Mr Shaw - Derby-based brand combines fashion and football

Influence 'S' hoodie from the 'Mr Shaw' range

Influence 'S' hoodie from the 'Mr Shaw' range - Credit: Archant

Fancy wearing a Sadler Gate polo shirt? Kerry Ganly talks to Derby designer Karl Shaw whose menswear brand has its roots in his home city.

Long sleeve crew neck tee - Mr Shaw

Long sleeve crew neck tee - Mr Shaw - Credit: Archant

From the fever pitch surrounding the styles of George Best to Gareth Southgate’s World Cup waistcoat, footballers have always been fashion icons.

Moreover, thanks to the football shirt, fans have been able to show sartorial support for their favourite player or team, both on the terraces and the high street.

Today, the humble football strip has never before held such a high status. They aren’t just the focus of a multi-billion-pound global industry, in 2018 football kits also stand up to the harsh gaze of a fashion critic’s eye.

No one knows this better than Karl Shaw, a lifelong Derby County supporter, and the fusion of fashion and football has allowed him to mix business with pleasure.

Mr Shaw's Influence S T-shirts

Mr Shaw's Influence S T-shirts - Credit: Archant

For graphic designer Karl – who has been running the Derby-based graphic design agency Silver Birch Creative for the last 10 years – has been working with two leading football clubs and helping to drive shirt sales by promoting them as fashion items as well as replica strips.

This reflects Karl’s own interest in the game and also in fashion – his other ‘hat’ is his own online menswear brand, Mr Shaw, with brand ambassadors including former Derby County star Shane Nicholson and RamsTV and ex-BBC Radio Derby presenter, Owen Bradley. Derby midfielder Craig Bryson has also been seen out wearing a Mr Shaw t-shirt.

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‘Fashion and football are more closely linked than ever before,’ said Karl. ‘People are still very much in love with the beautiful game and the World Cup, particularly England’s success, has only added fuel to the fire.

‘Even the fashion powerhouses have embraced the football shirt. Versace brought out its own striped football shirt earlier this year and Louis Vuitton joined in the fun with an official Fifa World Cup Collection.

Reminisce 'R' Tee

Reminisce 'R' Tee - Credit: Archant

‘Sportswear giants Nike have jumped on the bandwagon, too. They recently launched their own kit – Nike FC – which is heavily influenced by street style and made as a fashion item.

‘We are also seeing old international football kits from the 1990s – such as the West German team’s – become cool again. Most, if not all, clubs these days have a third kit. Derby County recently unveiled theirs and there is an emphasis on producing a shirt that will look just as good off the pitch as it does on, there is more of a crossover.

‘With Derby County’s third kit, they have gone for a bit of texture on the body and a light grey colour, which will suit younger fans.’

Karl decided to move Silver Birch Creative into the sports and leisure market after working on the kit launches for Luton Town and Rotherham United. As with most things in the football industry, a new kit launch is a big money and high profile event.

The Silver Birch team - Chris Wright, Karl and Emma Shaw

The Silver Birch team - Chris Wright, Karl and Emma Shaw - Credit: Archant

Karl, who runs Silver Birch with wife Emma and senior designer Chris Wright, said: ‘Long gone are the days when football clubs would launch a new kit with a few pictures of their captain sporting the new shirt.

‘These days the launch of a new kit is akin to a fashion shoot. Club – and fans – expect something edgy, quite cool for a kit launch. At Silver Birch, our job is to give a product or business more of an identity.

‘We understand what the colours mean to a club, the game, and most of all, the fans. They aren’t just wearing football shirts, they are pledging allegiance and support to their boys, come what may. And the kit means even more when your team has just been promoted, as is the case with the Millers and Hatters.

‘It’s great to be involved in football marketing and I’d like to do more kit launches in future.’

Karl, 42, set up Silver Birch during the 2008 recession. The company, which is based on Belper Road in the city, boasts an impressive client list covering a wealth of different sectors ranging from travel ( to education (working with Landau Forte and Derby High School). It has also worked in the motor industry, giving an identity to the likes of Lexus, Inchcape and BAM motor sports, and with Delaware North, which provides hospitality services to Derby County, Charlton Athletic and Premier League newcomers Fulham FC.

However, fashion is Karl’s first love. He created his menswear brand, Mr Shaw, three years ago during a period of ill health. ‘Mr Shaw is my creative release. Three years ago I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease and I ended up having a lot of time off work which gave me the chance to develop the idea of Mr Shaw. When I started, it was a great way to keep my creative juices flowing; free from commercial and client constraints. I had often thought about developing a clothing brand as fashion is a great love of mine and I can’t deny the buzz I get from knowing someone would wear my brand.

‘I love Derby and the city is at the heart of all of my products. Our new range of sweats is called “The Dial” – another iconic place in the city where many a great night was had.’ u

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