Russell Westbrook by Dapper Dan

Undoubtedly one of the NBA's reigning champions of style today, Russell Westbrook sits down with the originator of the streetwear-meets-luxury fashion trend, Dapper Dan, for an interview that's a slam dunk.
Reading time 9 minutes


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Fashion’s flirtation with “street style” has been a long courtship, but in the last several seasons that romance has become something more “official.” With Off-White designer Virgil Abloh’s ascension to the top of Louis Vuitton Men's, the inclusion of publications such as Hypebeast into the rarefied air of fashion publishing, not to mention the ubiquity of “it” sneakers every season, street style seems to have moved decidedly uptown.

That movement, in part, has been propelled by the fusion of popular culture, from the likes of hip-hop and sports, especially. For many, the legendary Harlem tailor Dapper Dan, was one of the first to combine the haute with the street, utilizing brand iconography from the likes of Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Fendi, to create custom-made pieces in the ’80s for the likes of LL Cool J, Salt-N-Pepa, and Rakim and Eric B. After closing shop in 1992, Dap is having something of his own Harlem Renaissance, partnering last September with Gucci’s creative director, Alessandro Michele, on an official joint-venture.


Sports too, and particularly its high-profile athletes, have been at the vanguard of street style’s now well-established place in the upper echelons of fashion (one need look no further than LeBron James’ recent “runway” show featuring full-looks by Thom Browne).

Few athletes, however, compare to NBA player Russell Westbrook when it comes to both a passion for and an impact upon, men’s fashion today. Whether appearing in the pages of GQ and Vogue, helming his own line of clothing, Honor The Gift, or collaborating with glitzy publisher Rizzoli on Russell Westbrook: Style Drivers Westbrook’s keen eye for style—not to mention his sheer output—points to the role he, and other athletes like him, play in setting the pace of fashion today.

It made sense then that the father of street style would sit down with one of his inheritors, to discuss everything from personal tastes to how best stay in the zone when it comes to both work, and play.


DAPPER DAN: Is this the great West I'm talking to right now?

RUSSELL WESTBROOK:  What's going on, champ?


DAN: You are the cutting edge. Let me tell you something, I watch your style, I gotta tune in for when you walk to the arena, I got to check you every time, man. I know, for real. I gotta tell you about that.

In fact, I'm going to start this off telling you about that in case we get cut off later on. You know, when hip-hop got initiated, first it was the gangsters that controlled style. Hip-hop artists wanted to be like the gangsters, and style developed from there; they got to the point where they had they own style.

But you are signaling something really new. When you look at Nike sneakers, how guys used to just wear sneakers and Nike sneakers associated with sports. And now, the guys who don't even play sports will get dressed up and get fly in them. When I see you walking into the arena, if you continue like this swag move you got going on, then sports celebrities can step up to the runway and get it on, man. I just want to tell you that.

WESTBROOK: My man, I appreciate that brotha. You know, I try to change the culture when I can. I see you have started your own boutique. How does it feel to be in your own atelier working directly with Gucci?


DAN: You know what, that's a good question. The world has caught up, Gucci has caught up, and I like what's happening. The significant thing about all of this is that the vision Gucci has, that Alessandro Michele and Marco Bizzari have, is the incorporation of culture’s diversity into fashion. Everything is coming together now, and I'm happy about that. There's a new day in fashion.

WESTBROOK: Streetwear mixed with high-end is taking over.


DAN: It made it better, for sure, but the bottom line is fashion is the vehicle, but culture is the wheels on the vehicle. So when the big brands, when the European brands engage more like I said earlier into the culture, it changed everything.

It’s like two parallel universes converging. The culture was moving parallel to high-end items, but the high-end things we had to create. But once these parallels universes came together, it changed the whole complexion of fashion and I think it's a good thing.

DAN: When did you first fall in love with fashion?

WESTBROOK: I would say probably early on back in middle school, around that time. The way you can express yourself through fashion excited me and made me more and more interested in getting involved in it. My mom used to put outfits together for me, but at a certain age, I wanted to be creative and put my own looks together.


DAN: How old were you?

WESTBROOK: Probably about 13 was when I was really trying to figure out what it meant to have your own style, your own swag.


DAN: Define your style. Who was your influence?

WESTBROOK: My mom is my main influence. She was always the one that got me involved in whatever was going on in fashion

"Some people may think it's taking risks, honestly for me it's ... just being natural, being yourself." 

DAN: But how did your own style develop, like you said, as you got older? Did you see yourself leaning away from what your mother defined as fashion? You got more liberal with yourself because, for sure, you’re cutting edge.

WESTBROOK: I think playing basketball has allowed me more access to things I didn't have access to when I was younger. I think the progression of my own style is about having access to the right people. I can go to the different fashion houses, go to the shows, and learn more about what fashion is.


DAN: When did you feel like taking risks with fashion?

WESTBROOK: Honestly man, some people may think it's taking risks, honestly for me it's really just like you said, just being natural, being yourself…expressing who I am and what it is I have an interest in.


DAN: Tell me about your design process, especially when it comes to your shoes. I want to hear about the third sneaker design that will be unveiled in Paris.

WESTBROOK: I’ve been with Nike collaborating on their Jordan collection. It’s a great process. I get to pick the materials, pick the style, pick the colors. For the Paris launch, it will be my third off-the-court shoe. I wanted something very comfortable, easy flowing and simple that you can wear pretty much with anything and I'm excited to get it unveiled there.


DAN: That's crazy! That's a great opportunity too. Tell me, what rules of style do you want to teach your son?

WESTBROOK: To just be yourself. I think it’s very simple. Just be yourself. When you put too much into it and try to do what other people are doing, then you lose yourself.

DAN: When did you fall in love with basketball? I'm anxious to hear that one.

WESTBROOK: I mean I started playing when I was seven. Actually, my first sport was football. It wasn’t until I was about 10 or 11, though, that I really fell in love with basketball. Focused all my energy on that sport.

DAN: Do you have any specific wellness practices? How do you stay healthy and active?

WESTBROOK: I mean, rest obviously, resting and staying focused. If you establish a routine, wellness as a way of life becomes easy for you; you know what you have to do to make sure that you're able to play on a higher level.

DAN: Do you have any routines that might help you stay centered? How do you zone out when you need a minute to yourself?

WESTBROOK: For me, family is most important; that gives me peace.

DAN: I love watching you because it’s like watching my life story. Seeing somebody who never gives up and is never about losing. I admire you for that.

WESTBROOK: Thanks, man, I really appreciate that.

Photography Randall Mesdon 

Fashion Jason Rembert

Grooming Hee Soo Kwon for MALIN + GOETZ Stylist Assistant Daniel Lee Retouching Dcoy Studios

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