This winter, we’re bringing you a collaboration some might consider a little out of left field, the football field to be exact. Known for their bold and nostalgic take on sportswear, PAL Sporting Goods is a streetwear brand turning heads worldwide. We teamed up with the Amsterdam-based brand with Iranian roots to bring you a small run of limited-edition ready-to-wear.
The collaboration is an ode to the underdog, inspired by a single match in the 1978 World Cup. The infamous game was Iran’s first ever showing at the Cup, played against the Netherlands who went on to the finals despite also being down two of their most crucial players. The capsule collection itself is a complete collision of cultures and influence – clashing fine tailoring and comfy sportswear with seventies silhouettes and football motifs. We met up at the Olympic Stadium in Amsterdam to chat to Atelier Munro creative director Joachim Baan and PAL Sporting Goods co-owner Poyan Rahimzadeh about the collection, alongside Poyan’s father Hormuz who was living in Iran at the time and witnessed the match first hand.
You approached PAL Sporting Goods for this collaboration, what made you reach out?
At Atelier Munro, we pride ourselves on this ceaseless pursuit of culture, quality, and authenticity. We like to connect with the world around us and we are building a thriving community of men with character, so this collaboration is simply an extension of that. We are in the made-to-measure world, but for us tailoring is more than the office. It’s everywhere and this collaboration manifests that mix of cultures, influences, and narratives. A streetwear brand collaborating with a made-to-measure brand is the ultimate collision of culture, and so a logical step for us.
How would you describe the collection?
It’s all about the power of stories, woven into the garments we wear. We craft clothing tailored to whatever your personal taste is. But that taste can be influenced by anything, from the people we meet and the movies we watch to the field we work in and the football field. And that just so happens to be where this one started.
The collaboration is this perfect example of collaborating in a way that adds something tangible, something relevant, and something that is built on history. As a brand, we try to reach beyond the products and always showcase the character of the people that are beneath the surface. I think this capsule really captures that time and that special moment in time.
Atelier Munro & PAL Sporting Goods are from quite different worlds. How did you first feel about collaborating?
When Atelier Munro reached out to me for a possible collaboration, I immediately thought this isn’t something we would normally make. But it’s very interesting to look outside of the spectrum we usually play in. And I always wanted to create something for the country I come from. And we as the Iranian diaspora and Iranians inside Iran are always very passionate about Iranian football.
Where did the idea for the collection come from?
So I was thinking, how can we give something back to Iran and the next generations of Iranians? I was doing some research and Chris at Atelier Munro brought up the first World Cup match between Iran and The Netherlands. I immediately loved the idea. I wanted to create new memories about that match of 1978 and Iranian football in general. Because not everyone is from the seventies, I myself am from 1984, so we looked into the outfits of the players and the coaches back in the day. Back then, they didn’t have a sponsor, the team actually just bought regular t-shirts and put Iran on it. So the suit we made is actually a silhouette of the suits that the Iranian coaches would wear. But it also has an “off the pitch” -very seventies/eighties- kind of feel, with a beautiful cut to it. If I reimagined what the players would wear off the pitch, it would be this suit and the half zip.
Why did you love this memory in particular?
This memory says a lot. Because we were the underdog. Even the Iranian players themselves didn’t think they would make it. The players were so afraid of playing the Dutch team, they came up with the wildest excuse. They said that all their mothers had passed away during a recent earthquake in Iran. They wore black just to give the impression to the Dutch team that they were in mourning. They even proposed to the captain of the Dutch team that they wouldn’t actually play the match and that they would just declare that the Dutch team won with 3-0 and shake hands on it, without actually playing. But they did have the match and did actually play. And it was almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy that the Iranian team eventually lost 3-0. But they gave it their all. As the underdog, they always kept on trying. And the benefit of being the underdog is that when no one expects you to win, you can always come with the unexpected. And that is exactly what this collaboration is: unexpected.
Football is different in every country, is it different to how we play in The Netherlands? What does the game mean to people there?
You have to understand that football for Iran and Iranians means freedom. And that’s special, because we don’t have a lot of freedoms in Iran. But the game of football is so rooted into the feeling of community and the concept of homeland there that we show so much passion and emotion for the players. I think that we as a country and diaspora are still in that position of the underdog whenever Iran is playing, but deep down we are truly convinced that Iran will never lose a match in the World Cup. Even when we are 3-0 behind and the game is ending, us Iranians always believe until the end that we are going to win. I think this is a beautiful thing about the Iranian people that shows we never ever give up.
The design for the sweater originated from the actual football match in 1978 too. Tell us about that.
The half zip is something that we are already known for at PAL Sporting Goods. It’s a silhouette that was used a lot back in the day and at the same time it bears a resemblance to what the Iranian players were wearing off the pitch back then too.
I think these pieces have truly become something that we are proud of at PAL Sporting Goods and Atelier Munro. As a (partially) Iranian-owned sportswear company, we are excited to reflect on the importance of that 1978 game and pay tribute to that fighting spirit of Iranians now.
Thanks Poyan. We’re also excited to have another generation here who got to experience the match – your father.
What do you remember about the game? What did it mean for you?
It was in the same year as the Iranian revolution, so considering the times we were in, there wasn’t a lot to be happy about in those days. But to see that we had at least made it to the World Cup for the first time ever, was a glimmer of light in a dark time. That is the main thing I remember about it. Even the fact that Iran lost the game didn’t ruin the overall experience for me. I was just happy that we made it to something like the World Cup. As an Iranian, living in Iran, the match meant a lot to me. We kind of got the opportunity to forget about our situation for a moment. I was in my twenties at that time. So I got a bit of “normal life” back. And it meant a lot to just be able to think about a football match and nothing else. Ironically years later I became a Dutchman as well – something I didn’t think would ever happen while watching that game!
Who do you think would win now if the Netherlands played against Iran and why?
Even though I have been a Dutch citizen since 1990/1991, I will always remain Iranian. I don’t watch football that much anymore. So I’m going to make a biased judgment purely based on ethnic pride and say that Iran would win, 100%. Even though I know the Dutch team is better in a lot of ways. Miracles happen more often than you would think! I will always bet my money on Iran, and lose that money with a smile.
Want to hear more about the game that inspired the collection? When first creating the capsule, we spoke to someone who quite literally played in it, former footballer and coach Arie Haan. You can check out our chat here.
The Atelier Munro X PAL Sporting Goods ready-to-wear pieces are now available in our Amsterdam flagship store, select European multibrand retailers that carry PAL Sporting Goods and on request via your personal Style Advisor.