The Washington Wizards named designer Brett Johnson artistic director on Monday with the mission to increase the visibility of the NBA franchise, as well as franchise owner Monumental Sports & Entertainment.
In the new role, Johnson will design a wardrobe for the Wizards to wear to games and traveling, including accessories, and design merchandise for fans and collaborations with brands. Johnson told WWD that his designs for the NBA franchise will begin to roll out by NBA All-Star Weekend 2022, held in Cleveland in February, and new build-outs will debut as early as next season with stadium upgrades.
Johnson grew up playing sports like football, basketball and baseball in his native state of Virginia and has an affinity for the games. Along with his chief operating officer, Wanda Colon, they felt passionate about sports and proposed this plan to the Wizards.
“I felt as though there was a huge opportunity that wasn’t thought about, which was looking at sports in a different matter,” he said. “I had a relationship and rapport with Monumental already so when I proposed the idea, it started as one thing and led to another. They’re my home team, it was a natural fit.”
This type of deal has been seen in soccer with Thom Browne outfitting FC Barcelona and Guillermo Andrade’s 424 outfitting Arsenal. This is a new type of deal for the NBA and for an arena.
Johnson hopes to elevate Monumental as a destination for more than just sports, as well as provide players with products like jewelry and watches that they can have long after their playing career. He said he’ll be dressing the team for travel and games, but also for events like holiday parties, in which the franchise is partnering with a luxury jeweler.
“If you look at the statistics of players with financial woes three to four years after playing in the league, I want them to have pieces that appreciate or hold their value so when you’re done you can have some collateral,” he explained.
He also explained his plans for the arena, “Many teams focus on the court and not so much of the audience and I want to look at it from a different perspective and give people a new reason to go to the stadium like a unique bar or shopping experience or spa experience while watching a concert or game. That has not been done before but people have a thirst for something new and relevant.”
Johnson closed his New York City location at the beginning of lockdown in 2020, but is opening stores in Dubai on Jan. 25 and Qatar in the coming months. Also during lockdowns due to the pandemic, he entered into a deal with Saks to be an exclusive partner. He felt the partnership was ideal, seeing Saks as “the last standing” in luxury retail.
“We reaped the benefits this past season,” he said. “The tougher part has been that we’re a brand that needs to be touched, felt and tried on so for us to have the success we’ve had online would only benefit us more when we have a physical presence. We hope to expand to Saks brick-and-mortar when they see more foot traffic to the store.”
In addition to Saks and two coming retail locations, Brett Johnson is available globally in more than 40 stores. He currently has a presence in Asia in South Korea, but would like to expand in the continent.