Cassidy Sepnieski had never done something like it before, but her options were thin and the clock was ticking. It was now or never.
It was January, and Madison was blanketed by snow. Sepnieski left work early and drove to a hardware store. A shot in the dark.
What happened next led to the creation of a jersey like no other. This is the story of how Forward Madison’s 2020 alternate jersey came to be.
Forward Madison designer Cassidy Sepnieski created the Flamingos' new alternate kit. | Photo by Justin Nuoffer
Cassidy Sepnieski, who works for Forward Madison as a graphic designer, hit it big in the Flamingos’ inaugural year. Working with a small cadre of staff members at the startup club’s headquarters, she helped craft an inaugural set of jerseys that set the American soccer world alight.
First, there was the blue-and-white home kit, which drew inspiration from Madison’s isthmus. Then, there was the pink flamingo goalkeeper kit, which was initially slated to stay off shelves, but became so popular that the club gave in to demand and sold hundreds of them.
But the crown jewel in Sepnieski’s collection was undoubtedly Forward Madison’s 2019 alternate jersey, a pink-patterned stunner which at least one outlet named the best kit in the world.
After an impressive first season, though, Sepnieski knew there would be a Herculean task ahead of her.
“Everyone loved our third kit from last year and we were all kind of riding pretty high off of that,” she said. “The fire got lit when everyone started saying that we could never beat it. It was like, ‘Why not? Why can’t we beat it?’”
Forward Madison set a high standard in its first season, creating an alternate kit that SiriusXM FC listeners dubbed the best in world soccer. | Photo by Justin Nuoffer
Forward Madison had set a high bar to reach. Yet in 2020, Sepnieski, along with Director of Merchandising Chase Eagan and Director of Fan Engagement Kuba Krzyzostaniak, wanted to try something else.
“When we started planning for 2020 kits, Chase, Kuba and I had completely different directions,” Sepnieski said. “Once we got the samples of that from our providers, we realized that we needed to pivot and look at something a little different: a little new-wave and a little more ‘street.’”
Over the course of the Flamingos’ first year, Eagan had shifted the tone of Forward Madison’s merchandise to match the club’s fledgling identity. As the team shaped its fun-loving, playful brand, Eagan introduced brighter colors and more fluid motion into Forward’s clothing lines.
“Chase has a really great vision,” Sepnieski said. “He envisions how he wants his merch lines to look. He does a great job of creating this cohesive collection while adding in new ideas.”
On the flipside, changes in Forward Madison’s overall design meant Sepnieski had to adapt when creating the team’s new set of jerseys. Although she had been given a reprieve from making a new home kit (which stayed the same) and away kit (designed this year by supporters), the alternate kit still loomed large, a hulking, frightening figure in the distance.
After creating what can only be described as an iconic design in her first go, Sepnieski said the pressure of a repeat performance weighed on her.
“I had spent weeks tossing out different ideas that all fell flat,” she said. ”It felt like I needed a refresh.”
Forward Madison designer Cassidy Sepnieski went through dozens of potential designs (and Post-It Notes) before settling on the Drip Kit. | Photo by Jason Klein
With just about a month to go until Forward Madison needed to finalize a design for its manufacturer, hummel, Sepnieski sat down with Eagan and Krzyzostaniak again. They looked through dozens of jerseys for inspiration, trying to figure out what made each one stand out.
Ideas trickled out like a slow-moving stream, picking up speed as each kit flashed across the screen. The colors coalesced. The designs poured into Sepnieski’s consciousness, and an idea hit her.
“I went straight to a craft store,” she said. “I knew this was something that needed a different kind of approach than going straight to the computer, which is what I normally do. I actually went a more traditional route. I grabbed a bunch of paints, I grabbed a bunch of spray paints, because we knew we wanted to execute something a little bit different.”
Sepnieski had taken some physical art classes in college, but her professional career had consisted of work done almost exclusively on a laptop. After weeks of frustration, though, this was the time to try something different.
“I went home and I just started experimenting,” she said.
Cassidy Sepnieski used a technique called hydro dipping, which involves dunking a canvas in a mixture of paint and water, to design Forward Madison's new jersey. | Photo by Cassidy Sepnieski
Sepnieski used a technique called hydro dipping, which she had seen online. She set up a tub in her kitchen, filled it with water, and sprayed frothy blues and fluorescent pinks directly into it.
“I didn’t know if this was going to work, but it felt like something different and something that could inspire something better,” she said. “I plugged in some headphones and I ran with it.”
The paint floated calmly on the surface. Sepnieski stirred it with a butter knife, creating waves and currents, unrecognizable patterns in the water. Finally, she picked up a canvas and dipped it into the mixture.
All told, Sepnieski went through nearly 10 canvases, trying to implement a street art style of hydro dipping that would produce the bright colors and motion she had picked up on during the brainstorming session with Eagan and Krzyzostaniak.
At last, she chose one that was just right.
On May 23, Forward Madison revealed its new alternate kit to the public.
The jersey itself bubbles blue at its base, with light, foamy patches seeping out onto the foreground. The kit’s defining feature may be its splashes of pink and navy, which ripple across the shirt, synchronised but defying pattern.
The design comes directly from Sepnieski’s canvas, digitized and then sublimated onto the kit.
“I was really excited to see the final product come out the way it did,” she said. “It wears so well on people. It’s something that makes you stop and look.”
A jersey months in the making, the “Drip Kit” is finally here. And for Sepnieski, it is her latest masterpiece.
The 'Drip Kit' has arrived, covered in spray paint and glory. | Photo by Will Jenkins