As you may have heard, Jordan Brand is getting back to the basics with a high end twist for 2015. The Brand is releasing some of their most infamous retro silhouettes remastered in premium materials, like the good ole days. Since the new, more luxurious sneakers are going to be dropping soon, Jordan Brand couldn't have the shoes come out in just any old boxes so they're upgraded their boxes. In keeping with the black, gold and white theme Jordan Brand has been playing with for the last few years - and used in their new Flight23 stores. The redesigned boxes are black with gold embossed Jumpman and "23" insignia on the exterior. The interior features natural cardboard with white tissue paper that is marked with the number twenty-three. The brand new boxes arrive beginning in 2015 and will be used for both retro and new performance releases. No word yet if the GS release will get the black boxes as well. What do you think of the new Jordan boxes and creative direction? Is it fitting with the new premium image and price tag or is it just more hype? Let me know what you think.
Leave it to Jordan Brand to constantly be one upping itself when it comes to the branded experience. The latest Jordan basketball experience is Jordan Hangar, unveiling later today in Los Angeles. But I managed to get my hands on the exclusive photos from the new basketball space and from the renderings, it looks sleek and industrial - much like the architecture in LA as well as the XX9 sneaker. Jordan Brand has made the most out of their Terminal 23 space in New York hosting games, events and fashion presentations since it launched last year so it makes sense for them to open something similar out west. What do you think of the new space? And more importantly - who got next?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!).
The early 90's aesthetic is big again among NBA players from Amar'e Stoudemire to James Harden and Brandon Jennings. What's ironic is that the Starter jackets and Polo boots many of us 80's babies grew up on hoarding - the new kids of the NBA were still in diapers when the brands were popular. Sports lifestyle brand UNDRCRWN recently teamed up with throwback favorite, Starter, for a cap collaboration with their own version of the retro trend. The holiday drop features five caps in the iconic snapback Starter style. The "Simon Says" style is a play on the 1980's toy using bright primary colours and yellow stitching and a black bill for a graphic, yet clean look. The infamous "UNDRCRWN" logo is embroidered on the front in white and the Starter logo on the back of the cap completes it. The "Script Club" style references the popular NBA Draft Cap from the early '90s. The cap features "UNDRCRWN - World Champions" stitched across the front of the cap, as well as a patch reading "World Champs on the left side and the Starter logo on the back. The cap is retro chic without the kitsch and is available in blue, green, red and black.
Now that throwbacks have become the new lid of choice since the standard New Era fitted is falling out of favor. But how do you wear a vintage piece without looking like you're trying to go too retro? I've compiled a little guide to bring you the best in reasonably priced menswear and streetwear brands to rock with a snapback. To stay current, make sure you pick throwback style items but in modern, fitted silhouettes. Mix in neutrals and classic pieces to balance the look. The wardrobe guide is inspired by early 90's style well as the new youngings that are dressing like they're bringing '88 back.
All five hats will be available for sale at www.shopundrcrwn.com and select UNDRCRWN retailers worldwide now.
The sneaker game is nothing but competitive. Most companies that seem to have their own brand identities, are really just subdivisions of sportswear empires. Converse became infamous teaming up rivals and friends Magic Johnson and Larry Bird for the still relevant Weapon sneaker. But now, Nike owns Converse, turning it more into a fashion brand with collaborations with American designer John Varvatos. Nike moved Dwyane Wade from Converse to Jordan Brand and taking away his signature shoe but making him the new main pitchman for the yearly Jordan release - this season the Jordan 2010. Adidas owns Puma, among other brands, so needless to say, it's hard to be a new independent brand in the conglomerate market place.
Li-Ning Company Limited, is a major "sports brand enterprise" from China, that covers development, research, distribution, manufacturing, marketing, and of course, design. The company focusses on apparel, footwear, accessories and sports equipment. They've tapped athletes for sponsorship at home and abroad including the NBA market and are focussing on global expansion and market share.
Their list of athletes includes the effervescent Baron Davis. Not only is Baron a great point guard, but a film director, an actor and a well-known fashion plate in the NBA. When Boom Dizzle where's something new, others take notice. His signature shoe, the BD Doom came out this season too much buzz and apparently a lot of on court questions from fellow players.
The logo for the shoe is without question, Baron himself - the Beardman, sporting his trademark homeless-chic beard. The shoe came in five different colour ways, all available for sale - something that major brands don't always offer. LeBron James plays almost nightly in a different colour and style of his LeBron Air Max VII, but very few are available for sale. Baron's sneaker offered customization with a variety of eyelets and lacing options. It also came with a vinyl figure, picking up on the collectible toy market that is so synonymous with street and sneaker collecting culture. The Beardman is also adorned on apparel like varsity jackets and tees. While it wasn't the prettiest shoe, it certainly makes a statement - something the company needed to do to assert itself amongst the big sportswear dogs.
Li-Ning has taken this success and propelled it into building their first store front in Portland, Oregon, where the brand's headquarters are state side. The flagship opened in January 2010 - not far from Nike's compound in Beaverton, Oregon. With the opening of the store, Champs Sports announced that Li-Ning will be in 80 stores by this summer. Recently, Li-Ning expanded the Portland store and it now spans 2,200 square feet. The company wanted to display more than just their basketball lines and show a full variety of products, especially indoor sports. The showroom and retail store originally opened at 850 square Clearly, the company is doing something right.
To really compete with Nike, they need to continue their interesting shoes with viral campaigns, giving consumers something different. As a sneaker fiend, I'm over seeing every Jordan shoe bastardized into a new fusion model. Seeing something new, and not a company that lives in the past trying to capitalize on old classics shows true innovation and fresh ideas. It's exciting to see what Li-Ning can bring and if they can continue recruit not only talented but interesting athletes, like Baron Davis and also Shaquille O'Neal, they can create a niche in the massive market. Bring on the Beardman.