Turkey’s national team jerseys, redesigned by Nike every two years with a traditional excitement, stand out this year not only with their appearance but also with a high environmental awareness. The new jerseys, made for both national team players and fans, have been made from %100 recycled polyester. The main ingredient of the high-quality fiber of the jerseys is plastic bottles collected for recycling. The recycled national team jerseys, which will be seen by all football lovers around the world, aim to draw attention to the ongoing climate crisis, sustainability, and recycling.  The fact that Nike, which sets fashion trends, carries an environmentalist vision to its designs that will be seen and worn by large masses, is an example for other global brands. We talked with Nike’s Sustainability Brand Ambassador Ece Gözen and bright players of the national team Berivan İçer and Burak İnce about the new national team jerseys and the promotion of sustainability through football. We dream of a more sustainable world with young people and innovators, join us!

What does football mean to you?

Burak İnce: For me, football is not just a game where I play for 90 minutes on the weekends, it is a profession. I will shape my future through football and that’s why I take my job seriously. If you do something for ten thousand hours, you will be a master of it.  I’m 17, I have many years to master.

Berivan İçen: Football is the leading role in all of the goals I have set for myself in my dreams. My passion for football brought me closer to my national team goals and gave me the opportunity to play in Beşiktaş, which is one of the most respected clubs in Turkey.   I am very happy with football. Football is my future.

As a Gen Z, what do you think about sustainability and recycling?

Burak İnce: The world has always faced great problems. For example, the Spanish flu in the early 1900s, and now Covid-19. In World War I, 6 million civilians lost their lives in 4 years, even though people shot each other with rifles and cannonballs rained on the streets, but Coronavirus claimed 1 million lives in just 6 months. One of the biggest problems of this period is the rapid increase in the negative effects of environmental factors. We consciously or unconsciously help to accelerate these factors. On the one hand, glaciers are melting, on the other, erosion is increasing, the ozone layer is thinning, our world is overheating and the water resources are running low. Pretty soon we’ll be victims of the monster we’ve created. With the influence of the internet, Gen Z is really sensitive about this. In order to make every stage of life sustainable, we ride bicycles more often, use motor vehicles less, and try to use products made of recycled materials. Especially at this point, the recycled jerseys are of great importance in terms of affecting the masses. 

Berivan İçen: I believe that with the increase in recycling and products made from sustainable materials, all production opportunities will become sustainable.

Why is it important for you to wear a recycled national team jersey at the European Championship and World Cup?

Burak İnce: I never see this topic as just 100, 500 jerseys made out of recycled material. It’s a change of understanding. An act that will increase the awareness of the masses. Yeah, maybe you won’t buy a recycled jersey, but you’ll use what you’ve learned here in life or somewhere else. When the Native American Chief Seattle said, “Only when the last tree has been cut down, the last fish been caught, and the last stream poisoned, will we realize we cannot eat money”, he actually emphasized today’s point many years ago.  I believe everyone has something to do before the last river is poisoned. 

Berivan İçen: Every jersey with a star and a crescent on it is precious to me, but I am excited to be wearing recycled jerseys at the European Championship and World Cup.

How do you like the new national team collection? Are there any pieces that you can combine with your everyday style?

Burak İnce:  There are colors and models identified with each country or team. When you see the jersey from a distance, you recognize it, even if it doesn’t have a coat of arms on the front.  Barcelona or Paris Saint Germain have these characteristics. I think the Turkish National Team jersey is very impressive in the modernized form of a design that has been going on for decades. Carrying the star and the crescent on your chest, what could be more sublime than that? Apart from the jerseys, Windrunner is something that everyone can easily wear. And the hat too.  

Berivan İçen: I found this year’s national team collection more meaningful and beautiful. There are functional products that I can combine with my everyday style. 

When you shop, do you think about what substance the outfit you’re wearing is made of or the construction process, or the impact on the environment?

Burak Ince: Recently, with the influence of social media, everyone is shopping more consciously.  Everything in nature has a water footprint. For example, I know that a total of 140 liters of water are consumed throughout the journey of a cup of coffee, starting from the production process to your cup.  That’s a terrible number. My suggestion to people is that they do more research on the carbon footprint and the water footprint and live their lives accordingly. At Altınordu, we receive continuous training on this and change and adjust our consumption in line with this. 

Berivan İçen: I buy what I like, but I don’t buy more than I need. I try to control the content of the products and buy organic products such as %100 cotton. 

What responsibilities does being a national team player bring? How do you want to be a role model for the young people who follow you?

Burak Ince:  The main motto of Altınordu is “Good Individual, Good Citizen, Good Footballer”. It may sound like a simple six-word slogan when you first read it. But actually “staying good ” is very difficult. It requires continuity. It’s not enough to be good once, you always have to be good and make it sustainable. I’m also very young and I’m at the beginning of the road, but my biggest advice to those preparing to start the journey is that they learn to be good people first. A good human respects humans, nature, and the environment.

Berivan İçen: It’s an incredible feeling to wear the national jersey. Not just for yourself, but for the coat of arms on your chest. You have to do your best for the hundreds of people who want to be in your place. I’d like to set the best example for them. I want them to say “I want to be like him, or even better than him” when they see me.  I want to be a role model with my behavior, not just on the field, but off the field.

Fans’ jerseys will also be made from 100% recycled polyester fabric. How do you think the inclusion of football fans as well as the national team in this ecological movement creates awareness?

Burak İnce: As I said earlier, this can trigger a social movement. Unfortunately, we are in a society that doesn’t read much, and as a country, our agenda is changing very quickly. So we have to talk about recycling more, make people see it in every corner. 

Berivan İçen: The consciousness of recycling will be increased. 

It is up to us, as much as brands, to protect the future of sport and football. What do you do about it?

Burak Ince: I don’t just look at this as the future of sport and football. The future of the world we live in is more important than anything else. As long as we live in a healthy world, we can bring sports and football to a healthy future. For this reason, it is up to me, the clubs, the brands, everyone who lives on earth. Everyone must first keep their own circle clean. Beauty will save the world, let’s always remember that.

Berivan İçen: We need to work harder and progress.  It is necessary to inspire the next generations and further increase the awareness of families. To succeed, we have to be fundamentally durable.  We need to be able to train good athletes at an early age and support families that are trying to provide that for them. 

What innovations do you imagine will be made in the national team jersey, which will be redesigned by Nike in two years? How are the global trends shaping sportswear?

Burak Ince: Nike’s touch on the national team jersey has raised people’s feelings of belonging, especially recently. For me, the national jersey means complete belonging. The national jersey is actually a part of this land.  So for this reason, the new jerseys maybe about our land, about the water we need to protect, or the air we need to maintain.  We can further strengthen the movement that started on behalf of the environment through the national team jersey.

Berivan İçen: Now almost everyone buys performance-oriented products made from high-quality, lightweight materials. Currently, global trends continue to damage nature. We need to be more sensitive about using natural sources. 

What’s next for you?

Burak Ince: I owe things to Altınordu, where I was raised. First I will pay it off. Then my dream is to play in the top leagues of Europe, like Çağlar Söyüncü and Cengiz Ünder. The children of Turkey have the ability to achieve this. Çağlar, Cengiz, and the Turkish youth playing in Europe proved this. Now it’s our turn to continue. 

Berivan İçen:  I want to be permanent in the national team. I really want to be a coach in the future, because I don’t want to break away from football. I’d still like to be in football off the field, if not on the field. It would be an incredible feeling to contribute to the progress of a lot of young people and to their lives.

You were featured as the sustainability brand ambassador in the campaign shots of Nike’s national team jersey, made from recycled plastic bottles. What does this mean to you?

Ece Gözen: First of all, we all know that the textile sector is one of the most polluting industries in the world with its production and post-production processes. We see numbers almost every day on how much water is spent producing textiles and ready-to-wear products, toxic gases emitted into the atmosphere and toxic materials pollute the environment. However, when Nike came to me with this project, I was very happy to see that one of the global fashion industry leaders “taking the hit” for the first time.  I find it very valuable for Nike to adopt a sustainable perspective on the fashion of the future, to show it concretely on the national team jersey, and to appoint me the sustainability brand ambassador to highlight this action. As a part of the Nike family, I also believe that when it is necessary to do useful work for the world, it must be a collective and unifying force. Because when I founded the Gozen Institute as an institution working for a sustainable world and human life, I knew that we could make change possible only by designing and growing together with collective effort and interdisciplinary work. For this reason, the fact that the environmental vision of the future carried by both me and Nike is embodied in the national team jerseys as a collective field is very significant, as it also emphasizes the unifying power of the sport.

Why the fact that recycled national team jerseys will be worn at the World Cup is important to you?

Ece Gözen: I think that each of us should take responsibility and share it for a more sustainable future. Nike’s national team jerseys, made from recycled plastic bottles, are also a very important step in making recycling and sustainable solutions available worldwide and opening up space for it. Given that the World Cup is watched by billions of people of all ages, the fact that there is a jersey with an emphasis on sustainability on the field will undoubtedly allow every person to think about sustainability, regardless of geographical boundaries, status, age, religion, race, gender. By raising awareness of sustainability, instead of consuming it, we should at least be talking about transforming what we have for today and new production methods for the future.

Nike’s reflection of its mission of environmental awareness in a traditional national team jersey also highlights the transformation in the sports world. How do you see the impact of sport on environmental awareness?  

Ece Gözen: I believe that sport increases our empathy and dialogue with the environment and the world we are in while strengthening the relationship between body and mind. If we cannot provide a sustainable world, our connection with the world will be weakened by increasing problems such as biodiversity extinction, resource depletion, the climate crisis, and the pandemic we are now facing. So, sport has a deep relationship with environmental sensitivity, Nike is leading the world of sports with its environmental vision and its brand transformation is happening at every stage. 

Fans’ jerseys will also be made from 100% recycled polyester fabric. How do you think the inclusion of football fans as well as the national team in this ecological movement creates awareness? 

Ece Gözen: The fact that the 100% recycled jerseys are available to the masses on a wide scale and that both the team and the fans are part of this important experience makes this a complete teamwork.  We cannot leave responsibility for the sustainable future of our world to one side, we are all part of it, and the experience and contribution of each of us are very valuable. At the same time, it is very important to show that ‘sustainability’, which has always been seen as a concept, can be possible even in a product that has become so traditional, in the sense of raising awareness.

How do you evaluate the stand of Generations Y, Z, and Alpha on sustainability? What do you think about the recognition and implementation of the ‘Green Movement’, led by these generations, by a brand like Nike? 

Ece Gözen: Generations Y, Z, and Alpha are born and raised in a socioeconomically chaotic environment, a world where all kinds of consumption are increasingly excessive and resources are used unconsciously. As they read news such as “We have X years of water supply left” or  “We have entered the age of pandemics,”  they unite and take action against the current broken order, perceiving that they will inherit a filthy environment and a bad order. I agree because the future is entrusted to the youth. We are all responsible for building the world that young people want to live in, supporting the projects they produce, and responding to their calls to legacy them a better future.  As a member of Generation Y, I took my responsibility by establishing the Gozen Institute, which is the first and only in Turkey in this context, working for a sustainable world of biotechnology, art and design, and human life. By producing sustainable bio-materials that respect resources in our laboratory at the Gozen Institute, we provide added value to both the future and our country, and we open the way for my generation and generations after me who want to move forward on this path.  When we look at the issue from this point of view, I find our cooperation with Nike very valuable. Other brands should also take after Nike’s sensitive approach to sports, youth, and the environment because values are created together. The future is for all of us and a better future exists in a more sustainable world.

How will future consumer habits in the fashion and textile sector change with the impact of sustainability?

Ece Gözen: The future is now and consumer habits have already begun to change. Lİke I said earlier, we observe that “slow fashion” is of increasing importance, especially with the new generation’s awareness of environmental sensitivity and ethical production. A new generation, including me, now knows that every movement has a choice and a result. Each of us has now begun to question by who, where and under what conditions the products we buy are produced and from which materials or whether the ingredients that damage the world are used during the production process. Especially with the disclosure of brands that do not pay their employees and violate their rights, harm the environment and nature, we set our purchasing preferences with a collective consciousness. The impact of social media is also great at this point, ‘when a butterfly flaps its wings somewhere in the world’ its wind now reaches us in a matter of seconds. So the brands have to be transparent and prepared for such a consumer.

So, what else do you want to change in the sports sector in the sense of being more environmentally sensitive and sustainable? 

Ece Gözen: Nike’s recycled polyester national team jerseys are actually a very important beginning of a hopeful change for the sports sector. Although recycled products are a good solution to save the present, to save the future we can no longer produce more plastic and synthetic products. In fact, at Gozen Institute, we are working exactly for the future. The future lies in biomaterials, textiles grown in the laboratory environment, and products designed from them. In this sense, I am very happy to be a pioneer of this in my country.

What innovations do you imagine will be made in the national team jersey, which will be redesigned by Nike in two years? How are the global trends shaping sportswear? 

Ece Gözen: The world is on the verge of a huge change, we need to question and restructure our perception, our ways of life, and consumption. Globally, we can observe this change in terms of brands, we need to reevaluate our resources, waste, and the technologies we develop. I would say that even food waste, which we call garbage, was a great inspiration for us when we produced our biomaterials. I am very hopeful that these changes will be captured by the sports sector thanks to Nike’s vision for the future and mission of environmental awareness.

What’s next for you? What are your short-and long-term plans?   

Ece Gözen: At Gozen Institute, we are producing new biomaterials of the sustainable future at the intersection of biotechnology, art, and design, where we take responsibility for the future and question our choices at every stage. Textiles that we produce with living organisms in a slower process, not fast production, are materials that have a certain life cycle, are with you during their use, decompose biologically at the end of their life and return to nature as a source. Thus, we grow textiles that are compatible with the rhythm and cyclicity of nature. So, we also collaborate with global brands that are involved in the vision of a sustainable future and embrace change. Our future goal is to bring people from different disciplines together to conduct interdisciplinary research and production at the Gozen Institute and to develop bio-products and solutions for various sectors from micro to macro. All our work is about understanding and preserving what is in nature. Our greatest inspiration and all the information is present in nature and the universe we live in. We just need to be a little more understanding and aware.

So, when will we start using biomaterials that you, Gozen Institute, have developed? Is there really a market for it in the world?

Ece Gözen: The use of biotechnology in everyday life has actually existed for many years, but we as consumers perhaps don’t notice it that much. Biotechnology is used in agriculture, in energy processes or, to share a more substantial example, it is used for the enzyme of the bread on your table. Looking at its reflections in textiles, yes, we are making our way in a relatively new area. But this market is growing rapidly, and you can see its examples in textile biomaterials, which are the result of cooperation between global brands/designers and the biotechnology laboratory. So, very soon biotech-based textiles will be used in an industrial sense, gradually finding their place in the sector. For example, the vegan leather market is estimated to be worth $89.6 billion by 2025. At this stage, investments are actually being made in R&D and intellectual and industrial property rights in the background, so institutions such as Gozen Institute are taking their position in the market and developing their rights protection and investment strategies. By completing this process in a short time, we anticipate that we will see biotech-based textiles that we can wear on an industrial scale on shelves in 5 years. As we see these products on the shelves, the transformation will take place so quickly that it will be difficult to remember the version before it, just like what happened when smartphones entered our lives.