Carmelo Anthony on the Evolution of Fashion in the NBA & How He Developed His Personal Brand

Photography by Warwick Saint | September 27, 2017 | People Feature

Just off a blockbuster trade to the Oklahoma City Thunder, Carmelo Anthony—an icon on the court and in fashion—talks with fellow native New Yorker Laurence Chandler, founder of menswear brand Rochambeau, about the ever-evolving and influential relationship between sport and style.

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Coat, $2,750, and sweater, $995, both at Valentino; Praire red Savoy yellow wool pants, $1,100, at Gucci; jewelry, worn throughout, Anthony’s own.

Laurence Chandler: Last time we saw each other, we were closing down L’Arc in Paris. We got to connect, and I thought it was really dope because we talked about shared interests, from great wine to watches to art. What defines your interest?

Carmelo Anthony: For me it’s about staying educated about what the trends are, but also looking for what works for you. When it comes to fashion, it comes down to the personality of the individual. I used to go to shows and I thought, That doesn’t look like me. Then once you see [the looks] broken down into individual pieces, you think, I could do that sweater, I could do that jacket, I could add my own style to it.

LC: Now some of the younger guys in the league are using the pregame like a runway. Some are doing it okay and sometimes it looks crazy. You have to trust yourself and know what works for you, or it looks forced.

CA: I used to look to the urban world to know what’s hot and what’s not. And I loved those trends. I knew that every time I went to these urban places, I could tell what’s hot, because those people are very honest and it’s always about setting a new trend, not piggybacking off what’s out there. That’s what I was always into, because I was a product of my environment.

LC: One of the interesting things right now is that traditional French luxury brands are looking to streetwear to define what’s going to be on their runway. That’s something that was almost unheard of years ago—the idea that a major luxury house could work with a streetwear brand.

CA: Everything is cyclical. One thing is for sure: Streetwear will always come back around someway, somehow. It might not come back to the streets, but it will come back around to the rest of the world.

LC: It’s cool to see how things come back. I remember growing up and how style in the NBA was influential to fashion at the time. Then there was that moment when the NBA instituted the dress code policy, and suddenly a shift in the NBA completely impacted fashion. You saw players dressing up, [and] in the fashion world everyone started to clean up their styles, and suits came back into play.

CA: I can tell you what, I was part of the reason they decided to change the rule. [At first it was] plain white T-shirts and throwback jerseys. All the basketball players, we come from that. We felt right at home. We didn’t really understand the business behind the game of basketball at that time. They had to break it down to us. [Then] fashion started scaling higher. Fashion houses started catering more to athletes and started making suits. We took that, and I think it worked for the fashion world and for us as athletes. Once we started to understand it, that’s when you saw everybody focusing on their look, their image, what they wanted to wear. Stylists started becoming bigger and bigger. It had an impact on the culture, on music, hiphop, cars, everything.

“Everything is cyclical. One thing is for sure: Streetwear will always come back around someway, somehow.”

LC: Yeah, you had someone like Jay-Z going from [rapping about] throwback jerseys to lyrics like “[crisp pair of jeans]” and “button-ups.” Little decisions by certain influencers within the league, within hip-hop, moved [fashion] in a cool new direction.

CA: You can dress up, but you can also be cool at the same time. Once people started feeling confident about that, the game changed completely. Back then, hip-hop was hard-core with hoodies and Timberland boots. Now people are rapping the hoodest lyrics but they have suits on. It’s a culture shift across the board.

LC: Now New York Fashion Week is in the conversation. Luxury houses are looking to the NBA.

CA: We look forward to that now—to working with the fashion world. When I first came into the NBA, you got joked on for going to fashion shows. Now it’s part of the lifestyle. We look forward to seeing what’s hot and what’s not. You can even look at different styles and think, I could see this player in this or this player in that, because you know their styles.

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Coat in Dark Barolo felted wool, $3,400, at Bottega Veneta; cotton shirt, $510, at Marni; check pants, $695, at Valentino; Astrad shoes in brown, $650, at Bally.

LC: Growing up, one thing I always looked at was sneakers. Sneakers were the launching pad for me to even know what style was. It was always about getting the Jordans, the Iversons, even the Larry Johnson Cons. Was it similar for you?

CA: Depending on what kind of sneakers you wore, that’s what your style was. Jordans came later. When I was growing up [in Baltimore], you wore the old-school Filas or Pumas, the top ten Adidas, New Balance. Those were a part of my culture. You were identified by the sneakers you [had] on your feet.

“When I first came into the NBA, you got joked on for going to fashion shows. Now it’s part of the lifestyle.”

LC: In that moment, these major companies weren’t even aware or paying attention to the influence they had on popular culture and generations. And then you jump forward…

CA: The companies were not aware. That’s why it’s starting to come back now. You look at a company like Fila that was so big in the urban world. Now they’re like, We have to bring that back. A lot of brands didn’t understand what they had back then, and now they want to capture that [again].

LC: People now are so connected. They can see the story of where things originated, and I think the brand’s major obligation is not to miss that and not to think the consumer isn’t paying attention.

CA: You can’t lie to the consumer. They know what they want and why they want it.

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Coat in steel matte deerskin, $6,700, multicolored Marco striped knit, $980, and pants in light gray melange, $790, all at Bottega Veneta; leather sneakers, $595, at Lanvin; Royal Oak self-winding watch with date display and center seconds, stainless steel case, black dial, and stainless steel bracelet, $17,800, at Audemars Piguet.

LC: When I’m designing a new season, I take a ton of inspiration from the art world. Do you look to art for any projects you have going on?

CA: I look at art for inspiration whether it’s for fashion, sports. When it comes to wine, cigars, everything in the luxury world is completely centered around art. When I first started in the art world, I was so caught up with the Rembrandts and the Picassos and Basquiats and Van Goghs. I was so caught up on the big boys, I was blind to everything else. Then I thought, OK, those guys are the originators. Now I’m going to focus on bridging that gap. Where’s the inspiration? The understudies? The street artists. That’s where everything comes from, where the creativity comes from. I started supporting the street artists.

LC: That’s the fun part. You can drink a Screaming Eagle or a Pétrus every night, but where’s the fun in that? It’s about digging in and finding the unknown gem that has value to you. [But] you need to look at the predecessors, the masters, to have the point of context.

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Multicolored Marco striped knit, $980, and pants in light gray melange, $790, both at Bottega Veneta; Royal Oak self-winding watch with date display and center seconds, stainless steel case, black dial, and stainless steel bracelet, $17,800, at Audemars Piguet.

CA: It took me a while to become educated on all of that—art, wine, fashion.

LC: It goes back to the [technology conversation]. Even though kids have so much access, some of them don’t really understand the backstory. When everything is a scroll-through and a click-through, it misses the context. Sometimes the kids know the name but they don’t know the reason.

CA: That’s the challenge nowadays for fashion. You have to differentiate yourself from everyone else, and a big part of that is content [and] storytelling.

LC: You talked about the styles and brands you were looking to in Baltimore, M.D. [but] you’re from Brooklyn originally. There must have been a contrast.

CA: When I was growing up in Brooklyn, the trend here was Timberlands and Tommy Hilfiger jeans. You had The North Face coats and Calvin Kleins. That’s what it was known for. When I went to Baltimore, it was a totally different trend out there. It works with [my deal] with the Jordan brand— being able to bridge those gaps and connect those dots and tell those stories growing up in two different worlds. Even now when I talk about it in creative meetings, these are the two worlds. I find it a little easier to find inspiration in those stories.

LC: Are there things you’re seeing in the market that excite you?

CA: It’s constant evolution. I sit back and look and observe and add my own twist to it. That’s what I’m doing right now, just trying to see where everything is going.

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Coat in Dark Barolo felted wool, $3,400, at Bottega Veneta; cotton shirt, $510, at Marni; check pants, $695, at Valentino; Astrad shoes, $650, at Bally.

LC: Basketball has been front and center in your life for such a long period of time. Was there a moment when you thought, I need to develop my personal brand?

CA: I never thought about that. I wasn’t laying my ducks in order for the Melo brand. It took me about five or six years in the NBA to think about focusing on my brand and what I wanted to be. That’s a message I tell a lot of the younger guys coming into the game today: Take your time and figure out who you are as a person. It’s easier to brand yourself nowadays with social media, but I’d rather figure myself out and take as much time as I can. At 18, 19, 20 years old, you don’t know what your brand is.

LC: And something that might have been interesting in the moment could look crazy a few years later when you have more experience.

CA: When I came in and I was 19, 20, 21 and someone told me to put a suit on, I said, “I ain’t putting no damn suit on. Suits are for older guys.” That was the mentality. Now I’m in that situation. Just take your time and don’t rush it. It all came naturally for me.

LC: What was it like in the beginning seeing someone wearing a Carmelo Anthony jersey?

CA: It’s ironic because I’m sitting in the car right now and I see someone on the corner with my jersey on. In the early stage, it was just a surreal moment. I felt like I became something. I’m somebody. It was bigger for my family than it was for me, because I’m not looking at “Carmelo” on the back of the jersey, I’m looking at “Anthony.” That’s bigger than just me. That’s my family’s name. And for someone who’s not part of my family to be rocking that puts a lot of things in perspective.

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Categories: People Feature

photography by WARWICK SAINT, styled by KHALILAH BEAVERS,art direction by JAMES AGUIAR, shot on location at SPRING PLACE

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