NBA MVP and fashion icon Russell Westbrook enters Shanghai’s new Jordan 77 Songhu store greeted by a thunderous cheer from his fans. Marking his third visit to the bustling metropolis, Westbrook’s presence in the country has not faltered by any means, seeing hundreds of fans gathered around the shop just to get a glimpse of the basketball superstar, and for those lucky ones, grabbing a highly sought-after selfie.
Amongst the media and Jordan Brand staff scurrying around the inside of the shop, a few privileged guests, including local art students from the Rosso School of Arts and Design and five members of Westbrook’s Shanghai fan club, were selected to sit inside. Acting as the kick off to the Asian leg of his “Why Not?” Tour, which includes stops in both Beijing and Tokyo, Westbrook introduced his new city exclusive collection and shared the inspirations behind his “Why Not?” mantra.
We were lucky enough to follow Westbrook during his two day, whirlwind of a schedule around Shanghai, which included a basketball-heavy first day with his Why Not? Salon appearance and a grassroots one-on-one basketball show with the King of Underdogs. Leaning more towards his love of clothes, the second day included a more fashion-inspired schedule such as an intimate shopping spree with Chinese designer Feng Chen Wang at her pop-up and a visit to the Rosso School for an apprentice challenge. Finally the trip ended with our exclusive interview with Westbrook as he shopped in the underground haven that is Eth0s.
Peep the short documentary above and read the full interview below.
How is your “Why Not?” mantra inspiring young athletes?
Well I mean I just hope that it is inspiring them in a way that allows them to be positive, to inspire themselves, and to self motivate. I think nowadays kids, not just kids, people, are always looking for other people’s approval too much, especially with social media. I think with the “Why Not?” mentality, mindset, and moto, it is important just to be able to do and to feel just whatever it is that you know you wanna do, and that’s very, very important. So that’s what I constantly keep trying to instil, and obviously in kids cause they are younger and they can learn quicker. They can figure it out at a young age what they tell themselves they can do and be whatever they want to be in this world, as long as they believe they can do it.
What do you think of the local talent?
I like it a lot man. I think it’s important cause I think it gives you an opportunity to go out and hoop just like any other person and you can see it here in China. It’s great cause obviously in the U.S. they do it a lot [play basketball] but you can see it here, and it’s good.
Your game is usually quite energetic and full of passion. What goes through your mind during the more intense moments?
Nothing, just trying to keep the same focus throughout the whole time. Make sure that I’m locked in on what’s actually going on at that time. Make sure I’m focused on the right things and not the wrong things.
How do you deal with naysayers and doubters?
Just like this! (walks around with a strut). One ear and out the other. Exactly like this, how I’m walking around the store; that’s how I deal with it. You know that’s it, that’s exactly how I deal with it. You got to. If you don’t who gonna do it?
Chinese culture is very superstitious. Do you yourself have any pre-game rituals?
I mean I do. I take a nap, I eat the same thing all the time, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but that’s about it. You know I like to be punctual cause I think it creates consistency; it creates how I feel, how I play which is important to me.
Any tips for inspiring young players?
Definitely, just have fun. A lot of times when you’re young you’re trying to be so good and great you forget to have fun. Have fun and enjoy the process. It’s not gonna be the best thing or not gonna be perfect, so just enjoy the process is the best thing I can say.
Top five sneakers to flex in/play in.
My shoes. I only like to play in my own personal shoes. That’s it.
“But that’s the best thing about fashion, you can do whatever you want, as long as you feel comfortable you have no problems.”
How does it feel to be considered the most fashionable player in the NBA?
I mean it’s great. I think for me it’s something that I love and I take pride in, something that I’ve always enjoyed.
How has fashion helped to shape who you are today?
I mean it helps a lot. It’s another way for me to express myself; another way to just kind of go out and be who I am, to do some of the things I want to do. With different colors and clothes, it’s all just fun.
How long does it usually take to think of your pre-game outfits?
Not that long. I don’t worry about it until I wake up from my nap, so probably when I wake up I got like thirty or forty minutes to figure it out. That’s when I usually process it, cause after that point, I stop worrying about it.
Does anyone help you choose or does it all come organically?
No, just based on how I’m feeling when I wake up honestly. Sometimes I get up and I’m like ‘ahh I don’t really care;’ sometimes I wake up and I’m like ‘I just want to miss-match today.’ Sometimes it’s how I be. But that’s the best thing about fashion, you can do whatever you want, as long as you feel comfortable you have no problems.
When you’re travelling from the parking lot through the hallway to the locker room, do you consider that like a catwalk for you?
I think now it’s become a thing. But before I didn’t really look at it like that. It’s just what I did, you know, it wasn’t nothing. It was like ‘oh I just like to get dressed’ and now it’s become a thing where everyone’s paying so much attention to it. I think it’s good for the NBA and I think it’s exciting for them.
How has basketball’s influence on fashion and vice versa changed over the years?
I think it’s changed a lot cause of social media, cause of the people, that’s where the dress code is now. A lot of different things have changed as to how people wear their clothes. The rules are different, so it allows them to do more of what they want.
Where do you usually find your fashion inspirations?
Everywhere. Out here I can find it walking the streets; a lot of inspiration out here in Shanghai, honestly. Traveling, hotels, cars, music, so many places I think. Just looking around you can just get inspiration from so many things. Also looking at how things work is always good.
What labels/designers you are into right now?
You know what, none really. I’m into a lot of different designers and nothing in particular. I think my style changes so much I never really have one particular designer but just kind of switch from time to time.
What kind of fashion aesthetics are you into lately?
You know honestly, I was into something and then I change my mind. Now I don’t even know where I’m at. After I leave Shanghai, maybe I’ll be into something else, just because. You know what I’m sayin’?
Are you a big jewelry fan?
Vintage, yes. I like vintage and rustic jewelry, but I don’t think I can fit into any of these [points to jewelry collection in eth0s]; these are too small for my fingers.
How has your life changed since becoming a father?
A lot. A lot less time for a lot of nonsense which is great because our son is the most important thing, so just taking care of him and making sure he has, and knows the way of life. That’s the only thing that’s important right now.
Is your son going to grow up to be as fashionable as you are?
You right! You right, you got to start ‘em early. Got to swag right.
Have you been saving up your wardrobe for him?
For me nothing that I have right now, but I definitely have some stuff put aside for him when he becomes two or three or when he gets taller.