Design is woven into the fabric of what we do here at Stolen Goat, and each season our designer Trevor will usually present us with an incredible hand-drawn jersey design along with all of the other stunning graphics, stripes and gradient fades he manages to conjure up season after season. Long-term Goat fans will have spotted a clear Japanese-inspired influence in these hand-drawn pieces. From the ‘Hanzo’ and ‘Gojira’ designs in 2021 and the ‘Osaka‘ design in Spring 22, to the in-store exclusive ‘Sakura‘ design released at the end of last year, and most recently the stunning Onna design. These intricately detailed designs, inspired by myths, legends and science fiction, have soon become cult favourites amongst the Stolen Goat Herd.

We caught up with our designer, Trevor, to find out where his passion for Japanese-inspired art and design came from, how he transforms his initial drawings into cycling jersey designs and to learn more about the inspiration behind the latest Onna jerseys and accessories – our first design to feature a design inspired by female Samurai warriors.

Read on to find out how Trevor first became interested in Japanese art and culture and why creating a cycling jersey is a bit like designing a tattoo sleeve…

From inspiration to ink strokes: Trevor discusses the story behind our Japanese-inspired designs

Early influences

My love of Japanese art and my appreciation of the great Samurai warriors first started with an interest in North American native culture. I can remember when I was little coming home from a classmate’s Western-themed party and being upset because I’d been given a cowboy hat to wear when what I really wanted to wear was a war bonnet! That initial curiosity, first sparked in my childhood, grew into a real interest during my teenage years when I was around 15/16 years old. I’d read a newspaper article about a security guard down at the local shipyards in Wallsend. He was called Ronny, and he’d spent some time with the Ojibwe tribe (also known as the Chippewa) in Canada, and they’d made him an honorary tribal member. I wrote to him and we met a couple of times. He told me about his travels to North American and Canada. Inspired by his stories, afterwards I bought many books on the subject which I still have today – including Lame Deer-Seeker of Visions by John Flame, which is a great read.

I was naturally drawn to warriors such as Sitting Bull, Chief Joseph, Geronimo, Chief Dan George and Red Cloud. Drawn in by their beliefs in nature and spirit. It was a natural step for me from here, to start appreciating the great Samurai of Japan. I bought a book called The Warrior Koans: Early Zen in Japan. The illustrations were a breath of fresh air.

As a graphic designer, I think its hard not to be attracted to Japan as a country and a culture: the packaging is amazing and innovative. The toys they create are fantastic. Everything is a collectible. It’s Pokémon and Blade Runner on steroids! My wife regularly travelled to Japan with her previous job, so she was always bringing back loads of stuff: sweets, watches, dolls, gadgets, fabrics… absolutely anything and everything. I previously worked in the denim industry, and the jeans designed I worked alongside were always bringing things back from Japan too. Vintage Japanese jeans which were heavy as anything, made from original deep-dyed raw fabrics. Awesome graphic t-shirts, and yet more packaging ideas and other references. There would be boxes of all this stuff everywhere in the studio, and so the interest really grew. Most of the guys who I still know are working in the jeans industry still do their reference shopping and research in Japan, which shows what an influence the country and the culture holds.

Design Process

Designing a Japanese art-inspired cycling jersey is a bit like planning out a full upper body tattoo. I start with a sketch idea, and then plan each piece out in proportion to the patterns template parts – similar to the process of a tattoo artist planning out where to place drawings on someone’s body. I weigh up what’s going to work on the shoulder spaces, and what will fill the background out nicely – waves, big cats and demons are always great for that.

After this planning process, it’s a bit like a tattoo-artist starting to put the design onto skin. I draw out each panel in ink by hand, and then I scan it in ready for a good clean up in Photoshop. I’ll then move over to Illustrator to start filling it in, adding textures and pasting in further traditional Japanese patterns where they’re needed. The process to take a design from that first stroke of ink to a cycling jersey design, ready to be brought to life, takes about three weeks from start to finish.

The first Japanese-inspired design created for Stolen Goat was really a bit of an experiment to see how it would perform. The Herd loved it! Since then we’ve started creating hand-drawn illustration pieces more regularly. I love to draw by hand: it’s a skill that I think should be maintained, and it feels more ‘personal’ creating a design for our customers in that way. To date, we’ve created around four or five of these hand-drawn designs now, and I love seeing The Herd wearing them out in the wild.

About the Onna design

Our most recent hand-drawn design is the Onna: available as a cycling jersey, cycling cap and neckwarmer. Our previous Japanese-inspired designs have featured Samurai warriors and legends (‘Gorija’ is the original name for Godzilla) but this is the first design to feature a female character. The Onna design is based on the Onna Bugeisha – the female Samurai warriors of Japan. Tomoe Gozen, in particular – who was a fearless rider and expert with a sword and bow. Fit to meet either god or devil, she was said to be a match for a thousand warriors! She felt like fitting inspiration for our own collective of cycling warriors – The Stolen Goat Herd. Whether you’re a competitive cyclist or just racing to the coffee stop – I hope taking the spirit of the Onna Bugeisha out on your adventures with you will help inspire you to take whatever the ride brings in your stride: come hell, headwind or high water. Nothing can stop you with Onna driving you forwards!