Russell Westbrook is still building—literally. Last month he opened up his first brick-and-mortar retail space in Los Angeles, a concrete-heavy store on La Brea Avenue housing his brand Honor the Gift, and inspired, like the label itself, by Westbrook’s experiences growing up in L.A. The store opening dovetailed with the release of HTG’s latest collection, The District, which draws its influences in large part from the Los Angeles Unified School District. To say that the City of Angels looms large over Westbrook’s recent fashion exploits is to put it lightly.
So it’s fitting that I caught up with the basketball-player-slash-style-setter while he was putting in the work at—where else?—Lakers training camp. On the phone in between drills, he filled me in on how he’s feeling about this major milestone for a relatively young brand, how he’s dressing nowadays, and what he sees in Honor the Gift’s future.
Esquire: The first thing I wanted to ask you is how you’re feeling. Opening a store is a big step for a brand.
Russell Westbrook: You know what? It’s crazy. You envision it down the line when starting a brand. I’m just extremely thankful and blessed with the team of people I have around me to make these things happen and the support that I have across the world—really messing with the brand, connecting with our core values of the brand. I’m super excited about the things to come.
What was the atmosphere like on opening day? It seems like it was a pretty fun party.
Yeah, it was great, man. You had a different vibe in the daytime. A bunch of people came through with their kids. We had a lot of things in the back for families: food trucks, face painting—something my kids enjoyed themselves—ice cream, music. Obviously shopping, as well. But I wanted to create an experience just for the city and the community itself. And all that stuff was just free, man. The food truck and all that stuff were just for people to enjoy themselves and bring their kids out on the weekend.
Speaking of kids, you’ve said that your latest collection is inspired by the Los Angeles Unified School District. What was it that made you think about that as a source of design inspiration in the first place?
I’m big of L.A. and the culture of L.A. Not just that, but things in the inner city. So growing up in the city of Los Angeles, and the Unified School District, that’s where I grew inspiration from and built it from there.
Usually, when you talk about L.A., it’s breezy, sunny, you’ve got the coastal vibe. And obviously, you’ve got that going through the collection, too. But this has a bit of a letterman, preppy edge coming through a West Coast perspective.
I wanted to integrate that with the inner city. I don’t know if you’ve seen the trailer for the short film Dear Brodie. If you look at it, that gives you some insight. We have this kid grow up in the inner city but he’s also inspired to go to college. You combine those things, you design around that.
The design perspective for Honor the Gift, the actual product you’re putting out there, how similar or different is to the way that you personally put yourself together nowadays?
The only difference would be that I take a lot more risks. Obviously, when you’re wholesaling and there are so many different doors globally, you’ve got to make sure that you’re giving the consumers what they want. But as it pertains to my own personal stuff—I mean, I honestly only wear Honor the Gift anyway. I may sprinkle in a little bit of other brands that I like, but it’s not super far off. I just like to wear my own stuff and just go with that.
I’m curious what you see as the future of the brand. What are you excited to do next?
I love to take this collection by collection—day by day, and see where the brand goes. Because I wouldn’t have told you a year or two ago that I would be in this position now. I’m just excited to continue growing, and hopefully down the line I’ll be able to have my own show at some point.
I want to use fashion to impact, inspire people. And not just in the fashion way, but in life in general, to instill confidence in people. Because I believe that you can do that with clothes, and people have confidence in wearing whatever the hell they want. I want to be able to do that with the brand, and I feel that now. I feel like it’s impacting people, and that’s my goal is to keep doing that, then I think everything else will come along the way.
If you do have a fashion show in the future, do you think you’ll hold it in L.A., New York? Where would you want to have it?
I don’t know yet… TBD. TBD.
Jonathan Evans is the style director of Esquire, covering all things fashion, grooming, accessories, and, of course, sneakers. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and son. You can follow him at @MrJonathanEvans on Twitter and Instagram.
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