Making Women Visible in Football Culture: SEASON Zine Founder, Felicia Pennant
SEASON is a trailblazing London football and fashion platform and magazine that counters the male, pale and sometimes stale state of modern football culture. Founder and editor-in-chief, Felicia Pennant, created SEASON in 2016 with the hope of shifting the male-orientated coverage and celebrating female fandom and women in football creatively. Today, SEASON counts a huge following of loyal readers, patiently awaiting their eighth issue - and not to mention sport giants Nike, Adidas, and Puma as collaborators. Here, Felicia tells us about the catalysts that drove her to produce the magazine, the mark she wants SEASON to make on modern football culture, as well as some insights into their next issue.
Hi Felicia! So first things first - who do you support?
Hey! I’m a Chelsea fan. They’re my local club, being from South-West London myself, and I’ve been supporting them since 2004. It’s been fifteen years of trophy highs, managerial and player lows (cough Kepa in the 2019 Carabao Cup final), a 10th finish, so many club legends including Lampard, our manager, Mourinho Spurs’ manager and Ancelotti Everton’s manager. Plus three European trophies. Basically anything but boring and now there’s a successful women’s team to support at the same time.
Can you tell us a bit about SEASON and how it was birthed?
SEASON launched in 2016 to counter the fact the modern football culture is male, pale and sometimes stale by celebrating and empowering female fans (whether they play or not); and exploring the evolving interplay between football, fashion and personal style. It’s a cross between a football fanzine and a fashion magazine spanning biannual print issues and original football stickers, a podcast, events and more. We’re a community and a creative platform. We tell football and fashion stories (always one, sometimes both) that showcase, celebrate and empower female fans whether they play or not while unpacking important issues, dispelling stereotypes, emphasising inclusivity and collaborating with exciting creative talent.
"When you googled ‘female football fans’: objectified and sexualised women without a voice would come up. Very few women of colour either. This didn’t reflect me or any of the female fans I know."
SEASON exists because as wonderful as football coverage is, and it’s come so far in the nearly four years since SEASON started, it’s still very male-orientated and lacking inclusivity. When you googled ‘female football fans’: objectified and sexualised women without a voice would come up. Very few women of colour either. This didn’t reflect me or any of the female fans I know. Over the course of my career I’ve met creative women like me who were also into football and fashion, and realised there was nothing really celebrating, targeting and expressing our opinions. It felt and sometimes still feels like a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’ as female fans (and players) are more visible but are still generally overlooked and unrepresented in football culture.
I wanted to change the overall narrative and perception and fill a gap by documenting and celebrating female fandom and women in football creatively while combining my two main interests; fashion and football. A printed zine, as a bookworm, magazine worm and a NCTJ qualified journalist with years of creative fashion experience, felt like the ideal platform for me to do this.
SEASON marries football and fashion. What do you believe to be the most significant football and fashion moments in football history?
The 2018 Nigeria kit for sure: the design was bold and distinctive but still so easy to wear. I’m half-Nigerian myself so I felt extra connected to a kit that transcended football and become a cult fashion item. Beyond that, George Best’s shop in the 60s with Mike Summerbee where they were using their fame to sell clothes, which many a young football is trying to do now e.g. Jesse Lingard. Then footballers modelling underwear in the 90s and 00s - from David James to Freddie Ljungberg to Cristiano Ronaldo, the David Beckham phenomenon where he became a bonafide clothes horse and appeared in countless editorials and campaigns. Then for the women in football, the fact that Nike designed bespoke kits for teams at the 2019 Women’s World Cup was a step forward in carving a separate identity and aesthetic for the women’s national team, away from the men’s, and by default for female fans. Going forward, as sustainability is a key concern globally, I reckon up-cycled football gear, already being pioneered by designers like Paoline Russo and Priya Ahluwalia, will rise in significance.
What frustrates you most about football culture today and how have you used SEASON to shed light on it?
Women are more visible and represented but there is still a lack of inclusivity and certain issues are being glossed over by those in power and privilege. SEASON is a creative platform where we find new and enlightening angles about certain issues and address ones not being heard elsewhere. Like racism with an Eni Aluko and Jeanette Kwakye cover feature in issue 05 and Raheem Sterling think piece in issue 06, sexism via an offside rule feature and low cut women’s football shirt beat in issue 01, ageism by celebrating the old girls in the game with a ‘Nan Fans’ feature in issue 06 and shared real ‘soccer mom’ experiences is issue 03, homophobia for female players in issue 03 and much more.
Another thing is the fact it needs to be acknowledged that some men are very supportive to women’s football and women in football, to break up this battle of the genders rhetoric - something we’ve started doing in the ‘He for She’ feature from SEASON 05. Men have been supportive of SEASON and active in our space from day one and as men are still football’s majority, they need to be on board for real change and parity in football to happen and continued growth.
"Going forward, as sustainability is a key concern globally, I reckon up-cycled football gear, already being pioneered by designers like Paoline Russo and Priya Ahluwalia, will rise in significance."
SEASON differs from many other football publications on the shelf in so far as that each issue focuses around a particular theme (i.e love, money, religion). Why did you decide to structure it in this particular way and how is each theme determined?
Well, this only came about in issue 02 (the theme was Paris as it was made during Euro 2016) as there was only meant to be one originally, ‘The Female Fan’. It just made sense to operate around a theme that felt most pertinent (as there is so much that could be covered) at the time. Timely so you can hone in on current topics and talking points, but also evergreen so the issue will still be relevant for years to come. For issue 03 the theme was ‘Love’, 04 was ‘Money’, 05 was ‘Religion’ (to also link to the 2018 World Cup which has been likened to a football pilgrimage), and 06 was ‘Community’.
What’s the most important story you believe SEASON has told?
The Jeanette Kwakye and Eni Aluko cover feature in issue 05 where you see a different side to two inspiring black successful women in sport who talk candidly about their experiences over the years. You don’t see enough black women in this context publicly. You get more of an insight into how Aluko handled her appalling treatment at the hands of Mark Sampson and the FA, as she has the space to tell her story and we shot that at her house. This was before her book, before Raheem Sterling starting speaking up about racism, and really highlighted the double standards and hypocrisies of being both a woman and black in football. Besides personally relating to it, it was something I felt other people needed to hear from them directly, and it’s interesting that it felt like Aluko was erased from the Lionesses’ recent history this summer.
From researching, to talking to people, to design and print, creating your publication must be quite an extensive process. How long does the entire process usually take and what are the greatest rewards / challenges along the way?
Haha, it varies and changes each time given we all work on SEASON around full jobs and personal projects, and the page count is increasing. On average about 3-4 months. The greatest rewards are seeing ideas and features come to life, being able to feature and collaborate with an exciting network of international talent and creatives like photographers Jane Stockade, Flora Maclean and Luke & Nik, writers Kelsey Lee Jones, Gabrielle Kirchner and Kate Lloyd, and illustrators Charlotte Trounce and Ray Dhunna. Challenges always revolve around being as productive and resourceful as possible with a limited budget and timeframe but we make it work! My team is awesome.
‘Zines’ are usually thought of as lo-fi, photocopier booklets - but SEASON is very slick and elegantly designed. Can you tell us a little more about the rationale behind the team’s design choices?
By ‘zine’, we mean the publication is a cross between a football fanzine and fashion magazine. To draw football’s rich history of fan-made publications and Panini stickers but elevate it with an editorial and creative aesthetic. The stickers tucked in the back of each issue are based on contributors' favourite players and can be stuck throughout, adding a fun interactive element. To make something physical, beautiful and considered in our digital age - we’ve grown from sixty something pages and staples to over a hundred and a spine. The design and content get more experimental with each issue and each designer (Natalie Doto, Nathan Matthews, Miltos Bottis, Caitlin Clancy and Callum Stephenson) puts their own spin on it. Besides stickers, we’ve done other inserts - a nail art one in collaboration with Wah nails in issue 03 and for issue 06 we produced a directory insert to go with it featuring the people and projects we admire.
"Men have been supportive of SEASON and active in our space from day one and as men are still football’s majority, they need to be on board for real change and parity in football to happen and continued growth."
Issue 08 is soon to drop. Can you give us any insights as to what readers can expect?
We put a call out on Instagram for pitches and submissions based on the theme: nature vs nurture. You can take it however you want to but I've asked people to think outside of the box and obviously there needs to be a link to women in football and/or fashion and personal style. It's open!
Finally, as our name suggests, here at Mantra we’re curious about what keeps our favourite creatives driven and pushing forward. What’s your personal mantra, Felicia?
Be the change you want to see.