IN THE RING: Pre-holiday pop-up shops in New York are routine but one with ties to the late Muhammad Ali is unexpected.
As the Vacant New York site can attest to, there is no shortage of shuttered storefronts in Manhattan. Nationwide the situation is not much better with store vacancy rates in the U.S. expected to be 11.8 percent in the fourth quarter of this year and slightly higher next year, according to the web site Statista.
To help offset that, if only temporarily, the New York-born brand Sprayground has opened a weeklong shop at 140 West 42nd Street and as of Nov. 21, founder David Ben-David is showing off his fandom for the late Muhammad Ali. Through an alliance with Muhammad Ali Enterprises, his company has developed a commemorative collection that includes a $70 embroidered backpack, a $70 duffel bag and a $350 keepsake box with a few items including embroidered boxing gloves. The line will be sold in the pop-up and online with some of the proceeds benefitting the Muhammad Ali Foundation.
One of Ali’s grandsons, Biaggio Ali Walsh, a University of California running back and budding model, is headlining Sprayground’s new advertising campaign. Seated on a locker room bench for one image, he was photographed wearing boxing gloves, a sleeveless shirt, shorts and leggings. Flexing his left bicep, Walsh draws attention to his butterfly and bee tattoo, a sign of his grandfather’s famed float-like-a-butterfly-sting-like-a-bee vow before his career-changing Sonny Liston world heavyweight fight in 1964.
The Sprayground pop-up’s noon-to-midnight hours are meant to suit the round-the-clock crowd that Times Square attracts. Tuesday’s Fight Night starts with a 6 p.m. weigh in and the first of three fights will start at 8 p.m. Shoppers will also find Sprayground backpacks, accessories and outerwear in the 5,300-square-foot space.
Designer Ben-David started the company eight years ago creating durable blank bags geared for street artists to carry their gear and to customize as they saw fit. The brand has since evolved into a resource for functional original designs that borrow from the founder’s skate, surf and street art. The brand’s “BeWear the Winter” assortment includes $400 jackets each with removable fur trim on the hood — the Japan Stripe Chopper coat, the Destroy Camo coat, and the Sky High Seekers Chopper Coat. There is also a $300 Phantom Parka, and 3M Purple collection of $20 gloves, a $45 aviator hat and the $90 3M Purple Wings backpack.