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Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook is definitely into fashion — and Barneys New York is tapping into his style.
The 25-year-old California native is working with the retailer and several men’s wear vendors on a sportswear and accessories collection that will hit Barneys stores in July for fall selling. The collection will have its own hangtag — Westbrook XO Barneys New York, short for Westbrook Exclusively Ours Barneys New York.
This story first appeared in the June 12, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“I’m kind of like a designer,” Westbrook told WWD. “My personal style changes every season.”
Westbrook said he’s been into fashion since he was a young man, but that passion blossomed as he got older “and could spend more money. I wasn’t able to buy things when I was younger, but now my fashion game has expanded,” he said.
He’s partial to Rick Owens, Givenchy, Kings & Jaxs, Naked & Famous and other brands. He’s become famous for his bold fashion choices that can range from pink pants to graffiti-patterned bombers. “I’m not a big fan of suits all the time,” he admitted. “I like to keep it casual, but then throw a piece on that makes it a little more dressy.”
The vendors that will participate in the first season of the capsule collection will be Nike Jordan, for which Westbrook is the face, Marcelo Burlon, Naked & Famous, Want Les Essentiels, Selima Optique, Del Toro and Globe Trotter. Several of those brands are hardly household names, but that’s part of the appeal to Westbrook.
“I shop all the time,” he said. “I’m in Oklahoma City most of the year and when I go on the road I shop. It also get online and find Web sites I like and brands people may not know.”
He’s famous for never wearing the same outfit twice. “Well, I never wear the same shirt twice,” he said. “Maybe I’ll wear jeans more than once. But some of the things I wear are loud, so once I wear them, that’s it. I give them away to friends or family.”
He’s been the face of the Nike Jordan brand for three years. “It’s definitely a great thing,” he said. “It’s a powerful brand.” Although he doesn’t technically design the collection, he stays in close contact with Nike’s team and provides input.
For now, it’s OK that Michael Jordan’s name is front and center on the brand, but would Westbrook someday like to have his own collection? “I definitely would want to see a Westbrook brand in clothing,” he said. And the Barneys collaboration is a “big step in that direction.”
He said he was “very involved” with choosing the items that will be in the collection. “I can’t be in the factories during the season, but I was hands-on.”
Tom Kalenderian, Barneys executive vice president for men’s wear, said Westbrook was “very accessible and stayed close” when they were working on the collection. “We chose the designers because they were experts in their field and there was a natural fluidity with Russell’s style and taste. But everything was very collaborative,” he said.
“We’re doing something a little different than our holiday-based collaborations,” he added, pointing to special promotions the store has staged recently with Jay Z, Disney and Lady Gaga. “This is not a six-week pop-up. It will endure through a few seasons. It’s a very different concept and represents a more developed effort.”
Kalenderian said he met Westbrook last February and found him to be “very grounded, humble, intelligent and creative. He’s an amazing athlete and a talented individual with incredible style.”
Those conversations resulted in the signing of a contract for the exclusive collaboration. The collection spans sportswear, denim, leather goods, eyewear, footwear and custom luggage, and may be expanded to other categories and brands in the future, Kalenderian said. It will be carried at all Barneys stores and online and housed in a special area on the eighth floor of the flagship. Some of the accessories will be double-exposed in other areas around the store as well.
Barneys will unveil the collaboration at a dinner in Paris, cohosted by Burlon, during the men’s shows later this month. “This will be my first time going there,” Westbrook said. “I’m really looking forward to it.”
What he’s not looking forward to, however, is the NBA Finals. The Thunder lost to the San Antonio Spurs in six games, and the Spurs advanced to The Finals where they’re playing the Miami Heat. “I do not care,” he said. “I will not watch it.”