During the pandemic, a collaborative of black female rugby players was formed with the aim of creating a safe space for fellow black females who either already played or wanted to get into the sport of rugby. The group began hosting other black females on their podcast, discussing the common challenges they face, with the hope of encouraging others to take the step, feel part of a community, and have the courage to start similar communities in their local clubs.
Since then, the group has welcomed many fans and collaborators, recently creating a team of black females to play at a charity tournament. This annual event was their opportunity to raise awareness of the Black Girls Ruck platform, and integral to that was celebrating their collective identity.
Kappa has proudly been one of those collaborators, relishing the opportunity to create a unique team kit for the project. The Kappa in-house design team set to work holding a meeting with the group to first gain a clear understanding of what this team is all about, and then build insight into their culture of Black Girls Ruck to inform the design decision they would make.
Gareth Edwards, Senior Apparel Designer at Kappa UK and Ireland, learned: “Black Girls Ruck was formed to highlight Black women in the sport of rugby with the aim of making rugby an accessible sport for all. The meeting with the group established a key motto for them – ‘Black Joy’. A phrase they champion that describes the feeling they hope to achieve and spread via their platform.
We took this insight, and with an open creative brief, explored patterns and colours that we felt represented their spirit and hopes. One aspect we learned early on was that they didn’t have a team crest, just an emblem that they used on their successful podcast. So, we utilised that and created a bespoke crest that would adorn the shirt proudly alongside the infamous Omini logo.”
Black Girls Ruck shared: “Creating a unique kit design was so important to us as we wanted it to reflect the unique make up of our team. We have spent a lot of time in our respective clubs feeling left out and misunderstood – so this was a chance to work with Kappa to create a kit that matched our vibe and determination!”
With an open brief from the group, the Kappa design team used their creativity and experience in designing unique kits for an array of teams to create a standout, contemporary kit design. They took inspiration from powerful black icons from music and culture and adopted symbols such as the closed fist, afro hair, and rebellious symbolism. Through collaboration and creative freedom, the design team opted for bold, striking colours and patterns, embedding the club phrase ‘Black Joy’ onto the sleeve to bring a personal touch.
Upon seeing the final designs, Black Girls Ruck commented: “First impressions are hugely important on a rugby field of play, you have to intimidate your opponent right from the start. Kits can be quite drab so it was incredible to see such vibrant colours reflecting our spirited identity, and the sleeves just made us ooze ‘Black Joy’.”
The collaborative’s attendance at the Matt Elliott Charity Cup on the 29th of July saw the team don the new kit. The team, made up of an all-black collective, some who had played together before, some who hadn’t, on the day played exceptionally well bursting with energy and dynamism.
The stand-out kit, with the signature Kappa standard of quality and detailing, was brought to life on the pitch. Black Girls Ruck commented: “The kit enabled instant unity between the various team members despite not everyone having even met before. It immediately encouraged everyone to be at ease, full of confidence and attitude. Everyone just loved the kit and wanted to know where they could buy their own.
It was incredibly easy to wear, with the shorts being a fantastic fit. The range of sizes available meant that everyone felt accommodated and ready to produce the flawless performance that we did!”
Part of Kappa’s mission is to elevate the sport of rugby from the grassroots levels right to the elite levels through innovative and creative kit designs and production. A collaborative kit design such as this is estimated to take approximately three months from the start of the design process through to manufacture.
Gareth Edwards added: “The design team lives to explore creative thinking, integrating the club’s history with a new contemporary design. When we then see the kits worn in live action, it brings us immense pleasure and pride which is reflected by those wearing the kit. Working with organisations such as Black Girls Ruck brings a sense that we are impacting and supporting grassroots teams, and in particular those working to encourage participation in sport in minority groups.”
The tournament was a shining success for the collective who not only raised awareness of their brand through their playing but also through their visual identity. They continue their drive to reach more individuals and groups who want to connect over their passion for rugby, breaking down barriers that discourage participation from underrepresented groups. Their mission is now elevated through a uniform that can be worn to demonstrate their commitment to raising up black female rugby players.
Black Girls Ruck summarised: “The strong team identity that we achieved through wearing the Kappa-designed kit allowed people to see and understand what we stand for from a distance. It sparked questions and started conversations with those who we maybe wouldn’t have a connection with otherwise. These elements support us in working towards the bigger conversations that need to take place and help piece together our larger mission.”
Kappa continues to innovate unique and creatively designed kits for teams at all levels, producing stylish yet meaningful team wear that not only enhances the play but shares messages, creates cultures, and lifts communities.