LOS ANGELES -- When Amare Stoudemire and Rachel Roy hit a Hollywood Hills, Calif., basketball court for a little one-on-one in late July, the New York Knick was dripping with sweat, talking trash and baring his teeth in intimidation.
The fashion designer, on the other hand, was the model of calm, cool collectedness, clad in sweat pants, a T-shirt and flip-flops, breaking her poise only at the last minute to throw a well-placed elbow that sent Stoudemire reeling.
It was all for the benefit of a video crew that had decamped to Stoudemire's rented house to film footage promoting the duo's collaboration on a women's clothing collection. Some of that video was slated to appear on in-taxi video ads in New York City starting Sept. 8, when the fall and winter 2011 collection hit retail outlets.
The professional basketball player is the most recent in a string of creative collaborators tapped by the designer to work on her lower-priced "younger sister" women's line, Rachel Rachel Roy, which is sold exclusively through Macy's. Past partners have included singer-songwriter Estelle (for jewelry), model Jessica Stam (for sportswear and handbags) and surfer Karina Petroni (for footwear).
In between photo shoots, Roy explained the partnerships: "With my Macy's brand, I've got so many styles to do every single season -- upward of 1,000, including jewelry, shoes, handbags and ready-to-wear -- that I want to stay inspired, and I want my girls to stay inspired, which is why we bring in a different artist every season."
Roy said she wasn't familiar with Stoudemire -- or really a follower of basketball for that matter -- when the idea of working together was first mentioned. So when her people and his people finally all got in the same room last November, the two of them stepped out to talk privately.
"I wanted to make sure there was a synergy and a point of view," Roy said, "and I left that meeting feeling that not only did he love fashion, but that he took it very seriously, and that I could rely on him to bring something new to the table."
And one needs to spend only a few minutes around Stoudemire to realize that his passion for fashion goes much deeper than simply hiring a stylist to help dress him in Waraire Boswell custom threads.
During a break in the on-court action, Stoudemire pointed out a reporter's straw fedora. "I was watching the Fashion Channel the other night and they were saying this season's must-have is a straw hat," he said, approvingly.
Later, when he appeared for a photo shoot, he wore a striped Tom Ford dress shirt and trousers with a pair of Salvatore Ferragamo dress shoes on his feet.
So it's not all that surprising that he'd have some notion of what he likes in clothes -- even when it comes to women's clothes, though neither he nor Roy pretend the collaborative effort on the collection of "casual, courtside cool" is anything more than it is.
"He looked at lots of sketches, he made lots of decisions about colorways, logos and details," Roy said. "... Every once in a while, he'd make a big decision -- like getting rid of this jacket." With that, Roy brandished a line sheet and pointed to a military-inspired jacket with chunky epaulets.
"I just thought it looked too militant for females," Stoudemire said with a half-shrug.
Inspired by fans
Roy said the collection, which is priced between $49 and $229, was inspired by the energy and the fans of Madison Square Garden. "I wanted to bring something to women who go and watch basketball games or want to be comfortable on the weekends and still look polished and chic -- clothes that could be dressed up or dressed down."
For his part, Stoudemire said it was important that the line "reflect a little swag(ger) -- and that everybody's comfortable with what they're wearing."
The result is a range of athletic-inspired pieces based in a heather gray color palette with pops of orange accent color (one of the Knicks' signature colors). Pieces include sweat pants, T-shirts, leather jackets, denim jackets and a couple of dresses and a handful of graphic-print T-shirts, some bearing the number 1 (Stoudemire's jersey number), and others emblazoned with a graffiti-inspired logo depicting a basketball and a heart and the names of both designers.
Some T-shirts have corset-style lace-up sides, others lace up the front, and although several of the pieces at the photo shoot were emblazoned with "New York," or "Knicks," Stoudemire said the Chicago Bulls and the Lakers would be among the select handful of other teams and cities that will be represented in the collection.
Asked to single out his favorite piece from the rolling rack, Stoudemire reached for a cropped gray denim jacket with the graffiti logo on the inner lining. "I think jean jackets are back in style," he said. "Everybody's wearing them now."
But there was one fashion insight Stoudemire wasn't willing to share: details about his much-rumored and anticipated move into the menswear arena.
"It's going to be something nice -- something different than what we're doing here," he said. "But you've just got to stay tuned, that's all."