NEW YORK — The basketball player Andre Iguodala arrives for the Rochambeau spring menswear show and immediately causes a stir. It’s not the kind of frenetic chaos that greets Kardashians nor the awestruck screaming that accompanies a Beyoncé sighting. It is a low-grade fawning — cool dudes hanging back while casting an admiring glance his way.
Like a lot of today’s top NBA players, Iguodala likes fashion. Like countless celebrities, he saunters into prime fashion real estate: front row at fashion shows, GQ photo spreads highlighting his style, the red carpet. He has been to shows in Paris and talked shop with designers.
His size-15 feet have trod a well-worn path in fashion. But now that the kid from Illinois has an National Basketball Association championship to his name (he was the Golden State Warriors’ MVP in last year’s finals) and can afford to buy all of the clothes he wants, what he wants is not exactly the latest Givenchy or Lanvin — although those are quite nice. The look he says he’s after is more elusive: “confidence.”
When someone looks at him, he wants them to immediately think: “This person is about something.” This person is focused. Purposeful.
“Perception sometimes is reality,” he says. “Not that I care what other people think, but you have to be careful how you’re perceived.” Especially now, he says, when the fatal shootings of so many black men are in the news.
Igoudala stands at 6-foot-6 with endless legs and a magnificent wingspan. His physique, however, is more graceful than intimidating. He does not walk with heavy feet. He’s not weighed down with an entourage of hangers-on and security. And for the show, he is dressed in gray trousers, a charcoal pullover and a Rochambeau silky bomber jacket in sea-foam green.
After a brief, post-show pit stop to congratulate the designers backstage, Iguodala settles into his black SUV, the air conditioning blowing on a steamy afternoon, to talk about fashion.
It is a passion that extends to his childhood when he admired his well-dressed mother. For him, fashion is memory. It is looking his best on Easter Sunday and taking off his school clothes at the end of the day and changing into his play clothes. Fashion is propriety. It is a passport that eases entry into unfamiliar territory. It is dignity and self-possession. And now, it is a business venture.
In the fall, he will debut a collaboration with Rochambeau, a small capsule collection that will respect the brand’s aesthetic, which is athletic but luxurious — and for spring 2017 painterly and gentle — and one that he was drawn to long before he knew much about the brand and its designers, Joshua Cooper and Laurence Chandler.
“I saw a few of their collections,” Iguodala says. “I went out and bought it: They don’t know who I am, and I don’t know who they are.”
And, of course, isn’t that the highest compliment one can pay a designer? To buy their work simply because you love it, not because of the name. Eventually they met; he placed some private orders. They hit it off.
Iguodala, 32, arrived at this place of appreciation for fashion’s more esoteric brands by way of classic houses such as Salvatore Ferragamo and Ralph Lauren. As a younger man, he wore a lot of Ralph Lauren Black Label, a mid-priced division of the Seventh Avenue behemoth that has since been eliminated. Iguodala liked the line because it was timeless. “You look at pictures of the Rat Pack and the stuff they wore would look great today,” he says. “You look at pictures from the ’70s, and you wonder, ‘What were they thinking?'”
“I wanted to grow up, and so I was putting myself in a lot of suits,” he says of his affection for Ralph Lauren. He still loves classic blazers, except now he will toss them on over a pair of track pants because that is the stylish menswear thing to do. And of course, those track pants are lean and tailored and acceptable under the NBA dress code, established in 2005 — a move that brought fashion into sports like a tidal wave.
Igoudala thinks the first fashion show he attended was about 2009. It was for Ferragamo, which is not exactly a hipster-cool brand. “I was into shoes,” he explains. (He still is.) And because he needs a size 15 or 16, and because he’d heard that Michael Jordan wore a lot of Ferragamo shoes, he started investing in the company’s made-to-measure footwear.
He had no idea what to expect from a runway show, at least “from the ankles up.” (He assumed the buttoned-up brand would begin its show on time; of course it commenced on fashion time.) Soon, he was taking in other shows and exploring brands by designers who are not household names, who are just beginning their careers and whose creativity is still being tested.
He turned up this week at John Elliott, an Los Angeles-based designer whose brand, launched in 2012, blends athleticism with luxury. (Don’t they all?) He liked the sportswear at Stampd, a collection by Chris Stamp, also based in Los Angeles.
The danger for any celebrity, any athlete, is that a fashion collection just becomes another branding opportunity — one that quickly and embarrassingly fizzles out. “It can’t be forced,” Igoudala says. “It can’t be, ‘This brand’s hot; you’ve got to work with them.'” He notes that fellow NBA star Russell Westbrook, who works with True Religion, is someone who has made inroads in fashion with an eye toward longevity.
The industry has been welcoming, Igoudala says. It would be hard for fashion, particularly menswear, not to be. That would deny the influence and clout of athletes — especially black athletes — who have been in the forefront of experimenting with style.
“I think men’s fashion, even the big houses, they understand” our influence, Igoudala says. “We know our culture influences the masses. . . . They steal our ideas. I don’t want to seem like a Black Panther, but from Day 1 that’s happened.”
So Igoudala is honing his fashion skills and working on the fundamentals. He has tentative line sheets — the flat, spare production sketches — saved on his phone. With several partners, he is looking to launch a big-and-tall men’s e-commerce site, called Good Counsel, in January. He’s learning how to translate the lessons of basketball to fashion. “With fashion,” he says, “you don’t just show up to take some pictures.”
And, as in basketball, you take advantage of your strengths.