A devoted follower of fashion: how a Scotsman’s kit creations took him to Cambodia

WHEN Cambodia secured a 2-1 win over Timor-Leste on Thursday night, the home fans will have been delighted to see their side pick up the hard-earned three points. But there was also at least one Scotsman who looked on beaming with pride.

For Frazer MacRobert, a 32-year-old Glasgow player, the game was a huge personal milestone. Not because of anything the players did in the park, though. He could reflect on a job well done because of the shirts they wore on their backs.

The Cambodian national team kits may be loaded with national imagery, but the man who designed them hails from Scotland. After two years of painstaking work interrupted by the Covid pandemic, all those hours staring at thousands of shades of blue have paid off as MacRobert has added some pretty impressive achievement to a CV that also includes SPFL clubs.

It’s been a circuitous journey for MacRobert, who works full-time at a behavior change innovation lab in Phnom Penh. Working until the wee hours of the morning, he started making models at home as something to do in his spare time, eventually starting his own company: Clan Utd.

“I have this obsessive personality where when I do a hobby, I do everything,” he explains. “I used to work at nightclub Garage in college and went from PR to marketing to running my own brand. When I started playing football I loved fashion and kit culture, so I started collecting these weird and quirky kits so I could show up five times a week wearing something ridiculous.

“I started designing concept kits because six or seven years ago it was all the rage at that time, there was this big movement where everyone was designing kits as a hobby. .

“I would design a Borussia Dortmund style for the SNP Yes campaign or an Arsenal style for the Jeremy Corbyn campaign – just topical stuff to make people laugh.

“I didn’t really think about it, but I had a friend from Glasgow who asked me to start his business in Cambodia. I did that, he liked the job and I decided to come to Cambodia because I thought it would be something cool.

It would be the perfect place for MacRobert to explore his hobby and improve his craft.

He continued: “There are a lot of garment factories in Asia – most of the kits you buy will say ‘Made in Cambodia’, or India, or Bangladesh, or China – so it’s very easy to get tops here.

“I started creating custom ones for teams using pre-purchased factory templates, but when I started using my design files, I was able to find factories that could print them.”

After dipping his toes into designing kits and badges for Cambodian Premier League teams, opportunities closer to home have presented themselves.

“I started out as a hobbyist designing different crests and different kits and then I approached Berwick Rangers,” MacRobert recalls. “I redesigned their badge and there was a lot of history behind it and meaning.

“I told them ‘Your badge is great but it’s been the same for a long time, let’s try to evolve it’. I gave them my reasoning and my thoughts and they were doing it anyway, so they were Totally agree.

“They’re part of this football network, so from there I worked with Raith Rovers. I did their subscription designs and some digital assets for their website and social media, things like that I’m still working a bit with Scottish clubs here and there, it’s been an interesting journey.

A few chance encounters and conversations with the right people later and MacRobert found himself tasked with designing a range of kits for the Cambodian national team on behalf of Varaman. There was a requirement from the start that the strips had to be relevant to the nation’s history and meaningful symbols had to be incorporated into the design.

It was a challenge that thrilled MacRobert, but he admits there remained a nagging fear of a backlash to his ideas.

“In 2018 – the last time they released kits – the idea was to make them cool and exciting,” he explained. “That’s how most teams do it; make it more of a fashion statement rather than something meaningful.

“Varaman’s owner said he wanted something more meaningful to celebrate a lot of different aspects. He was adamant that the home kit was going to be a digital camo design, which is quite unusual. Basically, we doesn’t see much in football.

The National: The Cambodian team wears MacRobert's creations (PHOTO: Pu Vin)The Cambodian team wears MacRobert’s creations (PHOTO: Pu Vin)

“There was a reason for that – camouflage is associated with the military, defending the nation. He said the football team did that too. They fought on the pitch and it was a issue of solidarity, which I thought was a good idea.

“You want to design something meaningful and useful – almost to avoid the backlash. When Leeds changed their crest everyone went crazy and said ‘What is this? This is awful ‘.

“I ended up using Cambodian imagery to create digital camouflage. Things like the shape of the country, I would pixelate it and then move it around the canvas so you couldn’t really tell unless someone told you.

“I probably had a thousand iterations of this design – more blue, less blue, things like that – but eventually we got to a point where we were really happy with it.”

MacRobert needn’t have worried, however, as his designs were very well received.

“The Cambodian team did a Facebook Live stream where they sat down and talked on camera for 10 minutes about what we were trying to do and what it means. They took out each kit one by one and talked of every aspect of it.

“I’ve never seen such a positive reaction to a football kit because fashion is subjective. But Cambodians are very proud and people were saying ‘Wow, this kit has so many stories behind it.’ been taken in the design process and the reaction was really encouraging to see.

The future is bright for MacRobert. A return to Scotland later this year is looming, but in the meantime he will be busy with his work for local Cambodian sides in a league that is beginning to thrive under professionalism.

“Everything is open at the moment,” he added. “I meet with a Cambodian club and they are open to conversation about using my kit designs or designing a new logo.

“The professional football community is young but passionate and there’s a lot of money starting to come in now.

“The Premier League was only launched this year and before it was not a league recognized by FIFA. A lot of clubs are still in their infancy and haven’t thought of more modern designs, so I hope to do some before returning to Scotland later this year.

Frazer’s work can be found at www.clanutd.com and full explanations of the Cambodian national team kit design process can be found here.

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