Category Archives: event

Throwback Steez: vitaminTHICK Launch @ Vault NYC

Fashion, specifically menswear, is in the midst of a heritage moment. Brands are going back to their roots to embrace workwear, tradition and ties to the community. So much manufacturing is now being done overseas and mass quantities, the appeal of homegrown material and local sourcing is understandable to the mindful consumer. New brands are taking to local first mindset to capitalize on the trend and grow their business – small can be good.

One of these brands is vitaminTHICK, based in Boston, Massachusetts. It was founded by two brand architects Elliott Curtis and Andrew Shedd as a progressive streetwear brand. Their concept is based on the nostalgia of childhood and growing up in the ’80’s and ’90’s. All items are released as designer-limited runs and are numbered so they also become instant collectors items – like baseball cards. Graphics range from their adorable squirrel logo to their interpretations of classic logos (a streetwear trend started by Stussy) like the NBA Jam video game, beloved by NBA fans of all ages.

Basketball nostalgia is a strong influence throughout the line. “He Got Game” – one of my favorite films of all time and the genesis for my blog and Twitter name, is paid tribute to in a “Jesus is my homeboy” t-shirt. Jesus Shuttlesworth, the young basketball phoneme protagonist of the film, is played by Boston Celtic guard and future hall  of famer, Ray Allen. Allen has saved the Celtics on many occasion and Curtis wanted to pay tribute to his favorite player. He even bedazzled a “Jesus is my homeboy” shirt and presented it to Allen’s number one fan, his mom Flo, at the 2011 All-Star game. Another basketball link comes in a less obvious way. North Carolina rapper and producer Brey Quick is managed by vitaminTHICK. He produces his mixtapes with the brand and sports their gear at every opportunity. Quick played four years of college at High Point University as well as professionally for two years in Iceland.Curtis also played AAU basketball growing up so the two have a connection to the basketball community that could prove integral in marketing, appeal and reach of the brand. It also allows for all-inclusive entertainment at events and parties so the company is able to produce their own package deal.

vitaminTHICK recently held a release event at Vault in Harlem, New York City. The full line was on display and Brey Quick performed two sets while a DJ played music throughout the day. This was the first time I was able to see the items up close and the quality is impressive. The apparel items are manufactured in the United States and have modern silhouettes. The line is fitted without being snug and the cotton used is soft but not thin. Quality at a reasonable price for t-shirt and cut and sew brand is difficult for a relatively new brand and keeping the items in small runs seems to have halted any quality control issues in their tracks. The tees are fun, bright and the smaller sizes could be worn by women as the items are properly sized.

The event also marked my first time at Vault. The  store is clean, modern with the bank vault theme throughout the store in the display cases. They had a stage set up in the front for Quick’s performance and a DJ area as well. Vault is a sneaker store with a Nike account, plenty of streetwear, rows upon rows of snapbacks and fitted to match all of your kicks, sunglasses, and jewelry, including the ubiquitous black diamond bracelets. Their own line of apparel have some great retro inspired graphics, I’m a big of their fan of their brand new “Mr. MVP” shirts in their Paper Chaser line. It’s worth the trip to check out the shop and it’s a very quick jaunt from the main Harlem strip on 125th Street when you want to get away from the big box stores and support the local spot.

vitaminTHICK is available for purchase at Vault in New York City as well through their online store and in fourteen other stockists in the USA. The prices are reasonable ranging from $20-40 for tees and tanks and $50-90 for hoodies, crewnecks and zip-ups. You can download Quick’s latest mixtape “Skyed Up” here and his next project will be dropping sometime in the fall. Vault NYC is at 2498 Frederick Douglas Boulevard between 133rd and 134th Street in Harlem. Check out the photos below for more from the event and detail shots of the vitaminTHICK product. Get ’em before they’re gone.

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Maëlle Ricker: Not Your Average Olympian

How do you differentiate between an athlete and someone who only participates in a sport? Do you need to be a professional to earn the athlete title? My sport of choice is snowboarding. I competed briefly and taught at a local ski hill. When I wasn’t chasing my students, I was spending my spare time hunting for powder on the icy East Coast and destroying my body in the snow park. It was a badge of honour to show up hung over or bounce right back from a concussion and crank big turns. Snowboarders, back when I started in the late 90’s, were almost like the hip hop alternate to skiers – we weren’t jocks, we were the stylish outcasts. We wore our pants low and our heads were covered in oversized goggles, headphones and tall toques. It was about style and speed, not athletics.

Recently, Gatorade contacted me about speaking with one their marquee athletes to launch the G Series line here in Canada. I was surprised that the athlete in question was Olympics gold medalist and World Cup snowboard cross athlete, Maëlle Ricker. Maëlle captured the country’s heart when she was the first woman to win gold on home soil. A Vancouver local, she grew up in the mountains, with parents who “eat, breath and speak skiing”. She started snowboarding after her following her old brother’s lead and was instantly hooked. For Maëlle, snowboard cross made sense because she was able to combine all of her snow skills. “I have my background in ski racing when I started snowboarding I was all about freestyle, I wanted to jump and do the half-pipe and all that. When I tried snowboard cross, all my different sporting backgrounds, […] kind of combined into an event that I excelled at. I had the freestyle skills from riding and sort of the race skills from ski racing”.

Snowboarding has gone from a fringe sport that many mountains outlawed to a marketable, professional and perhaps most importantly, an Olympic sport. Maëlle agrees that snowboarders don’t necessarily like the athlete title that comes along with the professional designation, “there is this misconception that snowboarders aren’t working out, they’re not trying”. Maëlle said at the High Road Communications office in downtown Toronto. She was wearing jeans, a Gatorade zip up and a pair of practical platform, waterproof knee-high boots. “…That’s just the image we like to give off. We actually are working our butts off. We’re out on the hill everyday, all day. We are in the gym in the afternoons and in the offseason”. I remember powder days where we would go out for hours on end without food, water and sometimes, not even an iPod. But times have changed and Maëlle is endorsing Gatorade, one of the most recognized brands in sports and an icon in athlete branding. She’s one of over four hundred athletes, including Dwyane Wade, Usain Bolt and Georges St. Pierre, that Gatorade collaborated with in developing the new G-Series. Their goal with the G-Series, which launches March 21st in Canada, is to move the brand from purely a sports drink company to a sport nutrition innovator.

But how do these three steps of Gatorade: prime, perform and recover, help Maëlle? She competes in a sport where not only do milliseconds matter when crossing the finish line, but she needs explosive strong muscles when banking turns and going over big air jumps. She likes the series because she’s able to use it on and off the hill in riding and work outs, “When I’m on the hill, like for example when I’m at a race, I make sure 15 minutes before I drop in for my heats, I’m taking the Prime, I’m getting the right carbs, vitamins and electrolytes into my system so that I’m at my maximum energy for when I’m riding. Or when I’m riding or when I’m at the gym, it’s so important to keep hydrated. Even if you’re just slightly dehydrated, like two percent, you’re going to be off your game, you’re not going to be able to re-act as well, your muscles are not going to respond as quickly as you need them […] When I’m done my race or I’m done my workout, then right away you’re beating your muscles down all work out, basically breaking them down and now you have a really short window to recover and to get the right nutrients in so that you’re building your muscles back up to be stronger and ready for the next day. So that’s when you’re going to be your protein and your carbs and that’s the recover part of the line of the G Series”.

Maëlle is more than just a snowboarder but also an avid student of the sport. She admits that she’s not always paid attention to the training aspect of professional snowboarding. It wasn’t until an injury forced her to hit the gym diligently. Tearing an ACL is a common but devastating injury to a snowboarding as all day on the hill, they’re flexing and extending their knees for turns, jumps – they’re like human shock absorbers.”That’s the first time I was really serious about making sure I was fit and ready on my board […] the last few years working a lot with board technology and […] today working with sports nutrition. We’ve had nutritionists in the past with the team and they’ve been awesome but just being a part of this Gatorade family and testing this new G Series line and having that integrated into my personal program, it’s really cool”.

I had to ask Maelle more about the style aspect of snowboarding, being someone who’s into the fashion as much as the frontside spins. Snowboard cross may not ooze swagger like other events, but Maelle recognizes rider’s signatures just as easily on the course as the half-pipe “…Everyone has their own style on the course. I mean, you know your competitor, you can see them from a mile away, you know who it is just from the way they ride […] I don’t know how people describe my style […] I hope nothing negative!”. When it comes to her on snow apparel, she always choses comfort over fashion, favouring baggy pants, long jackets and more basic colours like blues, greens and reds. Besides her own Olympic gear, which she called “super tech […] and ready for the miserable weather”, she liked the faux jean outfits that the American team was wearing. She’s had a chance to work on the more performance area of apparel as well as board technology but hasn’t designed any of her own gear.

Maëlle snowboards for the love it, her eyes light up when she talks about free riding and mountaineering to further her exploration of the beloved backcountry. The training, along with World Cup events last all year round, which suits her just fine as she’s never been one to sit still. When it came to preparation for the Olympics, Maëlle had a very no non-sense approach, “the thing with the Olympics, even in my hometown, I still treated it like another World Cup. I didn’t drive my car […] I went on the bus with the team. I made sure before I competed that nothing was drastically different from when I competed with the team in the rest of the season. Obviously, after the event, things got kind of crazy […] I was really happy to be back with my team in Europe and racing again, I felt like I was back in my skin and at my comfort level”.

Winning the Olympic gold medal has afforded opportunities but also a few challenges, “It’s forced me to learn a different side of snowboarding – the business side. I’ve probably matured a lot in the last year. But, I’ve had some amazing opportunities with ACT Now BC and Kid Sport Canada and then I get the chance to align myself with companies I believe in”. Where does she go from here? Olympic Gold medalist, Winter X-Games gold medalist, Gatorade endorser – what more can she do? “I’m still progressing and still moving on an upward slope in boarder cross and I’m looking forward to keep pushing myself in the next few years. And I’m also really passionate about free riding and being out in the backcountry – I have the mountain right at my doorstep”.

Maëlle’s honesty and laid back love of the sport is inspiring. She may not ooze style through what she wears but her riding and patronage of the sport is contagious. She’s not your typical athlete but she proves that you don’t have to be a typical jock or fit the image of the stereotypical snowboarder to succeed – she walks the fine line, all for the love the powder turn and the going for the gold.

For more on Maëlle, you can click below to read the transcript of our interview below. Special thanks to Laura from High Road Communications and Gatorade Canada Team.

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The Ron Artest Art Show: Hipsters, Hoopsters and Sock Puppets

As I’ve written here before, Ron Artest is not your average NBA player. His antics on and off the court can illicit conversation, Twitter trends, fan outburts and even a Larry King interview. However, in early December 2010, a Facebook page announced an event that for most NBA fans and players was the inconceivable – a basketball inspired art show, dedicated solely to RonRon. Entitled Lovable Badass: A Tribute to Ron Artest, was the brainchild of curator, Steven Charles Manale, a Toronto artist and basketball fan, produced for Narwhal Art Projects. Thirty local artists paid tribute to the Queensbridge, New York native in a variety of art forms, including pen and ink drawings, sculptures, essays, prints, paintings and sock puppets.

Image credit: Narwhal Art Projects

When I received the Facebook invite and news of the art show became a popular tweet topic, I had a few mixed feelings. The event seemed well planned and Narwhal is known in Toronto for showcasing interesting works that are, at least intriguing, and usually well executed. The fact that it supported local artistans and one of my favorite NBA personalities was an interesting combination. But would the fusion between hood athlete and the hipster art scene work? Would the mix of unlikely bedfellows prompt the crowds to separate like an awkward high school dance, jocks versus artists? Promises of a mix of Ron’s favorite New York City hip hop piqued my interest, as did hearing that the bar would be stacked full of Hennessy. How gangster is that? Curious got me out of the door and I was barely even fashionably late to the opening.

Photo credit: Loni Schick

Needless to say, it was a surreal, once in a lifetime experience. I applaud the gallery and curator for trying something different. The timing was perfect as the night of the opening was during the Lakers practice day in Toronto, as they faced the Raptors the next afternoon. And yes, the man of the hour and mixed media art even attended. Ron is famous for using Twitter to reach out to fans and promote events. Ron  re-posted my article on his fashion sense on his official website – RONARTEST.COM and retweeted the link. I was curious to find out if he actually read my post, to see what he was wearing and if he would partake in a bit of Hennessy, too.

Photo credit: My iPhone 3G

The crowd at Narwhal was an interesting mix, different from you’d usually see at West Queen Street West art show opening in Toronto or a Raptors game. There were the artists who were on hand to pose with their art, explain their influences and greet Ron and guests. The organizers who all wore different Ron Artest jerseys from throughout his professional career (no Saint John’s college gear, though). It was a nice, campy touch and made them easy to find in the crowd. The jerseys bring me to basketball fans in attendance, many in basketball gear hoping to get a picture with RonRon. Members of the media slung back from the madness including theScore’s The Basketball Jones (Skeets and Matt) who were able to grab Ron for a quick interview and got the crowd to yes, say Queensbridge. There were also the usual neighbourhood hipsters and fellow artists taking it in.

The final group was the hoopsters. Now, I can’t take credit for this term as Deadspin coined it but it’s necessary in my lexicon in this instance. A hoopster is a hipster who wears an old, deadstock or rare NBA jersey for ironic wardrobe purposes, usually as a shirt in the summer with skinny jeans and boat shoes. Some are NBA fans, some are vintage fiends and some are just trying too hard to be cool. I heard one group of hoopsters discussing NBA rappers, as Ron has spit on mixtapes and even on solo tracks. My favorite overhead moment, “Hoopster 1: Shaq was an okay rapper, have you seen Shazam?” Hoopster 2: Allen Iverson is a pretty good rapper, though”. Yes, AI had some skills on mic, but his rhymes never cut like his crossover. Shaq however, is an embarrassment to hip hop.

Photo Credit: Steve Wilson

Despite the bizarre mix, most people got along just fine, perhaps it was the cognac or the pretty DJ Ali Cat spinning tunes or the mix of interesting art work. My favorite pieces include a sculpture of a classic photograph – Ron holding puppies in his Pacers’ uniform, a Charlie Brown comic chronicling the crazy of Artest and an illustration featuring the infamous “kiss” between Paul Pierce and Ron Artest.

Photo credit: Steven Wilson

Amongst the madness at Narwhal, I managed to grab Ron for a few minutes to introduce myself so we were no longer only Twitter friends. It was nice to hear that he read the blog and has an interest in my other work I do in the sports fashion realm. We both agreed that his outfit, while not great, was better than most of his effort when out in public. He wore a Ballin’ hoodie and a pair of baggy, dark jeans that despite his 6’8 frame pooled at least a few inches above his feet. How he found jeans that long, I’ll never know! While it’s nice to get comments and support from fellow media members and fans, it’s really exciting when the subjects I write about are also into my work and want to collaborate in the future. It may seem cliche, but it’s extra motivation for me to keep writing and styling in my niche market and hopefully, will lead to a few NBA players on client roster down the line. Ron made a speech, too – did you know he majored in art and architectural at Saint John’s before transferring to math, since it was easier? Ron lived up to the hype of being just a normal yet strange guy who also happens to have an NBA championship under his belt. He took time to speak to all the artists, pose with fans  and share stories. He left relatively early and it was neat to see all kinds of people excited to meet Ron and celebrate his unique style and life experiences.

Photo credit: Loni Schick

The event was a success. Press from all over North American picked up the story and most, if not all, of the art was snatched up as well. It’s not everyday that an art show can have such a specific focus, especially on one subject who is outside of the arts world, be a hit with so many markets. It’s also proof that it pays to be original – the artists, some not even NBA fans and crowd alike, were all inspired and entertained with a tale of redemption, charity, and crazy. Keep doing you, Ron!

If you want to learn more about the exhibit, check out the Narwhal Art Projects website or read Eric Koreen’s excellent article “Artestic Expression” on the show for the National Post. Thanks to my best girl and photographer Loni Schick for graciously letting me use her pictures for this post (I will get your Lakers toaster soon – promise!).

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Style Seeker: Sneaker Cakes

An elite level athlete lives a privileged life thanks to their contribution to sports, media and mega marketing companies. They can afford almost anything their heart desires. So, what do you get for the NBA player that has everything? A recent trend for basketball birthdays is the sneaker cake. Players and their loved ones, are having their signature model recreated in delicious creations. Why not just wear your dominance of the game on your feet – players can literally have their cake and eat it too!

Photo credit: @BLKICE3 Twitter

This past weekend, Brandon Jennings celebrated his 21st birthday in his adopted NBA hometown of Milwaukee with not only his new signature sneaker in cake form, but his favourite off-court shoe, too. His Under Armour Micro G Black Ice featured the Milwaukee Bucks colours, very proper considering where he held the event. The other shoes was a pair of studded Christian Louboutin sneakers that he often flaunts in his TwitPics. While the pastry chef didn’t match his birthday kicks (Brandon’s shoes were leopard print with gold studs), the lettering on the infamous Louboutin box and the “red bottom” sole is a key part of Louboutin shoe equation. The icing on the cake, so to speak, were the Under Armour logo cupcakes – you can’t pay for that kind of product placement. Apparently, the cakes cost a cool $2000 dollars and were a gift from the Brandon co-host, Teyana Taylor. For half the price of the cake, you too can have a real pair of studded red bottom shoes.

Carmelo's 26th birthday cake, a gift from his 3 year old son, Kiyan. Cute! Photo credit: MediaTakeout/NSSneakers.com

LaLa Vazquez surprised her then fiancé (now husband and Knick, Net, still Denver Nugget), Carmelo Anthony with two edible versions of his Jordan Brand partnership. The first cake was a present from his son, Kiyan. It was a copy of his Air Jordan Future Sole Melo M6’s in both his size and his son’s mini-size. It was cute, a little cartoony but the perfect cake for a son to give his poppa with an adorable message of someday “growing into his shoes”. The Melo M6 cake is one of the more accurate sneaker copies so far.

26th birthday cake #2 for Carmelo: a grown up and delicious version of the his Jordan Brand logo. Photo credit: MediaTakeout/NSSneakers.com

The second cake, a gift from LaLa, was a giant sugar insignia of the Melo #6 logo in red, gold and black. It was served flaming and full of sparklers for a grand birthday effect. Sugar icing is edible but difficult to eat, unlike a regular sneaker cake, but it’s certainly a dramatic statement piece.

Va$htie and her Jordan III birthday cake. Photo credit: Sneakermestupid.com

Sneaker heads and footwear designers alike are also replicating their favourite kicks in cake. Video director, designer, artist and kicks collaborator Va$htie was surprised earlier this year with a great cake copy of the infamous cement Jordan III. Do you think her cake had the most coveted “Nike” inscribed on the heel like the original drop?

Photo credit: Nice Kicks

One of my favorite sneaker cakes of recent years was a couple from Austin, Texas’ Air Jordan I Groom’s cake in the classic banned red colourway. It’s not the best Jordan I cake around, but it’s still obvious which shoe it’s meant to represent. Nothing says I’ll love you forever, like a classic pair of kicks that will never go out of style. I’m not sure why they even bothered with a traditional cake, but I’m sure it made for some interesting comments and questions come cake cutting time.

The Nike Air Force 1 white-on-white low's. One of the most beautiful and accurate shoe cakes ever. Photo credit: Sneaker Obsession.

Would you or have you ever had a sneaker cake? I’d love a tasty replication of the Nike SB Pigeon Dunk (definitely vanilla filled) or my pair of Nike Air Max 90 Infrared’s. For more footwear feasting that’s cream filled, check out the piece that Sneaker Obsession did on the subject. I’m personally a huge fan of all the work they feature, but the Nike Tiffany Dunk and the Jordan Brand IV are the cakes I’d most like to eat though that’s partly because those two shoes are on my most wanted list.

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Style Seeker: NBA and NYFW

Since David Stern instituted the NBA dress code for the 2005-2006 season, NBA players have adapted. Perhaps it was a case of the right rules at the right time, but players are embracing the fashion scene like never before. Most of the ill-fitting, “thug” apparel is exchanging for suits that cost most than the chains that were once popular. Players are learning to express themselves off the court using looks from the runway and many use stylists and personal shoppers. This year’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York (NYFW) brought out the fashionista set of the NBA including some sartorial surprises. Let’s see who’s showing an interest in fashion came dressed for the occasion.

Adrienne and Chris enjoy the preppy parade at Lacoste. Credit: TerezOwens.com and MediaTakeOut.

Out of the new big three in Miami, who would have guessed that Chris Bosh would be the one making rounds at fashion week? Bosh and his fiancé, Adrienne Williams were fixtures at many events including the Lacoste and Cynthia Rowley runway shows and the Varvatos after party. Quite a few of my Twitter BFF’s took note of Bosh’s outfit at Lacoste. The whole thing is a little too well matched for my taste. If you’re going to show off interesting socks, at least take more of a risk – give us a pop of unexpected colour. His outfit is fits into the Lacoste aesthetic, but he needs to stop trying so hard. Adrienne looks cute but that shade of burgundy is far too dark for her fair complexion and light hair.

Bosh and Ron and BeBe. What a combo! Credit: Getty Images

Adrienne wasn’t Bosh’s only front row company this week, Ron Artest showed up sans psychiatrist to the Bebe catwalk. RonRon really dressed up for the occasion. He’s wearing almost the same outfit as he sported to the MTV VMA’s a few days before, including the same ShinShin tee (can’t knock the hustle!) and faded jeans. He added a zip up (four stripes – faux adidas?) and a fitted cap for good measure. Bosh went subdued but trendy in layered v-neck and tee, raw denim and the now ubiquitous NBA black diamond bead bracelets. I can’t hate on this look for Bosh, he looks much more relaxed than at the Lacoste show. Ron gets a pass purely for possessing the crazy card. Does he honestly have an interest in design? Perhaps he was just there to visit his friends the Kardashians, who design looks for Bebe. At least he looks more together than he did on Kimmel.

Ben Gordon & girlfriend at the Perry Ellis show. Credit: Getty Images

Ben Gordon and his girlfriend attended the Perry Ellis menswear show. Ben went for casual cool but dull with the classic dark jeans, dark jacket and button up shirt combo while his girl wore a great pair of flesh tone sandals to complete a graphic look. Hopefully some of her fashion sense will continue to rub off on Ben and he can try something a little more daring next time, as it sounds like they’ll be back next season.

Landry Fields and Andy Rautins at Perry Ellis. Credit: Getty Images

One of the most surprising appearances at fashion week was J.E. Skeets Andy Rautins and fellow New York Knicks rookie Landry Fields. Andy is known for having a keen interest in fashion, much like his dad, Leo. We can see the Gucci belt peeking out and his signature stud earring. Tweet of the week has to go to Field. While he doesn’t have a lot of sartorial sense, he does have a great sense of humour. Shoutouts to Hanzel.

I wonder what Landry's "blue steel" looks like? Can it compete with "magnum"?

There were no LeBron, D-Wade or even Kobe sightings at fashion week this year. But my biggest disappointment was that the reigningNBA fashion plate, Jimmy Goldstein, was a no-show.

Jimmy and Danish model Amalie Wichmann at Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals. Credit: Getty Images.

The NBA super fan instead chose to go to go to Turkey for the FIBA Championships. While I was crestfallen to not see his signature hat in the front row, I’m sure he will appear at the shows in Paris as most of his wardrobe and model company, come from overseas.

Just a few good ole Texas boys clowning around at the John Varvatos after party. Credit: Getty Images.

Best photo of the week has to go to Bosh and ZZ Top at the John Varvatos after party. If only Bosh kept his dreads long, he may have fit in better. We’ll see if Bosh keeps up his interest in fashion this season while playing along Wade and James. It’s funny how a change of scenery and a new contract can change your wardrobe, haircut and social circles. Although it’s nice to see more players taking an interest in fashion, I long for the pre-game entrances of more fashionable NBA players like Zaza Pachulia and Steve Nash. Is it October 26th yet? Bring on the season, please!

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Umbro: Fit for Fashion and Football

On Friday June 11th, the 2010 FIFA World Cup kicks off for the first time in Africa. The Republic of South Africa is playing host to 31 teams representing nations from six continents. The teams bring hopes, hype, dreams, fans, and more merchandise than anyone can collect. Endorsement deals for official game kits and gear reach obscene dollar amounts and often go between major heavyweights, Adidas and Nike. The companies try to outdo each other with technology and flash and not fit but one FIFA outfitter took a different approach to jersey design for this tournament.

The 2010 Umbro Away Kit

Umbro, a recent Nike subsidiary, is an English-born and bred sportswear and equipment company with a strong history of tailoring. For the design of England’s official World Cup kit, Umbro brought on Aitor Throup, whose obsession with anatomy and minimalist functional design make him a perfect fit with Umbro. The philosophy when production began was that the jersey should move with the athlete’s body instead of just around or against the body. The use of shoulder darts, tiny air holes and a stretchy base layer fabric on the underarms makes for a more streamlined and flexible fit. This is not your recreational jersey – this kit belongs to a new generation of what Umbro calls “innovative performance technology and a classic tailoring aesthetic”.

Umbro did a great job documenting the design and construction process from multiple angles including feedback from England’s national team. It’s clear that the footballer are happy to be involved in the process as every equipment edge can help them on the pitch.

The seven artist commissioned crests representing the seven nations that have captured the World Cup of football.

Besides Umbro’s longstanding contract with the England national football (soccer) team, they also design kits for Ireland and Northern Ireland’s squads as well as premier league team Manchester City and the participants of the FA Cup. Since only England qualified for the 2010 World Cup, Umbro decided to honor the history of the tournament in their own special way. They created the World Champions Collection that feature modern interpretations of the classic jerseys of the seven nations that have hoisted the World Cup trophy: Brazil, Italy, France, Germany, Uruguay, England, and Argentina. The jerseys include their own crests designed by artists from all sorts of backgrounds from their home champion countries. The crests explain football history, culture and spirit and use the heralded stars that only true champions can own. Umbro use their company mandate of opposing qualities, like modern tailoring and the world game with local flavour, in designing the entire World Champions Collection apparel line which includes t-shirts, jerseys, zip ups and socks.

Umbro's original 1960's advertisement that inspired the current WAG's campaign.

Umbro's original 1960's advertisement that inspired the current WAG's campaign.

The requisite ad campaign continues to draw from Umbro’s love of modernized vintage aesthetic but also in this case, very sexy.In the 1960’s, the Umbro advertisements for jerseys featured models in long jerseys worn as mini-dresses: it was cute, cheeky and different.

The current campaign for Umbro's World Champions Collection featuring some of the loveliest first WAG's of football (soccer).

To bring back the idea from the archives, Umbro recruited famous and beautiful WAG’s from every country represented (wives and girlfriends of footballers) to model the jerseys with socks, and nothing else besides sultry hair and make up. The result looks sexy without being slutty or derogatory – what woman hasn’t stolen her man’s jersey to prance around the apartment in? Men love it and women have done it since those first advertisements came out in the 1960’s. The blogs have lit up in excitement thanks to the behind the scenes video and the line is now synonymous with beautiful women.

The Umbro World Champions Collection display inside Toronto's GotStyle Menswear Store.

The line is available in select retailers around the world, and I was lucky to attend their only Toronto release at GotStyle Menswear. The store is known as a destination for men who crave made to measure suits and fun, modern clothes that don’t feel too intimidating or over priced  – men who want to look good without looking like they’re trying too hard. Umbro and GotStyle make a perfect pair and Melissa and her team did a great job displaying the collection.

The muscular GotStyle mannequins model some of the finest designs from the Umbro collection with cheeky touches.

Football memorabilia, photographs, video displays, sewing supplies, cute girls in short jerseys and even an England jersey signed by Fabio Capello (that you can win!) adorn the King West boutique’s floor. I slipped on my team’s jersey, France (allez les Bleus!), and unfortunately, it’s too big for my small but curvy frame. However, they fit men off all sizes great with the minimal but sleek tailoring – GotStyle media master Reggie models the Italian jersey in size 38.

The Umbro World Champion Collection displayed with information on the artists' inspiration and background.

The details on the Umbro line are outstanding yet understated but are best seen in person. GotStyle carries the zip ups, jerseyst-shirts as well as basic tees emblazoned with your country’s name and colours. Prices range from $40 for tees to $150 for zip-ups . Definitely one of the most stylish and original ways to rally support for your World Cup squad. Well played, Umbro. Let the fashionable football games begin!

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Sean John and the NFL Draft: Tailored for Performance

The draft for professional sports leagues are hype machines. College-age kids parade in front of media and NFL staff like prized dogs; it’s the most public job interview on the planet. While all leagues have something offer fans and athletes, the pure pageantry of the NFL Draft cannot be beat.  

A general view of the stage during the 2010 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

 

The event takes place in Radio City Music Hall, the  grandest of stages, in the biggest American city “where dreams are made of, there’s nothing you can’t do” – New York City. These draftees are the nation’s focus, some at the peak of their careers: it’s their Hollywood moment – there’s even a red carpet. These young men will sign contracts that most of us couldn’t even fathom, from the dollar signs to the endorsements to the restrictions and ownerships on their lives. It’s fitting that companies and stylists are clamouring to dress these future stars before they’re whisked from collegiate stars to NFL starters, as the old cliché goes, it truly is the first day of the rest of their lives.  

The first overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft: Sam Bradford. The Oklahoma QB did not opt for Sean John makeover but still looked modern and right for the big day. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

 

In the past, draftees have sometimes come correct, showing their flair or perhaps a swift mother’s hand. Other looked like they’re wearing old ill-fitting church suits and some were just trying a little too hard to impress. As much I want to see these young men shine, bad draft day outfits are what keep blogs going. But dressing properly for the occasion is something that all new employees of the NFL should learn as it can help them in their public and private reputation for years down the line. If the NFL added a style boot camp to the combine, I would be in sports heaven.  

The Sean John Fine Tailoring Experience extended to first round NFL draftees. A clean and clearly effective invite.

 

One brand decided to try to do their own version of a style boot camp coupled with a strong branding initiative – Sean John. It was announced in Women’s Wear Daily, that the man they call Diddy’s fashion brand would be dressing a number of top NFL prospects for the draft. Sean Combs’ defined his company’s work with the draftees as a “pre-draft tailoring experience” where they would be given a fine suit and the use of an in-house tailor and stylist at Sean John’s 5th Avenue flagship store. Conversion Sports and Entertainment ran the event which also included a chauffeured Rolls Royce Phantom and a bevy of other goodies.  From my last count, the Sean John roster included seven players, all first round draft picks. Diddy didn’t get to go number one, but he did get arguably the best player in the draft in Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh who went second overall to the Detroit Lions. Other players included Eric Berry (#5), Russell Okung (#6)Joe Haden (#7), CJ Spiller (#9), Derrick Morgan (#16)Demaryius Thomas (#22) and Dan Williams (#26).  

Sean John picked out a three-piece suit for Ndamukong Suh. They kept it modern for the Nebraska boy by mixing in a gingham shirt and yellow tie. Not bad. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

 

This initiative is a great look for Sean John for a number of reasons. They’re reaching out to one of the most powerful and flush demographics in the United Sates – professional athletes. These players will be soon cashing in on their talent (and not their universities) and building brand loyalty could really pay off in the long run. Also, this is one of the first occasions for these college players to receive a gift in a public, grand scale without having to worry about jeopardizing their amateur status. Once they declare for the draft, everything is fair game. Sean John swooped in by telling the players that they were rewarding their fine play with a fine suit and showing them a slice of the good life. It’s like equating NFL talent with what I’m sure Sean John hopes is NFL style. The other athletes, who perhaps turned down Sean John’s invite, see their fellow draftees chauffeured in luxury and catered to by a media mogul may think twice about going to Sean John in the future. Look at all the Louis Vuitton and Beats by Dre in dressing rooms – could the Sean John suit be the new coveted item? Maybe not, but the attired athletes in their brand will exist in the archives for ages.  

2009 NFL Draft 1st round pick Mark Sanchez cashed in on his good looks and NFL notoriety by posing for GQ magazine with all-American model Hilary Rhoda. Proof of how easy athletes can transition from player to model.

 

Down the line, Sean John could also tap into these young men for advertising as using athletes as the model and muse seems to becoming the norm in men’s fashion. Cristiano Ronaldo stripped down for Emporio Armani, Tiger Woods was a Tag Heuer man – could Suh be the face of Sean John big and tall? It’s not a far-fetched idea. Sean John is doing what their CEO does so well – network to improve his net worth. Diddy would never have come this far without friends and powerful connections – from the Notorious B.I.G. to Anna Wintour, the man makes his Rolodex spin with his connections and hard work. It’s only  fitting that he models his clothing line with the same work ethic. Sean John also used their blog and Twitter to feature vignettes and behind the scenes photos on the athletes on their Sean John experience. In the age of social media where so many players are taking to Twitter and becoming more accessible than ever, it’s fitting to have Sean John let the fans into equation, without even giving them an invite.  

One of my favourite photos from the draft is Georgia Tech's Derrick Morgan being fitted by tailor Sharon E. Clarke while checking his phone. The kids are always connected! (AP Photo/David Goldman)

 

Some friends who are more sports fans than fashion mavens asked why would these athletes who will soon be making first round money be wearing a brand that is more known downtown than uptown – isn’t Sean John a lesser quality product? Although I agree that some of Sean John’s suits are not as fashion forward as brands like Z Zegna, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, J. Lindberg, or Dior Homme, but are more standard American sportswear. Players that bring size and strength on their frame are not easy to fit into skinny cut suits from a high fashion house even with a tailor’s help. Also, like most major fashion brands, Sean John licenses their product to a manufacturer that specializes in suit construction. Peerless Clothing has a factory in Montreal that cranks out 25,000 suits a week for brands like Michael Kors, Calvin Klein, DKNY, Chaps, Ralph Lauren, and of course, Sean John – all New York base brands. When you buy their suits, you’re really paying for the name and styling and not their manufacturing and customization.  

Demaryius Thomas was one of my picks for best dressed as his look his understated, flattering and fits well. Bradford and CJ Spiller were also strong.

 

Finally, as a stylist, it’s a bit disappointing to see a big company taking over the styling for so many young players who could be potential clients. However, I applaud their use of a tailor on site and suit customization. Buying off the rack will rarely work any man – not just professional athletes. It’s worth the time and effort to have a suit to tailored so it fits to perfection than just spending all your money on just a name. Fit is the most important thing to keep in mind while shopping and is accessible at every price and size. Sean John may not offer such luxury to all shoppers, but a personal shopper and a tailor can turn their suit into your suit with a few tips and a little work. And while fashion disasters on draft day are memorable, it’s nice to see these young men looking ready for their next big step – the contract and then finally, the playing field. Good luck, young fellas.

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Filed under branding, event, fashion, personal style, sports