been giving us maximum support from an expressive-creative perspective and in product research. All the apparel we’ll wear in Nepal will be Briko. Physical balance is good for the mind, and clothing plays a key role on trips like this: being comfortable with the right materials is essential. No question. On the other hand, having a larger audience will allow us to share our views, moods and aspirations, in our own small way, to make a real impact on the new generation in Nepal. We’ve launched the first Explora crowdfunding campaign. Part of the money will go towards the work of VISPE, an organization committed to supporting health and education in disadvantaged countries, including Nepal. The funds raised will be used to finance the renovation of a kindergarten and, at the same time, to promote this documentary. We hope it will raise awareness among as many as possible. Finally, the first 50 donors will receive a special photograph book of the trip, printed with the Legnano social cooperative La Mano, which has provided employment opportunities for people with various disabilities for years.”

The departure is just around the corner. What kind of feelings are running through you?

“The tension’s been building for the past week, but it’s the typical feeling that comes before a big trip. We’re excited by the crossing and our documentary concept. We’re also pretty sure it’ll take at least a week to get into the swing of things and find the right balance between traveling and creating content… After all, it’s a first for us in many ways, and we can’t help but be excited.”

Credits:

BRIKO

ESPLORA


Giovanna Selva, running is two-dimensional

Thanks to the HOKA Spikes Tour, we interviewed the talented middle-distance runner and brand ambassador

Like her thought process, Giovanna Selva’s running is direct and crystal clear, devoid of contemporary mannerisms. Born on 17 September 2000 in Ossola and brought up in the small town of Druogno amidst the gentle valleys that link Italy and Switzerland, this middle-distance runner is the picture-perfect embodiment of her territory.

Fresh from the podium of the European U23 Cross Country Championships and the World Junior Mountain Running Championships, we meet up with Giovanna on the Alzano Lombardo track. She’s one of the feature athletes on the Spikes Tour organized by HOKA: a travelling event that allows young competitors in various Italian cities to discover and test the Cielo X2 MD and Cielo X2 spiked shoes, the latest from the brand from the French Alps, not far from where Giovanna’s story began.

“My history with running all started thanks to cross-country skiing. It allowed me to discover athletics because the training sessions varied according to the season. When the snow disappeared from ‘my’ mountains, I had to make a choice, and I chose running. Initially, my feelings were a bit mixed, but the coaches helped me fall in love. When I was 15, they introduced me to the technique and the track. I’ve always been inspired by the people around me, not just great athletes. I mean my mother, a former cross-country skier, my father, and my grandmother, who at 83 still runs her café without stopping for a second. I didn’t think I could have a real career, but when I finished third at the Italian Mountain Running Championships, I realized something was possible. That podium automatically qualified me for the World Championships. I found out after the race was over, and I almost apologized to the selector. I remember telling him I wouldn’t be offended if he decided not to take me…”

Although the “tartan” isn’t her native stomping grounds, Giovanna is carving a path as much through nature as between the lanes, scoring cyclical personal bests and breaking down barriers, as demonstrated by her recent result under 33 minutes on the 10K. Hers is a hybrid and frenzied evolution, passing through technical refinement and the study of her own mind and sensations.

“I started running in the woods near my home. I’ve always felt that I can improve my body in those environments. I often go back there alone. I experience training as a kind of exploration: I look for new trails and admire all the different animals; in the early morning, you can even see fawns and small deer. And I listen to my legs as I push uphill. You always feel something more intense in the woods. It’s like I’m always searching for something…. everything is different on the track. In the woods, I get excited by that sense of freedom, while on the track, it’s all about precision, that relationship between space and time, and the fact there’s no margin for error. I’m 23 and fully aware I’m in the middle of a maturation process. It’s about the mind and technique. It’s just the beginning, and I imagine it’ll take a while”.

In addition to the mainstay of her running, present and future, Giovanna is also working on a career away from the stopwatch and finish lines. But not away from the pressure. She’s studying medicine. As difficult as it might sound to be a world-class athlete while also burying her head in the books or an operating theatre, she tells us its possible, with her own kind of straightforward wisdom.

“I’d always wanted to enroll in medicine. When I did, I hadn’t reached this kind of athletic caliber. Now, everything is pretty complex. I’ve just finished two weeks of training, and it was hectic: I woke up, trained, worked in the hospital all day, trained again, and then straight to bed. I worked my butt off, but every night I was euphoric. I don’t think any feeling compares to that degree of tiredness: that tiredness that makes you want to hit the sack and start again the next day. I never thought I could inspire anyone with my ‘double life’, but lately, little things have been happening that help me realize how much people care about me. When children ask for my autograph or tell me about their experiences, I feel a mix of responsibility and motivation”.

And these scenes also play out in Alzano Lombardo, where a large community of local athletes test out the new HOKA spiked shoes with this easygoing Azzurro talent. Giovanna’s two-dimensional world, balanced between woods and tracks, sports and academics, is also split between individual effort and collective sharing.

After all, running cannot exist without a group. Giovanna confirms this when she talks about the Seve Team, the Piedmontese squad with whom she shares most of her weekly exertions. ‘And there can be no execution without the right shoe’, she adds just before she and her companions accelerate into a sprint, celebrating the brand she represents.

“The collective is fundamental in running. The presence of other people helps me during training. It’s especially true when I have to do work I could never do alone, but also before and after the run. We’re not just athletes. We’re people. The jokes, the snacks, and the chats make me want to keep running even when I’m exhausted or sick… The Seve Team is all that to me, and I’m happy that HOKA has decided to support this team from my home. I’m not surprised, because the brand’s sensitivity towards the community is truly incredible. Linking with HOKA was a huge step that made me feel important. Participating in events like the Spikes Tour just makes me happy: raising awareness and enhancing the knowledge of young athletes is something I cherish. Shoes are really the single most important product for every runner. In a world of online marketing, it’s crucial to test and understand the characteristics of those running ‘companions’, especially if it’s a spike shoe. HOKA is there for runners, and I’m happy to be there, too.

Thanks to HOKA

Text by Gianmarco Pacione

Photo Credits: Riccardo Romani