There is no football without fashion and fashion without football, teaches the LC23 founder

‘Stipe, ca trueve,’ ‘Preserve, and you will find,’ sentences an ancient Bari proverb. And Leo Colacicco has preserved every memory, every moment experienced on and off the green field. Footballer and fan, fanatic and aesthete. The last sacred representation of our time, as Pasolini called it, in the background of the LC23 founder did not and does not represent a mere pastime. It’s something more significant, it’s a visceral relationship that today allows this brilliant designer from Bari to dress his favorite team, as well as to pour an endless carnival of goals and emotions into the brilliance of his stylistic creations.

“Football is my favorite sport ever. As a child I played in the streets of Gioia del Colle, going out in the morning and coming back in the evening. Then I kept playing and managed to play in Promozione (sixth Italian league), I did it until I was 32, when I decided to quit because of knee problems. Only two years earlier I’d founded my own brand, LC23. Despite the pace of work, football has continued and continues to be much more than a passion. I follow any league and cup, I am an AC Milan fan, but Bari has a special place in my heart. In our province, the bond with the team is all-encompassing, the fans are unique even compared to the best European supporters…. Together with my friends I’ve always attended the San Nicola stadium and participated in so many away matches, witnessing unique and indelible scenes. I was lucky enough to grow up observing football with the sensitivity of a fashion enthusiast. I came into contact with ultras culture and its stylistic features and, at the same time, I developed an incredible fascination with the teams’ jerseys, especially the training kits. It’s an ‘obsession’ that has translated into collecting: my most prized piece is the original England 1990 jersey, which Palace reworked last year. It’s simple, timeless and fantastic. In the 1990s Umbro invented a new football aesthetic, changed the Game. It’s no accident that many of those jerseys are still worn in and out of stadiums today.”

And it’s no coincidence that Colacicco’s mind was called upon by two of the most famous and legendary brands on the football scene in order to continue the celebration of the communion between football and fashion. The aforementioned Umbro and Kappa are the two showcases in which this Apulian creative has been able to display Nineties reminiscences and David Beckham vibes, but they are also the two sporting appendages of a much more complex stylistic manual, the LC23 one, capable of taking root globally, collection after collection, thanks to its uniqueness. If the collaboration with the brand of the two rhombuses has been a dreamlike journey, confides Colacicco, the one with the Turin-born brand, on the other hand, has been a path made of many joys and endless pressures. Because dressing your favorite club is a magical opportunity, sure, but it’s also the most arduous mission a fan can face.

“When I partnered with Umbro, I literally found myself inside an amusement park. It was a dream to see LC23’s logo side by side with the English brand’s logo, and it was great to be able to reinterpret or reuse their most iconic patchwork. The Bari project started almost as a joke, walking around the company’s halls I started talking about the Napoli jerseys created by Marcelo Burlon. Ironically I said, “If I don’t do it for Bari, who else can do it?” They immediately asked me for some graphic samples. I didn’t believe it, I didn’t think they would accept. The psychological pressure was enormous from the beginning, the fear of disappointing people who share your same faith is heavy, but when I saw the pattern of the polyps I knew that our project would be a success. This synergy with Kappa and Bari has given me tremendous satisfaction: on the early morning of the drop day many people were queuing in front of the LC23 store in Gioia del Colle. My town, lost in the middle of nowhere, had become the destination for many Bari fans who appreciated my jersey…. It was impossible to expect such a success, which was confirmed by the online sell-out reached within minutes. The most difficult thing was to repeat it. This year I tried to raise the level of complexity, study and interpretation of the jerseys. I am extremely satisfied, because many insiders have understood this evolution and we have received orders from many, many collectors from all over. I think these jerseys are creatures of destiny. We launched the first jersey in conjunction with the promotion from Serie C to Serie B, and it was unplanned. This year’s kit was first worn in a pale Bari-Venezia, the classic rough 0-0, broken by the goal of Bellomo, the only Bari native on the roster. After the goal, Bellomo ran under our fans and replicated Bari’s well-known ‘trenino’ (‘little train’), the same ‘trenino’ that I’ve graphically reproduced on the jersey. They were two thrilling moments.”

After having dressed Bari in Serie C and Serie B, today Leo Colacicco dreams of carrying on this intimate relationship in the Serie A, in the footballing Olympus that the “biancorossi” are finally stroking after dark times, trying to complete a dizzying aesthetic and sporting climb. This 43-year-old engineering graduate, raised by the artisanal knowledge of a mother-dressmaker and an intense path in the fashion e-commerce universe, teaches us that there is no football without style and no style without football. LC23’s founding father ends this hybrid analysis talking to us about oriental inspirations, Apulian identity and, above all, an ascent that began from scratch, planned in the fiefdom of Gioia del Colle and destined to continue thanks to a fertile creativity inexorably devoted to sports imagery.

“The LC23 project started with 8 shirts made by my mother. The first online order came after a year and a half, I still remember it. Over time I have not changed my creative process. In each collection I use what is in my head, without following trends. I try to combine in my own way the various things that inspire me. I’m definitely connected to the Japanese and Korean world, but also to mythical Italian brands like Stone Island. The sport imagery is always essential. For example, in the LC23 shop in Gioia del Colle I hung pictures of some number 23s: Materazzi, Ambrosini, LeBron, Michael Jordan and David Beckham. Beckham is an idol: he managed to combine fashion and football in a unique way, and still continues to do so. Players like ‘Alino’ Diamanti also inspire me, I’m talking about eclectic characters who manage to get out of Italy and make their mark on foreign leagues. Unlike Diamanti, LC23’s base hasn’t left Italy and Puglia, continuing to be in Gioia del Colle. We decided to stay true to our roots. Obviously it wasn’t and still isn’t an easy choice, but I lived for years in Milan and I know that my land gives less frenzy and more peace of mind. Here there is a fusion with everything we live and surrounds us. Everything is spontaneous and positive, I hope this dimension never changes.”

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