‘Fly is fly’: Inside the WNBA’s thriving fashion scene

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‘Fly is fly’: Inside the WNBA's thriving fashion scene

Clothes blanket Jewell Loyd’s perfectly made king-sized hotel bed. Black pants, charcoal pants and striped shorts are paired with a long, white jacket that looks almost like a lab coat. A light gray zip-up is next to it. A white button down top with short sleeves and red poppy flowers is the centerpiece.

“What are we feeling?” stylist Sydney BordonaroLoyd.

WNBA players can answer any question on any given day. They’re feeling cozy. Sometimes swaggy. Other times, it can be sexy.

Always available.

Loyalty is a feeling “mafia in the summer”As she looks in the mirror, she is wearing black pinstripe trousers and a red floral shirt that she hesitantly adopted. She also has low-top Dior Air Jordan 1 sneakers, which retail for more than $8,000. She’s only worn them once, but this outfit is for a special occasion: the WNBA All-Star Game.

A close-up view of Jewell Loyd’s Dior x Air Jordan 1 shoes.

(Meg Oliphant / Los Angeles Times)

The Seattle guard walked the red carpet in her coveted sneakers Friday as the WNBA gathered at Chicago for All-Star Weekend. The league’s brightest stars showed off their best looks. All-Star team captain A’ja Wilson stunned in black leather shorts and thigh-high boots. Candace Parker, who was welcoming the midseason event in her hometown, wore an olive-green silk suit.

The days of the boring pant suit or the simple blouse and pencil skirt are gone. The WNBA has evolved to embrace streetwear and androgynous fashion, despite being a league that emphasized a feminine and heteronormative image in its early days.

Simply put: “Fly is fly,” Bordonaro said.

The change that has pushed the WNBA to number one on fashion-savvy social media channels is “like night and day,” Seattle point guard Sue Bird said.

The 21-year-old veteran who will retire at season’s end will be remembered as a “limiting” dress code that was lifted almost verbatim from the NBA when the top men’s league was trying to replace streetwear with suits on the sideline. Similar to the NBA’s strict guidelines, WNBA players were discouraged from wearing T-shirts and jeans. The league preferred collared or button-down shirts for women who played during the peak of summer.

The tunnel walk was transformed by NBA players in recent years into a runway for high fashion. The WNBA also saw the phenomenon, with social media teams taking photos of players arriving in everything, from bright blazers and wide-leg trousers to denim cutoffs to tall boots. These photos are as popular as the game highlights on social media.

The WNBA players must not wear hats or bandsanas while on the court. Everything else is acceptable.

“That’s how it should be,”Loyd, who is a four time All-Star, said: “Everyone should be able to be comfortable in their own bodies, feel comfortable in what they wear and they shouldn’t have to explain themselves.”

Jewell Loyd and stylist Sydney Bordonaro check out a shirt in the mirror.

Jewell Loyd & Sydney Bordonaro, stylist, look at a shirt in a mirror.

(Meg Oliphant / Los Angeles Times)

Popular social media feeds like League Fits, ProtrendingOr GQ SportsHighlight WNBA players stepping into games in ensembles that are both masculine and feminine, casual or dressy. On the same night, Connecticut Sun guard Dijonai Carrington Bright pink shorts, a matching crop jacket and matching pants were worn by Courtney Williams as she entered the arena in a matching shirt and matching sneakers. Courtney Williams was wearing a lime green leopard print shirt and matching black pants. Courtney Williams was following her with an oversized lime green leopard print shirt and matching sneakers. Players may also use the spotlight for social causes, such as wearing a hat. “We Are BG”T-shirts to show support for Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury star) or to flip the U.S. Senate “Vote Warnock”2020 shirts

Celebrating the league’s diversity through fashion is “low-key part of being a role model,”Bird said. “[It’s] showcasing different parts of yourself so little kids can see that and maybe see themselves in somebody.”

Bird, who earned first-team All-Drip from Slam Magazine’s League Fits in 2019, stepped up her tunnel game this year by working with stylist Courtney Mays, the fashion mastermind behind NBA players Chris Paul, Kevin Love and DeAndre Jordan. The stylists of WNBA combine fashion gurus, personal shoppers, and psychologists.

Before any clothes come into play, stylists study a client’s personality. Are they bold enough to wear bright colors? You could also cut the sleeves of a shirt. Kesha McLeod is a stylist who has worked with Parker, Serena Williams and James Harden. Tucker, even went as far as to notice a former client who never looked at the top shelf of his closet, signaling to the stylist that he was a laser-focused dresser who wanted no-fuss outfits that wouldn’t take time away from focusing on his sport.

“You get into their minds and you understand them,” said McLeod, who styled Parker’s orange carpet look that included a unique cut-out in the back of the jacket. “I don’t take them out of their element because what they’re known for is playing. I just elevate that with fashion.”

Chanel Robinson-HillAfter Dallas Wings guard Arike Olubowale, the reigning All-Star Game Most Valuable Player, contacted the part-time stylist/bioprocessing engineer on Instagram, the two instantly connected. Robinson-Hill chose Ogunbowale as her style. high school jersey retirement ceremonyLast year. To capture the moment, Robinson-Hill chose a hoodie with the iconic 1991 photo of Michael Jordan clutching the Larry O’Brien Trophy after winning his first NBA championship, a nod to Ogunbowale winning her high school’s first Wisconsin Division I state title.

“When you wear this piece, I want everyone else to understand this is how you felt without saying a word,”Robinson-Hill styled Ogunbowale in Friday’s lightweight two-piece suit.

WNBA star Arike Ogunbowale of the Dallas Wings walks the Orange Carpet.

Arike Ogunbowale, WNBA star and Dallas Wings player, walks the orange carpet at the 2022 WNBA All-Star Weekend.

(Kena Krutsinger / NBAE via Getty Images)

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Robinson-Hill searches the internet for unique pieces for Ogunbowale. Working with a stylist is a great way to make life easier for fashion-savvy but time-pressed pro ballers.

Loyd doesn’t like shopping and would often buy online, but when something inevitably didn’t fit, she didn’t have time to return it. Bordonaro takes it all care of now.

The L.A.-based stylist who works with players from Seattle to New York searches for pieces online and in person, gets them sent to her clients’ homes, delivers them by hand when they blow through L.A. on a road trip or even overnights packages to different hotels while players are on the road. To finalize Las Vegas Aces guard Kelsey Plum’s All-Star outfit, Bordonaro drove to Las Vegas with a trunk full of clothes and spent the day with the former No. The orange carpet was walked by the No. 1 overall pick in a white blazer, white bodysuit, and beige pants.

Plum, a favorite face on League Fits GQ SportsShe stated that she was lacking in style this year, but wanted to be more. “come with a little bit more oomph.”Bordonaro was a mutual friend who she enlisted.

Plum’s “personality is just through the roof, but she never really dressed like it,” Bordonaro said. “So it’s like, alright, let’s just dress how you feel.”

Plum is a spunky, but structured person. She likes everything neat and tidy. Although they’ve grown close, Bordonaro and Plum sometimes disagree over outfits. The 25-year-old stylist, who often wears her long blonde hair in a bun on her head, loves bright colors. Plum would be happy to live in all black. She doesn’t like pink.

WNBA All-Star Kelsey Plum of the Las Vegas Aces walks the orange carpet.

WNBA All-Star Kelsey Plum from the Las Vegas Aces walks on Friday the orange carpet during 2022 WNBA All-Star weekend.

(Mary Kate Ridgway via NBAE via Getty Images).

Yet after some light-hearted argument, Plum carried a fuzzy pink purseLast month, I walked into an arena to complete an outfit consisting of loose black pants and a gray John Geiger T shirt. It was loved by the internet.

“I never thought I would say this,”Plum stated, “but you feel good, you play good.”

Plum did just that. She earned her first All-Star appearance, scoring 19.9 points, 5.7 assists, and 2.7 rebounds. These are all career highs.

Bordonaro was a long-time friend of Loyd and now works alongside players, including New York Liberty teammates. Michaela Onyenwere and DiDi Richards Sparks rookie Rae BurrellHe never had the intention to start a fashion empire. The Pittsburgh native aimed to work in marketing and become a sports agent after earning her master’s degree in sports management from Long Beach State. However, styling athletes has shown her that it can be a one stop resource for fashion marketing, branding and marketing. She hopes opening Plum’s closet, along with the guard’s blossoming play, will help turn her into one of the most popular professional athletes in the world.

“The clothes are just a platform really for them to show who they are, what they’re about,” Bordonaro said, “and then just expand into marketing.”

Bordonaro hopes that as her business grows, she will be able secure more deals with brands in order to provide her clients with free product and support via social media posts. Sponsored posts can earn thousands of dollars based on an athlete’s online following.

Social media is a direct way for brands to reach female athletes, who have had long-standing difficulties attracting sponsorships at the same pace as their male counterparts. However, it takes extra effort.

“A James [Harden], he just wears it, he doesn’t want to tag [on social media], he don’t want to do anything and brands are like, ‘Oh my God, I gotta send him more,’”McLeod stated. “For us, women especially, we go the extra mile, and I think it’s very important also to set the blueprint for other years to come that they don’t gotta work so hard.”

Stylist Sydney Bordonaro checks the suitcase of Storm forward Jewell Loyd for the WNBA All-Star weekend.

Sydney Bordonaro, a stylist, checks the suitcase of Storm forward Jewell Loyd in preparation for the WNBA All-Star Weekend.

(Meg Oliphant / Los Angeles Times)

Among the armfuls of clothes Bordonaro brought to Loyd’s hotel room at the J.W. A suitcase of gift items was also brought by Bordonaro to Loyd’s hotel room in the J.W. Marriott. After they finish planning Loyd’s All-Star outfit, they cracked open the swag bag to find T-shirts from John Geiger, brightly colored Bristol Studios shorts — fitted to Loyd’s liking so they graze her knees — and sweatpants from Seattle-based Sky Blue. Loyd won’t have to shop for the rest of the year.

An oversized Styxx tan hoodie caught Loyd’s eye. Bordonaro began organizing the fashion tornado and asked Loyd what she wanted to bring with her. The Seattle guard urged Loyd to take the heavy sweatshirt.

She’s feeling that one.

Stylist Sydney Bordonaro gives the peace sign as she poses for a photo with WNBA star Jewell Loyd pose for a photo.

During a styling session at J.W. Marriott.

(Meg Oliphant / Los Angeles Times)


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