There is something special about the way music, basketball and fashion intersect. While artists and actors have long been affiliated with different fashion houses and ever-changing looks, athletes are starting to consciously build and shape their brands. The tunnel from the locker room to the court functions more and more like a runway; off the court, players are exploring different avenues to showcase their personalities and style. Rajon Rondo has interned at GQ, Dwyane Wade has taken in top fashion shows from the front row, and LeBron James has graced the cover of Vogue, just to mention a few.
NBA.com recently caught up with Monica and Shannon Brown, a couple that perfectly represents the fusion of high fashion with entertainment and sports.
NBA.com: Fashion, music, and sports seem to intersect constantly in both personal and professional realms. Monica, can you talk about the role of fashion in music, and Shannon, can you talk about the role of fashion throughout your NBA career?
Monica: In music, fashion is almost just as important as the music because the imagery is something that people look at, sometimes more than they do the actual music or talent part of it. Sometimes, it makes it more complicated because as an artist, when we’re in a specific zone, you’re not thinking about the clothing and the hair and the makeup. But they all work hand-in-hand.
Shannon: Throughout my career, now looking back, the players could wear whatever they wanted to. Guys would come in with jeans, t-shirts, sweat suits, jerseys, whatever was fashionable from whatever part of the world or country or city, wherever you were from. Now, everybody is trying to keep their fashion game up. You see guys on the runways, overseas, when they are showing the new styles and the new clothes, and what’s trending and stuff like that. So you see guys in suits, you see guys with the tight clothes, you see guys with the loose clothes. Me personally, I like something that fits. I don’t really like the tight couture look, I need some wiggle room…I just like anything that looks good and feels good to me and on me.
NBA.com: Monica, as a musician and actress, you are always ‘on’ even when you are not on camera. Can you talk about that aspect of being an entertainer and do you think that is now extending to more industries, as we see the players representing their own brands off the court and participating in high fashion?
Monica: I think it’s pretty cool to see the players represent high fashion and the things that they love off the court, because you get to know them as individuals. When they’re on the court, they’re in one uniform, they’re in sync, the goal is to play as a team. But when you get a chance to learn these guys separately, I think it’s pretty interesting because they’re all completely different as far as athletes go. With us in music, I think that it speaks for us when we can’t really speak. When we’re performing, you have on the clothes, you have all these different things you put together, but that’s what says the most about you outside of the performance in itself. I think the fashion speaks for the individuality of the artist and the athlete, because that’s the only time we get to show how different we may be from the other.
NBA.com: The tunnels of NBA arenas seem more and more like runways. What have you both noticed about how fashion has been embraced by the players?
Monica: I think they’re unafraid. I like the fact that the players now are unafraid. They really don’t care what’s said or what’s thought as long as it fits them and what they’re comfortable in. I like the fact that they don’t feel like they have to look one particular way. My husband, for instance, he’s tall, he’s muscular and he also has a 15 shoe size. It’s not as easy to find the fashions, but that’s something that a lot of [players] experience. So, when you see what it really takes for them to find clothing and shoes that are high fashion, things that are European that are usually more slim cut–they go through quite a bit to make sure that the things that they love, they find in their sizes, custom making things, special ordering a lot of stuff. I have a great respect for it because now I see what it actually takes.
Shannon: It’s getting better and better every year. Some of the looks I don’t agree with, I wouldn’t wear personally, but I like the way guys are showing how they are multifaceted.
NBA.com: Many NBA players employ stylists. How does Shannon build his wardrobe? Does he use a stylist or shop around and get items custom made?
Monica: He does both, actually. When we travel and we do different things, he enjoys shopping and looking at different things. And I love to wear the things that he likes and vice versa, so we pick out a lot of stuff for each other. But he also has a stylist named Shun Melson from Creative Solutionz, and she’ll ship him large boxes of things already put together from head to toe. And if there’s some things that he may not like, he may just interchange pieces. But she’s the one that takes on the task of really finding him the difficult pieces. He loves exotic sneakers, so she takes on that task of finding and placing custom orders and getting those things to him, because his schedule during the season just doesn’t allow for him to do that.
NBA.com: You were a style correspondent for TNT and NBA TV during All-Star Weekend. You saw all the effort guys put into their looks. Who really impressed you then, and during the postseason this year?
Monica: Without question, my husband. I would have to say when I see some of the things that he was wearing over the weekend, I was pretty excited. As far as the other guys go, I really enjoy Kobe Bryant’s style. He’s well traveled and [the Bryants] being friends of ours, I know that a lot of times the places they go, whether it’s Spain or the different places they love, those are places he shops as well. Carmelo Anthony’s fashion was very much on point throughout the NBA All-Star weekend. I know how hard it is because of size. When I see them in some of the latest leathers and finding different things in the sizes that they need, I know how hard it is, so my respect was instantly there. I also loved [Russell] Westbrook’s style. I think that it’s often misunderstood, but I think that it’s loved by him, and that’s who your own personal sense of fashion should be first pleasing to: Yourself! I think too many people spend too much time with the hope of getting a specific thing said about them the next day, whether it’s on the blogs or in papers or magazines. He really has a sense of style where he’s not as concerned what other people think, so he really stood out to me as well.
NBA.com: This postseason, I have noticed players wearing a lot of denim, prints, bright colors, and hats. My personal favorite is the breaking up of the three-piece suit and mixing and matching the vests with other items in their wardrobes. Which have been your favorite menswear trends this year?
Monica: I love the vests. Leaving the suit jacket at home, but still having a nice, sleek conservative look, where you still have on the slacks, the vest, the tie. I love the pins. My husband, for the Billboard Awards, wore a Vivienne Westwood pin on his suit jacket, but he still had on a crew neck white shirt underneath which didn’t require a tie. I think just mixing up the looks, but still having a very distinguished look, is just a very sexy thing they’re doing now.
Shannon: Personally, I went from hip hop, with the Louboutin [shoes], baggy jeans, a nice jacket, or a vest with a long sleeve thermal shirt, nice belt. And then, I also like the three-piece suit without the jacket, with just the vest and then the sleeves rolled up with the pants and matching a nice, what I call, “church shoe.” Those two different looks — anything in between is what I shopped for this year.
NBA.com: Besides wearing the clothes, players are interning at magazines like GQ and sitting in the front row of fashion shows. Do you think this is only the beginning of the connection between both industries?
Monica: I do, because I think they feel that sense of freedom. For almost 9-10 months a year, they’re in sneakers and shorts. So I think it’s intriguing to them, the different things that they’re venturing into. They’re in sneakers most of the year, so it has to be pretty intriguing to go to fashion shows…I think this is just the beginning. I think they will be even more involved. You’ll see a lot more athletes actually representing some of the clothing lines. I believe the time will come where you’ll see the actual print ads and commercials on television–I think they’re going to play a major part in it.
Shannon: Hands down, especially after the rule was put into place where clothing has to be business casual. I’m sure there are guys that want to be dressed the best in a sense. Everything you want to do, you want to be the best at. There’s definitely guys out there competing for who looks the best on any given game night.
NBA.com: Speaking of shoes, sneakers are fashion in itself. How into sneakers is Shannon and how many pairs would you estimate he owns?
Monica: If I could give a count of the amount of sneakers! I don’t know, maybe 2,000 pairs.
NBA.com: And yours too…
Monica: Counting mine too? Maybe 4,000! My husband has a Nike contract, but more so outside of the contract, he is very, very serious about comfort. One thing I can say about him [regarding designer shoes], he does not care who makes it, who designed it, how fashionable it is. If it’s not comfortable, he is not wearing it!
NBA.com: Let’s take a break from fashion for a second. You’ve been one of the most respected singers in the industry for so long. What can we expect from your next project?
Monica: I like to keep the music honest. I’ve always been very honest about my life and the things I’ve experienced, whether it be love, heartbreak, self growth. Finding that self-love, just as a woman, I’ve shared so many different things throughout the music. As I started this project, and found out that we were being blessed with another child, I felt like I needed to incorporate all of that. All of the things that it took for me to get to this point will be in the music. I worked with different people that I’ve never worked with before. But I’ve also called up the people that have been a part of my career the entire 20 years like Missy Elliott, Polow Da Don, and Rico Love has been working on a lot of stuff for me. It’s just been a journey that I don’t want to leave any parts of out. Sometimes, as an artist, you can get stuck in only what you’re experiencing, but I wanted to reflect everything that I’ve been through and not just the moments that I live in right now per se. It’s been really interesting. It’s been fun just recording in different places, and finding studios and things of that nature in odd places where the family and I can kind of transition and stay there. You draw different inspiration when you change your scenery, so that’s what I’ve been doing this particular album to get it together.
NBA.com: When can fans expect the new album?
Monica: Over here, family always comes first. I have to see how I’m feeling after September and I’m thinking, realistically, that the top of next year is when I would release singles and get back into the swing of things. I want to spend some time with my children, and it’s really good to be able to travel with them, which is what I’ve been doing.
NBA.com: Shannon, have you noticed a huge difference between style in Los Angeles and Phoenix?
Shannon: Of course [laughs]. L.A. is the bright lights. Every night, you’re on TV, you’ve got cameras everywhere you go, from stepping off the bus, to the arena…it’s not the same at all [in Phoenix], but guys still are fashionable. They don’t do it just for the cameras, they do it for themselves. It’s just to look good, feel good, and go out there and want to play good.
NBA.com: The Suns just got the fifth pick in the Draft lottery, and while there will likely be some changes before opening night, what are you looking forward to for next season?
Shannon: Personally, I just want to get out there and consistently play and compete for a chance to get to the playoffs and win a championship. That’s what I’m looking for. Whatever changes are made and whatever the case is, I’m just looking forward to a great season next year.