Inside the Alpecin-Deceuninck kit design meeting

A double-denim delight, or something more sinister?

Iain Treloar
by Iain Treloar 21.02.2024 Photography by
Cor Vos, G Star Raw, Alpecin, Deceuninck, Kalas, and Phillipp Pilz (Unsplash)
More from Iain +

SCENE: Interior of a slick marketing office on the fringe of the Brussels CBD, all slick polished concrete floors, high ceilings, and exposed beams. Edison light bulbs dangle from wires above the boardroom table. The boardroom has abstract art on the walls and a high-end smartboard at one end. Sitting around the table are LOUIS, the managing director of the firm; JOOP, its senior designer, a lifelong cycling fan; and CHAD, a junior marketing assistant from Australia who has ended up in Belgium after splitting from his longterm girlfriend and moving to Europe for a tryst with a backpacker that stuck. 

All three are wearing variations of smart casual: LOUIS in a button-up shirt and fitted jeans with Eddy Merckx trainers, JOOP in thick-rimmed glasses and a little beanie that doesn’t cover his ears, and CHAD in an oversized Imagine Dragons T-shirt and crisp new skate shoes. 

On the smartboard is a design deck from THE CLIENT, humourless cycling team Alpecin-Deceuninck. 

LOUIS: [swipes a hand to move the smartboard to the next slide, then claps hands together loudly, startling a visibly hungover Chad] OK, so this is a big one: Alpecin-Deceuninck have approached us to design their kit for the 2024 season, and they want something that will get people talking.

CHAD: No doubt, no doubt.

LOUIS: There is some design language they want us to pursue, but it’s very important that we see this as inspiration only. [swipes hand again]

A moodboard flashes up. On it are pictures of a rudely-European pair of jeans; a bottle of Alpecin caffeinated shampoo; a picture of a wolfpack; a picture of angry Belgian man Patrick Lefevere; a PVC window frame. It is a motley assortment. 

A moodboard featuring overlaid images of a man with a denim shirt holding a bottle of shampoo, a snarling wolf, a pair of unfortunate looking jeans, a windowframe and Patrick Lefevere. In red across the top left is a note reading 'COMMERCIAL IN CONFIDENCE'

CHAD: Can we just put all of those on the bike shirt? 

LOUIS: This is more … conceptual. 

JOOP: [steeples fingers] What I see is an homage to the sponsors, to the sport, to the beauty of the bicycle …

CHAD: And how does that grumpy old bastard give you that? 

JOOP: He is only Belgian cycling’s greatest icon.   

CHAD: Looks like my misso’s dad, haha. Tell ya bloody what, handshake like a vice, that guy. Not a fan of The Chad at all …

[brief terse silence as Joop and Louis ponder this interjection]

LOUIS: How would you stitch this all together, Joop? 

JOOP: So I see the denim, I see the logos, I see the windowframe. Conceptually we need to be bold – a Deceuninck logo as a window to victory. An Alpecin logo as a nod to the caffeinated energy that cycling transmits. And the denim – this is something very special.

CHAD: [puffs cheeks out, visibly exhausted]

JOOP: So we can take these touchpoints and make something that is both unique and an expression of Alpecin-Deceuninck’s love of the sport.

LOUIS: Can we do this without blatantly copying at least two other cycling kits? 

JOOP: Surely. Let me show you. 

Joop busies himself with his tablet and stylus, pulling together a few reference points. One is the Carrera cycling team kit. Another is the Soudal-Quickstep kit. He holds up the tablet to show a sceptical Louis and wide-eyed Chad.

Another moodboard, featuring shots of Marco Pantani in Carrera kit, Claudio Chiapucci descending recklessly in Careera kit, and tractor enthusiast Yves Lampaert in Soudal Quickstep kit. Again, it says 'Commercial in confidence' on the top left.

JOOP: So we blend this. 

He opens an Adobe Illustrator file and taps away for one minute, two tops. He is a flurry of dragged-and-dropped PNGs. He then casts it to the smartboard.   

Render of new Alpecin Deceuninck kit, which looks exactly like a blend of Soudal-Quickstep and Carrera kits.

JOOP: It is just a render, but … voilà

LOUIS: This is the same thing. 

JOOP: It is homage

LOUIS: Joop, it is plagiarism. 

JOOP: It fills the brief from the client. It is cheeky. It is irreverent. It is timeless. 

LOUIS: There is nothing cheeky about Alpecin-Deceuninck, Joop. Christoph Roodhooft hasn’t smiled in years. The most personality anyone on the team has shown is Mathieu van der Poel doing a shit at Worlds, and then growing a mullet. And I’m pretty sure both of those were accidents.

CHAD: That’s pretty cooked, hey. 

JOOP: But this is the genius! You remember Patrick Lefevere? 

LOUIS: [seeing Chad’s confusion] The grumpy man from earlier. 

JOOP: We kill two birds with one stone. Tactical superiority for Alpecin-Deceuninck, because they can use Soudal-QuickStep’s leadout unnoticed, and brand recognition when Lefevere complains about the kit every column in Het Nieuwsblad. 

LOUIS: And don’t you think that people will notice that we have literally just blended two other kits? It is appropriation … 

JOOP: It is interpolation.

LOUIS: Fine. How many billable hours? 

JOOP: Bill them for two weeks. 

Chad splutters.

LOUIS: [gives an approving nod] And this is why you’re the best in the biz. 

CHAD: Work hard play hard, amirite? [rises from desk, throwing a shaka] Beers for tha bois?

What did you think of this story?