“What happened? Did something happen?”
I sense panic in Kesha McLeod’s voice when our call is interrupted by someone trying to get her attention, but it’s fleeting, as she quickly confirms that there’s no fashion emergency to tend to. It’s a few hours before the 2022 NBA Draft, and the prolific stylist is at the Westin in NYC, putting the finishing touches on the looks of Kendall Brown, Bennedict Mathurin and Jalen Williams. McLeod’s assistant is with EJ Liddell in his hometown of St. Louis. (Liddell couldn’t make it to NYC, but he could still look the part.)
“I wanted to take things a step further and start dressing guys before they come into the league,” says McLeod, who, as one of the NBA’s reigning image architects, has worked with James Harden, PJ Tucker, and numerous other players. After dressing San Antonio Spurs guard Tre Jones for the 2020 Draft (in Valentino, natch) the opportunity presented itself again when WME and BDA Sports approached her to style the aforementioned clients for this year’s draft. “What we find is that later on all the guys want to wear certain designers and go to Milan and Paris for Fashion Week, but how are they building those relationships?” In the case of these four athletes, the process began in April when McLeod flew to Santa Barbra to meet them at training camp and began concepting their draft night looks.
“We landed with Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana in the end,” McLeod explains of Mathurin, Liddell and Williams’s looks. “I have a family relationship with both of those brands.” Brown opted for a custom suit by Kilburne and Finch. Here, McLeod breaks down each look.
Kendall Brown, Drafted number 48 by the Indiana Pacers (via a Trade With the Minnesota Timberwolves)
“One of the things Kendall said was, ‘I want jewelry,’ so I had to focus on getting that for him.
Jason of Beverly Hills provided his lapel pin, watch, chain and studs. I found an atelier, Kilburne and Finch, and they made a custom jacket for him. It’s this gold floral embroidery with tinsel, little hints of cream, a shawl collar and satin lapel. He wore it with a white dress shirt, a black, sparkly bow tie, and black tuxedo pants. Very sharp.
EJ Liddell, Drafted Number 41 by the New Orleans Pelicans
“EJ couldn’t attend but he had a huge draft party in St. Louis. I sent a colleague out there. His mom said and the keyword of the day was debonair, and that was what he was going for. I put him in this beautiful iridescent jacket that turns from black to brown depending on how the light hits it. We added some gold accessories.
Bennedict Mathurin, Drafted Number Six by the Indiana Pacers
“I started communicating with Dolce & Gabbana about a month and a half ago on every detail. Ben has Black Lives Matter stitched into his jacket right under his name, which is something that was very important to him. And then, on the right side of his jacket, I had a fabric printed with a family photo. His brother passed away, it’s really meaningful. He wanted to bring him with him in a way.”
Jalen Williams, Drafted Number 12 by the Oklahoma City Thunder
“Jalen has a lot of knowledge of brands, and we speak the same language. When we first met we were going back and forth and the agents and everyone else at the table were like, ‘we don’t understand this language; we don’t know what you’re talking about.’ After that conversation, I knew that Gucci was going to be the perfect fit for him. His Gucci suit has logos on it, but it’s tastefully done. One of the things he did want was to represent Santa Clara, his university, so we custom made a Santa Clara lapel pin for him to wear.”
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