The countdown toward the start of the NBA basketball season stands at two months and one day, but Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans is already thinking about a vital aspect of the season: his pre-game outfit.
“It’s your time to shine,” he said. “After the game, you don’t have cameras following you, you know. I think any time you walk into the arena, the camera is probably going to be on you. It’s your time to make a fashion statement right there.”
In particular, the 23-year-old is strategizing about the outfit he’ll don on his saunter toward the locker room on Oct. 28, when the Pelicans are slated to play the Golden State Warriors at home. It’s not actually their debut in the new season. They’ll go up against the Denver Nuggets two days prior. “I don’t think the Denver game is on TV. And, of course, the Warriors are the NBA superteam. The cameras will be around for sure,” he said.
In gauging the importance of that look, Davis compares it with the back-to-school clothes that many youths are painstakingly organizing now. “The NBA is all about fashion,” he said. “I’m going to start [planning it] when it gets closer around that time. That’s the big outfit right there.”
Fortunately, Davis has 11 options to mull for his sartorial scrutiny. Earlier this month, he launched the first of a two-season collection with Saks Fifth Avenue. On Tuesday, he interrupted a weeklong vacation in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, to meet the posh retailer’s customers at its Beverly Hills store for a couple of hours. While 23 of its locations nationwide are carrying the collaboration, only the stores in Beverly Hills and New Orleans will host parties with the NBA All-Star this year. Chicago will get the chance next spring to show off the local boy who did good. Davis’ mom was a regular at the Saks on Michigan Avenue, having bought him dress shoes and clothes there.
“She heard about the collab at Saks. She almost cried,” he said.
Fashion collaborator is the latest entry in the impressive résumé that Davis has compiled so far. As a freshman at the University of Kentucky, he led the Wildcats to a national championship in 2012. When he decided to skip the rest of college and jump to the NBA, the Pelicans selected him with the first overall pick in that year’s draft. He then snared a gold medal alongside LeBron James and Kobe Bryant on the U.S. men’s basketball team at the London Summer Olympics.
The intersection of fashion and sport is one area where Saks executives want to situate the 92-year-old business. The first floor of the men’s shop in Beverly Hills was transformed into a classy rec room for Davis and guests such as Gabriel Aubry. Bartenders chilled pitchers of cocktails dubbed “Slam Dunk” (vodka and cucumber) and “Bourbon Bomber” (whiskey and black tea), and a caterer stood ready to stuff tequila-spiked ice cream between gourmet cookies. Men tried to shoot as many hoops as they could on arcade machines that were tucked between the shoe salon and the display for Davis’ $68 red and black T-shirt, $128 black and white button-up shirt with a Mandarin collar and $188 black nylon bomber that’s quilted inside.
“A lot of guys are taking cues from what athletes are wearing,” said Tom Ott, senior vice president and general merchandise manager of Saks’ men’s wear.
Davis is finding a way to dress his 6-foot, 10-inch build, which not all designers have in mind when cutting clothes. “A lot of tall guys — NBA types — try to find different clothing. It’s hard,” he said.
Russell Westbrook, the Oklahoma City Thunder point guard who has his own collaboration with Barneys New York, has it easier because he’s 6 feet and 3 inches tall and dares to push his aesthetics. “Well, he’s way ahead in the game than I am,” Davis said of his friend. “His fashion is on a different level than what I am as far as appearance-wise.”
Still, the idea behind the Saks collection is “to make it look nice but simple as well,” he said, noting that he’s a big practitioner of a red, black and white palette as well as long, slim silhouettes. “I’m not a big over-the-top guy. Everything I like to do is simple but looks nice and you can wear it with a lot of different things.”
For instance, he shortened the cuff of the $178 black neoprene hoodie. “I like it really tight around your wrist. Just in case you have a watch on or anything, you can really see that,” he said.
Whether Davis would have the stamina to stay in the fashion game for the long run, he said, “I’m not sure what the future holds and if I’m able to continue it. But right now, I’m definitely loving it. I hope that I can go forward with this for years to come.”
A possible avenue to explore is one that leads to the fragrance market. “I like to wear cologne,” he said. “That might be a thing I’m interested in.”
In the meantime, he’s fielding texts from teammates who were surprised to see his clothes displayed in Saks’ windows and memorizing inspiring outfits worn by people on the street. He also wants to catch as many men wearing his clothes as he has seen them sporting shoes from his Nike endorsement. “If you see someone with a pair of your sneakers on, you get starstruck,” he said.
That’s why Davis deliberately priced his clothing designs to sell for under $200 apiece. “Especially getting into the fashion game, you don’t want to start at $500 for a shirt,” he said. “You want to work your way into it but you want to make it affordable so everybody can [buy it]. My biggest thing is walking around and seeing somebody with an item from my collection on.”