Thu, Oct 18, 2018 - Page 16 News List

The man to thank for athletes’ fashion


NBA player Donovan Mitchell accepts the Best Breakthrough Athlete award at the ESPYS in Los Angeles, California, on July 18.

Photo: AFP

When rising NBA star Donovan Mitchell needed a suit for the ESPY Awards this year in Los Angeles, he went to a dapper gentleman named Andrew Jang.

The result was a jacket covered in a white spiderweb pattern, including an arachnid on his upper back where all the lines converged.

Mitchell’s nickname has been “Spida” since he was a kid.

The one-of-a-kind outfit was from a label called Adriaen Black, which has quietly become the go-to for athletes looking for something flashy at the next awards show, celebrity benefit or fan event.

Regular humans cannot have one, unless they are draining three-pointers for the Golden State Warriors or catching passes downfield for the New England Patriots.

Jang’s custom suits, which typically cost between US$1,500 and US$4,000, can be found draped over athletes everywhere.

Jang’s label has worked with about 800 athletes and 40 teams.

Fashion has become essential to pro sports as athletes care more about how they telegraph their personalities.

However, nowhere in the world of sports has style been as deeply ingrained as the NBA. The bowels of arenas, where the players walk from their vehicles to the locker room, have become something of a concrete catwalk.

Russell Westbrook, arguably the pinnacle of fashion consciousness for the league, has been followed by dozens of other players eager to portray themselves as fast-break fashionistas.

Donovan Mitchell is 191cm, 97.5kg, and was one of the best rookies in pro basketball last year. When he was playing college hoops at Louisville, he never wore a suit and did not care about fashion. Whenever he tried on something off the rack, the sleeves ended up being too short.

All that changed when he got to the NBA.

“I didn’t have the money to care about fashion,” Mitchell said of his college days. “I was always like: ‘Who needs it?’ But when I was able to get involved in fashion, it became a way to express yourself.”

On a hot summer day in New York City, Jang is buttoned-up in a blue three-piece suit, sipping coffee as he strides into his office in the Garment District, a onetime global manufacturing hub that still serves a few designers and industry workers.

Jang is unlike more traditional tailors in that he will fit athletes pretty much anywhere. Most of his brethren are locked into a region, but most athletes are not — they are traveling all the time.

He has met up with Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry right before the Super Bowl and Sacramento Kings guard Iman Shumpert at a restaurant in San Diego, California. Lots of fittings happen at airport bathrooms. He measures entire teams in locker rooms and brings along his whole staff to help.

For someone who works with athletes daily, Jang knows surprisingly little about sports.

“I can’t tell you players’ names or faces. There’s a team I walked into that all wore name tags. One: to kind of make fun of me, but two: because they knew I had no idea who the hell they were,” Jang said.

Still, Jang has something in common with many of his clients: He did not get into fashion until a few years ago.

Born in South Korea, he was orphaned at the age of one and later adopted by a family in Iowa. He considered himself a “backroads kid” with no inclination toward fashion.

He had wear khakis and a button-down when he went to Wayne State University in Michigan — for dentistry.

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