When Dwyane Wade wears his most outlandish fashions, he's not really trying to stand out.
Whether he's rocking capris with a suit, a pony-covered trench in Miami or a casual pair of pink pants, the Chicago Bulls star is simply just wearing what he's most comfortable in in that moment.
"The biggest thing is just being comfortable," he told me during a recent sit-down. "Whatever I'm comfortable in -- whatever color I'm comfortable in -- [I'm going to wear it]. If I was comfortable wearing pink pants back when it wasn't popular to wear color, then I would do it. If I'm comfortable in a romper, I'll wear it. I don't care what people are saying. It's all about doing whatever makes me comfortable."
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That being said, Wade, 35, admits that a side effect of his unique, talked-about style is naturally being at the forefront of the conversation of where athletes and fashion converge.
"I try to not always be the upfront person trying something new, but at certain points I'm definitely a risk-taker," he said with a smile. "I don't do things to fit in. I'm cool with sticking out and doing things on my own terms. If it's not received well, then so what?"
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Wade points to that infamous polka dot suit with capris that he wore to a basketball game back in 2013 as an example of one of those moments where he "definitely" has seen his influence. Before stepping out in the ensemble, he questioned his decision to wear it, but eventually just said to himself, "F--k it, I'm rolling with it."
"At the game, people were talking sh-t about me, and Kevin Hart was reposting stuff," he recalled. "But as time goes on, you see other athletes wearing it. I don't feel like I'm blazing any [sort of trail], but sometimes you have to see someone do something to know it can look good. I do the same thing; If I see someone wearing something, I go, 'Okay, I see how it looks. I could rock that.'"
One of the ways that Wade is surely blazing a trail is his recent partnership with Amazon Fashion, the first of its kind between the e-commerce powerhouse and a professional athlete that features his capsule collections with The Tie Bar, Way of Wade sneakers, Stance socks and MISSION apparel. It's an idea that Wade has been thinking about "for years."
"It's cool to be the first athlete in this space and [to] push that door down," he told me. "We do a lot of things, and we launch something here and there, but we wanted to have a one-stop shop [for my fans]."
Collectively, the collections feature over 100 pieces for men that range from $18 to $100, which is a price range that ensures that his collaborations are accessible to all of his fans -- and that's important to him.
"At the end of the day, you want to sell things," he said after I asked about whether or not he pays attention to what people are saying online. "I try to see for myself what people are saying and try to cater to my consumers, because they're the ones who are wearing it."
For Wade, there's a definite sweet spot between being accessible and driving demand through a level of scarcity that comes with almost every current celebrity-brand collaboration. From Rihanna's Puma partnership to Kanye West's juggernaut Adidas collaboration, everyone seems to want to garner buzz by making their products nearly impossible to get -- and Wade, while recognizes the importance of driving demand in that way, he also wants to make sure his customer has enough access to his products.
"For my sneakers, [for example,] China is where our brand is," he explained. "I never wanted to do anything big in the U.S., [so that we have that] demand. That's been one thing we've been trying to focus on."
That being said, Wade noted that he's seen a "good response" after introducing his more accessible Amazon Fashion capsule collections.
Back in April, Wade launched DSQUARED2 x DWYANE WADE, a higher-end collaboration with the DSquared2 designers that's available at Saks stores around the country. It features three looks -- nine individual items -- that represent Wade's laid-back-meets-attitude approach to style.
"We took their lead with it," Wade said of the collection. "Obviously, you want to get your foot in the door before you start calling the shots. They're geniuses, and we're trying to learn from them. I want to get more and more involved as we go along."
That willingness to learn about a space that isn't perhaps what he's primarily known for is what makes Wade's entrance into the fashion world so refreshing. Not only does he have a clear and natural passion for clothing and style, but he also freely admits that he has so much further to go before he can reach the level of expertise that he wants to achieve.
When I asked Wade about his third time attending the CFDA Awards earlier this month, he reflected on what it meant to him and his wife, Gabrielle Union, to be included in one of the fashion industry's most important and illustrious nights.
"You can tell you're in a different arena," he explained. "You're not the big dog, but you are respected. To me, that's humbling. It's cool to be in a room with different people and hearing that different conversation. I don't take [being invited] lightly."
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For Wade, who says that he gets more inspiration from female celebrities like Rihanna than he does from his more risk-averse male counterparts, this is just the beginning for him when it comes to fashion. With all of his concurrent projects going on, Wade is simply there to learn from and observe his partners, so that he can produce the best possible work for his customers.
"I don't live and breathe it [yet]," Wade said of fashion. "Basketball is what I live and breathe right now, as well as being a family man. [...] This whole process has given me a deeper appreciation for the work that goes into it. Now, when I fold my clothes, I take care of them. I don't just throw them on the bed [like I used to]."
Now that's what you call learning.
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