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Sports and Fashion Won Big Together This Year


Last Sunday, as Lionel Messi and the Argentine national team stood on the podium in Qatar with their World Cup trophy, the general mood was one of joy and admiration, though in some corners of the Internet a few viewers had noticed a detail that had them raising their eyebrows.

Why had the gold statuette arrived on the field in a logo-bedecked steel-toned Louis Vuitton trunk?

The same reason that before the final game, Qatar had hosted what was billed as “the world’s biggest fashion show,” with looks by more than 150 designers from 50 countries, all of it orchestrated by former French Vogue editor Carine Roitfeld.

When it comes to cultural influence, fashion and sports have increasingly teamed up to be a force in the game.

Both offer a shared language spoken across the world, communicated in an instant. And in 2022, the relationship reached a new level, one driven by the tangles of social media, the growth of influencer and sneaker culture, and a pandemic-spurred shift in cultural consumption. Something more essential has been going on. When you start looking, the connections are everywhere.

Just about a week before the World Cup began, the New York Knicks announced that they had named Ronnie Feig, otherwise known as a founder of Kith and a “legend of streetwear culture,” as their first creative director.

And just a few weeks before that, the Arizona Coyotes of the National Hockey League announced that they had appointed Rhuigi Villaseñor, the founder of the Los Angeles menswear line Rhude, as their creative strategist, a job he got not long after he became the designer of Bally, the Swiss luxury brand.


The news came in the wake of Serena Williams announcing that she was stepping back from tennis and onto the runway as the opening model in the Vogue World show; Tom Brady introducing Brady, his brand of lifestyle casual wear created with Jens Grede (the man who is behind the Kim Kardashian Skims line) and designed by Dao-Yi Chow, formerly of the Public School label; track and field’s Allyson Felix introducing her brand, Saysh; Ferrari holding its first fashion show on the official schedule at Milan Fashion Week; and Michael Jordan’s brand choosing to open its first concept store in Milan rather than Chicago.

As to why, well, “it’s a fashion capital of the world,” Craig Williams, the brand’s president, told WWD. “People come here because they are thinking about what’s new, what will be hot a year or two from now, And when we think about the impact we want to have with consumers, in the industry, in streetwear, and in culture too, there are a lot of synergies between our aspirations and everything Milan represents.”

Grede said: “It comes down to the intersection of commerce and entertainment. They have converged.”

The Language of Influence

Villaseñor said his deal with the Coyotes would allow him to get his hands on everything from, potentially, “the campaigns to the colour palette of the arena, the drinks, the lighting, the logo and the design, including outside the stereotypical merchandise programme to dressing the team on both a street and formality level.”

And not unlike what he is trying to do in reinventing Bally, where he added some louche razzle-dazzle to the Alpine ephemera. “If you really dissect it, it’s about honouring the heritage and amplifying it,” Villaseñor said.

That’s the sort of fashionspeak traditionally found in design ateliers, not weight rooms. But, said Scott Malkin, an owner of the New York Islanders, it’s not the only connection. Malkin is also the founder of Value Retail, a group of luxury outlet malls in Europe and Asia, and this year he broke ground on a new shopping village next to the recently opened UBS Arena in Elmont, New York.

Sports and fashion are both, he said, “about creative energy married to execution,” about managing talent that often doesn’t easily fit into a rigid structure and that has to evolve as society does. They both deal with a relentless schedule and can have enormous psychic impact and reach, he said, and both love to talk about the “curation of experience.”


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