Eric Emanuel talks about uniform design
The next generation of basketball legends will wear the uniforms of New York streetwear designer Eric Emanuel.
For the 45th Annual McDonald’s All-American Game, Emanuel collaborated with adidas to outfit the nation’s top high school players at the whistleblowing at Chicago’s Wintrust Arena on Tuesday, March 29.
These jerseys are made from 100 percent recycled materials and are specially designed for each athlete’s body for maximum breathability. They also have an incredibly high freshness factor.
Almost a year ago, Emanuel was able to open his very first physical concept store in New York. The location, which was previously occupied by BAPE’s flagship at 91 Greene Street in SoHo, sits right next to luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton, Dior and VERSACE.
Last year, when her brand released new clothes, the lines often looked like what you’d expect from a new Supreme drop. After a few months, Emanuel had to implement a new reservation system to both gain efficiency and calm the crowds.
Emanuel recently sat down with For The Win to discuss his collaboration with adidas and the McDonald’s All-American Game.
— All American McDonald’s Games (@McDAAG) March 24, 2022
Eric Emmanuel: The partnership started last year. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a game last year. This will therefore be the first time that I will create jerseys that will actually be worn on the pitch. It’s a beautiful thing.
The best part of the McDonald’s All-American Game is that it’s simply a highlight for these high school athletes. You have the best players across the country and they can all play together before they take that big step and go to college.
For me this is the pinnacle of the game as far as high school All-Star games go and growing up it was the peak game. So we worked on bringing it back to those roots that I remember as a kid – and going from there.
EE: The design choices are pretty standard. We have put together a nice solid navy, red and yellow. These are the basic colors of McDonald’s. Plus, we’ve used the stars’ old IP on the side and those gorgeous jerseys reminiscent of the 2003-06 era.
I think often with design people try to do too much. The game is really special so they want the jerseys to be special. But when it comes to my way of doing things, I think classic always wins. So we tried to stay very classic.
EE: adidas has this huge push for sustainability. Obviously, most companies do this these days. That’s wonderful. So even though it’s harder for me to work that aspect across my whole brand, with a partner like adidas they guide me and show me the way. They show me how it should be done. Having them as a big brother to say, “Hey, that’s how you do it!” is a wonderful thing.
Next, when it comes to breathability, we have two different sets of uniforms. One is for men and the other is for women. I think we have the perforation through the uniforms laser cut on the athlete’s body. The women’s jersey breathes better for women while the men’s jersey breathes better for men. This is the future of basketball. Ultimately, that’s what every uniform should be.
EE: I can design a sneaker. I can’t build them and sell them. I was able to use their infrastructure and work with a wonderful team of people who could tell me how to do it. I know how to make a pair of basketball shorts. I don’t know how to make a pair of sneakers. On-court performance wear is also not my specialty. They advised me to grow, which I can relate to my business.
EE: Children having fun! It’s ultimately about giving them something they can relate to. adidas is that larger-than-life brand. So let’s show them that this kid can do it too. For these kids, it gives them a “you can do it too!” mentality. That’s what I always preach.
Look, I never thought this was gonna happen to me. The same way most kids don’t think they’ll go to the NBA. But it happens! It is in a way the aspiration that serves both the children and myself.
The last few years have been difficult for all these children. You didn’t really play in front of as many people as you would have liked. This is their forum. That’s when they can really live again. It is simply magnificent.
EE: When I was young, when it came to design, there was nothing more than coloring shoes on the computer and having fun with it. I had no desire, nor did I know that my life was going to end.
Ultimately, growing up, my goal wasn’t necessarily a love of sports. But I like jerseys. The jerseys were so iconic to me. I had this affinity for sportswear, more than the sport itself, just because I like logos and stuff.
Given that I now work with the IP of McDonald’s and adidas, and work with these young athletes who are the future, it’s just surreal. There really are no words for it. Last year I was so disgusted that we didn’t have a game. So this year is really the culmination of what it can really be.
EE: I think the shorts worked because no one else brought this product to market. Sure, there were basketball shorts and there were all kinds of silhouettes. But everyone had this very heavy and bulky figure. I took that and broke it down into an “everyday” short. I think that’s what did it. I think the models helped. I think some people’s co-signatures helped.
But at the end of the day, it was consistent. I don’t think there was anyone in the market who wanted to make basketball shorts. Everyone wanted to make t-shirts or sweatshirts. So I found an element that no one else was super focused on and took it to the top. I also think they are the best short films in the world.
Sweatshirts are something a lot of brands do well, so I wanted to put my spin on it and I’m not really a sweatpants person. But I found myself wearing them more and more while we were home. Then throughout the summer there will be more products like polo shirts and things of that nature just to grow the sport. With the weather, I’m like an offseason player right now.
DONDA Sports basketball shorts by Eric Emanuel pic.twitter.com/NKJbvM8cZp
— Modern Notoriety (@ModernNotoriety) March 2, 2022
EE: I got a phone call and he told me he wanted to work with me on his Donda Sports project. I didn’t know if I believed it but I got to LA and he was there and he was ready to work. It was him and Antonio Brown and Justin LaBoy. They were trying to build this thing and it has a very similar aesthetic to me where it’s simple. A lot of people would say it’s too simple, but simple is classic and that’s what works. Between the four of us, throwing around ideas and figuring things out, we were able to build the first Donda Sports chute in two weeks. It was amazing to sit next to him and it was one of the most breathtaking moments of my life.
91 Greene Street pic.twitter.com/I5M2vco2J7
— Eric Emmanuel (@eric_emanuel) July 9, 2021
EE: See a line around the block for a pair of shorts. Seeing people show up in droves and actually support me, or an idea to me that was nothing more than a pipe dream. I didn’t know where it would go. It was just something I wanted to see through.
I would say opening a brick and mortar store was the biggest “wow” moment when I realized people loved the product and it was a real business. I didn’t always treat it that way because it was just me having fun. I think that’s why it worked because I never took it too seriously. But now is the critical moment and I really have to treat it as such.
Sport the stripes. Represent your roots.
Introducing the Spurs x Eric Emanuel Playoff collection. Available tonight in-store at the La Cantera Spurs Fan Shop and online at https://t.co/18p2Hlqz3W on April 13. pic.twitter.com/iG4iL2zFAY
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) April 12, 2019
EE: I think I’ve already lived the dream. There is obviously more to do! But eventually, I did NBA stuff. I did the San Antonio Spurs and the Philadelphia 76ers. It’s really cool for me. The game for the NBA would be amazing, but I’ll have it at the McDonald’s All-American Game and these kids will go to the WNBA and the NBA. I think the dream would be to bring him back to Syracuse and do something there.