Arizona football jerseys find new life in apparel designed by students

University of Arizona students model clothing and accesories from REPLAY Arizona, a vintage fashion line

University of Arizona undergraduate students Erika Gay (right) and Jade Butcher model clothing and accessories from the Arizona Replay clothing line, which incorporates retired UArizona football jerseys and thrifted clothing.

Drew Bourland/University of Arizona Marketing and Brand Management

With scissors in hand, University of Arizona students cut through retired Wildcat football jerseys, waiting for inspiration to strike. Their finished designs will serve as inspiration for Arizona Replay, a clothing line that transforms retired football uniforms and thrifted items into one-of-a-kind garments and accessories.

The clothing line is the result of a collaboration between UArizona Marketing and Brand Management and the Norton School of Human Ecology, which offers a major in fashion industry's science and technology. The clothing for the line is designed by students in the Norton School's Apparel Production class, held in the spring.

Recognizing the value of retired athletic uniforms, Elizabeth Heuisler, an assistant professor of practice in the Norton School, started the class in 2019 with a mission to provide students with a deeper understanding of how to create well-fitting, appealing garments and how to market them to the correct audience.

Students in the class learn to design, craft and produce clothing.

Vintage denim jacket with authentic retired University of Arizona football jersey numberand skirt made from jersey

The Arizona Replay clothing line originates with designs from UArizona students, and is refined by alumnus Marc Herman for production.

Drew Bourland/University of Arizona Marketing and Brand Management

"This class is a really great experience for students, even if they're not going into the fashion industry," Heuisler said. "I want the students to see that designing clothing is more than knowing what looks good. It's hard work, and I want students to realize that there aren't a bunch of elves that come in every night and make clothing; it all has to be physically cut and sewn and created."

In addition to designing clothing, students spend the semester learning about the various equipment used in clothing production, the importance of effective product presentation, how to source high-quality materials, and the fashion industry's environmental impact and sustainability efforts.

Every summer, after the Apparel Production class wraps, Heuisler sends a box of student prototypes to Marc Herman, a UArizona alumnus who graduated from the Eller College of Management in 1985 with a Bachelor of Science in finance. Herman is the chief business development officer for Blue 84, a wholesale supplier of custom-designed apparel and accessories. Once he receives student prototypes, he begins the process of moving them into production. While the finished products may not match the students' designs exactly, Herman uses the prototypes as a guide.

After Herman conceptualizes the final products, each garment is hand-stitched by his longtime collaborator, Graciela Valle, using athletic apparel supplied by the university and thrifted vintage apparel collected by Herman since the 1990s.

While Herman acknowledges that thrifting is by no means a new phenomenon, he says the practice has gained more widespread appeal in recent decades.

"Consumers are way past the idea of looking at something as a used garment," he said. "They just want something they can enjoy, and the whole thrift scene is about being cool, helping the world with sustainability, and the fun search-and-find aspect. There are also so many styles from years ago that are just more appealing than what you can buy in a store now."

From football to fashion

Throughout the semester, students in the Apparel Production class hear presentations from industry professionals like Herman, who said his own career started during his time at UArizona in the '80s when he launched his first apparel company, Kiwi Surf. He went on to found Original Retro Brand and has previously worked with the university on official merchandise.

"One of the best things about the University of Arizona is the diversity of the students," Herman said. "The connections I made at the university helped make a successful venture."

Gina D'Onofrio, a junior who completed the Apparel Production class in May, works for Heuisler in the Norton School's sewing lab. D'Onofrio said she immediately connected with the idea behind Arizona Replay and the Apparel Production class.

"In the age of fast fashion, it's nice to be taking the clothes that are just sitting around and actually using them to make something," D'Onofrio said. "You learn so much in this class, not just about sewing and making garments. You have to make a presentation and sell your product, too."

D'Onofrio and her classmates were given the task of creating dozens of designs for jersey-based clothing and accessories from their own sketches or magazine clippings. Heuisler said she stresses to students the importance of designing apparel for people other than themselves, taking into consideration different body types and age groups.

With approved designs in hand, students sorted retired Wildcat football jerseys to find materials for their designs. Over the course of the semester, they created everything from halter tops to sweatpants by cutting, stitching and sewing their way through jerseys, and using locally thrifted clothes to create prototypes.

Arizona Replay clothing line handbag made from authentic University of Arizona football jersey

In addition to clothing, the Arizona Replay line includes accessories like handbags fashioned entirely from football jerseys.

Drew Bourland/University of Arizona Marketing and Brand Management

"The best part about the class is when they get the jerseys," Heuisler said. "You see them standing over all these clothes, and they're just frozen. I bring everyone together, get scissors and just start cutting and looking at the pieces. Before long, the students are cutting everything up and making things. I liken it to sharks in a feeding frenzy."

Arizona Replay made its first public appearance as a pop-up shop on campus during the 2022 UArizona Homecoming, and a second during the men's basketball home game against Arizona State University in January. Students from the Apparel Production class worked at both events, gaining hands-on experience with customers. Arizona Replay clothing is only sold in pop-up shops at this time. The next one is planned for this year's Homecoming football game on Nov. 4.  A portion of sales are reinvested in Norton School students.