From the Hardwood to the Runway: Russell Westbrook on His Love for Fashion

And what it's like to hang with Anna Wintour

Russell Westbrook may be a brand ambassador for major outfits including Nike and Mountain Dew (which is trying to break into the sports beverage arena with its Kickstart energy drink), but make no mistake about it: Fashion is Westbrook's biggest off-court passion. Westbrook opened up about how fashion has been a lifelong love of his, meeting Anna Wintour and why he'd love to design his own NBA jersey someday.

Adweek: Take me through why fashion was something you wanted to get into. When did you realize this was something you were interested in?

Russell Westbrook: I was always interested in it growing up. As … my game expanded on the basketball court, I was also in the same process of deciding what I wanted to do off the floor. Fashion was always a real interest of mine, so I decided, let me take it more seriously. Once I decided to take it more seriously, I decided to take all the steps and move in that direction, meet all the right people, whether it's going to shows or sitting in meetings or learning different things about the fashion world that I didn't know before. And me having the opportunity to do that and gain relationships gave me an opportunity to do the things that I'm doing now.

How far were you into your career when you started getting into it?

I would say probably like four or five years ago, when I went to my first Fashion Week and I was able to sit down with different people. My first time, I sat down with André Leon Talley and learned different things from him. The next time I had an opportunity to sit down with Anna Wintour. And I just kind of found my way around to meeting the top people in the fashion world and learn different things from those people.

When did you decide to start showing off your unique fashion sense in NBA circles—for example, during postgame interviews and press conferences?

Honestly, I was always dressing like this. Our team obviously got better and got a lot more notoriety. And I think once they started seeing me more and more, they were like, "Oh, this guy has his own sense of style." It's something that I was always doing … I think some people just noticed it and it gave me a platform to use it and branch off into different things.

Who are some of your favorite designers? Who do you get your inspiration from?

I get that question a lot and I never have a true answer. Because honestly, man, me, I'm here—I'm always on the web, always searching, always looking at magazines and looking at different articles and looking at different shows. I like so many different designers for different reasons. Some designers do spring better than summer, for example. It all depends on what season and what's going on for them. It's difficult to say for me.

What's your take on the NBA's move to allow teams to sell ads on jerseys? From a fashion standpoint, is there a way to make that look good and not too tacky?

I know they do it in soccer and over in Europe. Honestly, I'd be more interested in designing a jersey instead. Maybe if you had a Balmain jersey or a Givenchy or Dior. I think that would be even better, in my opinion.

This story first appeared in the June 27, 2016 issue of Adweek magazine.

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