LeBron James continues to bounce effortlessly between sports and fashion. With 16 years of playing in the NBA and a penchant for donning high-end get-ups designed by the likes of Hermès and Dries van Noten, the Los Angeles Lakers forward and former Cleveland Cavaliers player has released Friday a travel-friendly clothing collection called Hôtel, complete with socks, underwear, T-shirts, hoodies, shorts, track pants and slide sandals.
Designing with friends Jaron Kanfer and Frankie Walker Jr., James is advancing a sleek, minimalist aesthetic, limited to a palette of light gray, white, black and royal blue, with glimmers of gold on both the logo and the metal points dangling from neck and waist ties. Made mostly in the U.S., the styles look more expensive than they actually are; prices range from $10 to $70. Available in sizes small to XXL, the unisex designs are sold exclusively at UNKNWN, the retail store and its website unknwn.com, which James, Kanfer and Walker co-founded in Aventura, Fla.
“UNKNWN is really a representation of our lifestyle,” said Kanfer, who serves as chief executive and head buyer. “[Frankie and I] being in Miami and LeBron in L.A. — they’re very transient cities. We get a lot of travel.”
In addition to evolving their personal style, the trio has managed to get around a bit since they met at basketball camp in Akron, Ohio. “If you saw a picture of us in high school, we have XXXL T-shirts and really baggy clothes,” Kanfer said.
Although James is too busy to be involved in UNKNWN’s day-to-day operations, his knack for mixing luxury fashion and streetwear influences not only Hôtel but also the store’s merchandise, which includes $165 Commes des Garçons Play polo shirts and $2,250 Greg Lauren varsity jackets. Recalling how James ordered custom suits from Thom Browne for the Cleveland Cavaliers last year, Walker, who leads UNKNWN’s vendor relations, said, “Thom Browne is one of the brands that we brought into the store in the last six to seven months.”
Following James’ move to L.A., Walker said his longtime friend’s “style has developed into cleaner lines. He’s doing a lot more accessories. You see him with more hats and more jewelry. He has a more mature style.” As a result, he continued, “We plan to expand our [UNKNWN] accessories.”
Hôtel is the second line produced by UNKNWN. When the retail store opened in 2011, at the onset of James’ back-to-back championship runs with the Miami Heat, it introduced graphic tees and hoodies under a label called Sport. Among UNKNWN’s 13- to 40-year-old male customers, Sport got enough pull to collaborate with street-savvy brand Ksubi, offering $450 denim jackets embroidered with James’ basketball jersey number.
This fashion launch could foreshadow where James wants to propel his post-basketball career. Although he remains a marquee player on the Lakers, James also owns the production company SpringHill Entertainment and digital platform Uninterrupted. He’s funding a public school in Akron and filming “Space Jam 2,” the sequel to the 1996 basketball movie that featured Michael Jordan and Bugs Bunny. Later this year, UNKNWN will open a massive new store in Florida’s Wynwood Arts District, just in time for Art Basel in Miami Beach.
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