ATHLETES CALL ‘TIME-OUT’ TO SHOP

Byline: Rosemary Feitelberg

NEW YORK — When soccer star Mia Hamm and a few of her teammates were in town for a few days last month, they did what thousands of other women do in New York. They got their hair cut, went to see “The Lion King,” and they shopped.
Shopping remains a favorite pastime for female athletes who often turn to stores to update their images or to relax after training or competing on the road.
“Athletes are seen by the world in ponytails and sweating in their uniforms, so we just assume they’re basically going to look like that at work or at play,” said Lucy Danziger, editor in chief at Women’s Sports & Fitness. “When they have some time to themselves, they do what any other woman would do. They just happen to be athletes for a living.”
Kathy Collins, the only female boxer who has won four junior welterweight titles, is a self-described “compulsive shopper” who spends about $1,000 each month on apparel.
“I have a problem,” she laughed. “I shop at least five times a week. But that doesn’t mean I always buy something.”
Living in Huntington Station, N.Y., a quarter of a mile from the Walt Whitman shopping mall, which houses two of her favorite haunts, Saks Fifth Avenue and Cache, makes that easy. Collins also said she “loves” to shop on vacation and often asks her husband to stop the car so she can run into small specialty stores.
“It’s important I look good. I’m a girl beyond all else,” she said. “I’m sure a lot of people would assume something else because I box.”
Collins attributes some of her interest in shopping to the fact that she lost 100 pounds after boxing competitively for only seven months. Once that happened, shopping for a regular-size bra at Victoria’s Secret was one of “the most exciting moments” for her.
With her daily training regimen of four or five hours of exercise, most people see Collins — an Everlast-sponsored athlete — in activewear. That’s another reason to make more of an effort with her appearance.
Unusual items such as the $45 pants with beaded fringe at the ankles she bought recently at Blue Fuzz, a specialty store in Queens, appeal to Collins. Another recent purchase, beaded XOXO pants at $120 with a $45 coordinating top, is the type of look Collins buys to wear to fights and other work-related events. She generally attends 18 events each month, including a few formal ones, and needs a wardrobe to suit the various occasions.
Former Olympic swimmer Donna de Varona, a sports commentator and advocate of women’s sports, said she saves time by working for a few hours with a Saks Fifth Avenue personal shopper two or three times a year in New York or Los Angeles. Instead of walking through the various departments, she asks the buyer to fill up a dressing room with suitable items.
In Los Angeles, de Varona shops with her sister, Joanna Kerns, an actress and Halston fan, who is “so conscious of fashion.”
De Varona browses when she has some downtime while out of town on business. As chairman of last summer’s Women’s World Cup, she needed suitable apparel for a variety of events, including a presidential visit and lobbying before Congress.
A newcomer to Fogdog Sports’ board of directors, de Varona buys her swimwear and her children’s sporting goods and activewear online. She said she continues to encourage the e-tailer to go after the women’s market “in a big way,” which it has.
“The success of the Women’s World Cup shows the buying power and enthusiasm people have for women’s sports,” de Varona said. “We’re the ones out there buying shoes, sporting equipment and apparel for our kids.”
As for sporting goods stores, de Varona said she always feels like she’s “in a men’s locker room,” when shopping for her son’s hockey equipment.
Despite being sponsored by Nike and being prepared to suit up in Adidas should they win a medal at the Sydney Olympics, the U.S. Olympic team has fashion interests.
During their New York stay, Hamm and company headed to Scoop’s Upper East Side store, French Connection, Miu Miu and Calypso, among others. Kristina Ferrante, fashion editor for WS&F, which has announced it will publish its last issue in September, served as their unofficial personal shopper.
WNBA player Sheryl Swoopes said she shops about once a week, with Bebe and Saks Fifth Avenue being two of her favorite stores. She also likes to check out the Galleria in Houston, and stores in SoHo.
Bebe ranks high with Swoopes because she said it has “different stuff, not the same old, same old.”
“It also has clothes that are a little sexy, but not trashy,” she said.
She often shops out of habit or when she sees someone else wearing something she likes. For the most part, she looks for the most flattering styles.
In terms of activewear, Swoopes, another Nike-sponsored athlete, generally spends 30 minutes per visit to athletic specialty stores or sporting goods stores.
“I go see what they have and look around,” she said. “The things that catch my eye are the things on sale and the new items.”
Pro snowboarder Natasza Zurek, a Burton-sponsored athlete, often shops downtown in her hometown of Vancouver. The Robson Street area, which houses such stores as Aritzia, a favorite with fashion-conscious young women, and The Gap, is her favorite spot. At Aritzia, Kookai and Talula are two of her favorite brands.
On the road, the 21-year-old Zurek visits H&M in Innsbruck, Austria, for “up-to-date, low-price” looks. In Portland, Ore. — a few hours from Mt. Hood, another popular destination with snowboarders — she hits the Adidas store for sports bras, workout clothes and running shoes, since her boyfriend, a Salomon employee, has a discount card for that location. She generally spends between $300 and $500 three times a year.
“I don’t like to cruise around and shop. If I need something I go out and get it,” Zurek said. “I don’t need assistance or anyone to give me their opinion. I look over the whole store and find what I need.”
The Whistler area in British Columbia, and Japan’s Shibuya district are two other areas she frequents due to snowboarding competitions. A reversible bikini with a rectangular top, flip-flops and a reversible knee-length skirt with side slits were two of her more recent purchases.
Carla Overbeck, captain of the U.S. women’s soccer team, described herself as “very cost-conscious” and someone who likes bargains. But being a mother and a member of the U.S. women’s soccer team, doesn’t give her much time for browsing, she said.
For nicer clothes, she heads to Harolds, a 52-unit specialty store chain. But she generally doesn’t know what she’s looking for. One thing is she can “never resist a bargain.” “Occasionally, I am able to sneak out before or after practice or when I have a little down time on the road,” said Overbeck, a Fila-sponsored athlete. “If I see something I like, I buy it. Moreso, if I need it.”

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