The WNBA Has Teamed Up With High Fashion. It’s a Slam Dunk

Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast
Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast

When Caitlin Clark took to the red carpet for the 2024 WNBA Draft, the talk was not just about her formidable skills on the court. The basketball player caught the attention of fashion lovers for her choice of a head-to-toe Prada ensemble, with details including a white double satin shirt and skirt, an embroidered rhinestone mesh top, black leather sling back pumps, a black handbag and sunglasses.

Clark’s outfit became an extra celebratory one when she became the first pick for the Indiana Fever, and it also became a historic moment for Prada, as it was the first time the brand had dressed a player for either the WNBA or NBA draft.

Caitlin Clark at the WNBA draft

Caitlin Clark poses after being selected first overall by the Indiana Fever during the 2024 WNBA Draft on April 14, 2024, in Brooklyn, New York.

Brian Babineau/Getty

“It was almost too perfect the way Caitlin and Prada aligned so well, both being at the forefront of what they do,” Clark’s stylist Adri Zgirdea told The Daily Beast. “Fashion provides an exciting way to add to the conversation surrounding these WNBA players already inspiring stories. I think it’s fantastic that these women are getting the representation and recognition they deserve.”

Caitlin Clark Shines in Her WNBA Debut for Indiana

Prada did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment regarding Clark’s look.

Clark’s style moments didn’t stop there. At her first press conference as a Fever player, she wore a Louis Vuitton ensemble, featuring a wool and silk dress, with a jeweled tuxedo jacket and satin lapels, and pumps.

The 2024 WNBA draft was the most-watched WNBA draft in history peaking at 3.09 million views. In addition to seeing their favorite young women basketball players find out what team they’ll be playing on for the foreseeable future, fans were also treated to a feast of fashion, with players wearing brands ranging from Balmain to Saint Laurent.

It’s a new era in the WNBA, where off the court their players are looking ready to sit front row at Fashion Week. The secret weapon to these stylish and sporty mavens is, of course, their stylists. On top of that, luxury brands have taken a particular interest in the WNBA over the past several years, helping stylists completely transform the image of these young women.

Kelsey Plum

Sydney Bordonaro, a former college basketball player turned fashion stylist, has dressed WNBA players, including Dearica Hamby, Dana Evans, and Kelsey Plum. According to Bordonaro, the fashion industry’s interest in WNBA players sparked post-COVID lockdown.

“Fashion and basketball have always had a relationship—just look at sneaker partnerships going back to the ’90s and even earlier,” Bordonaro told The Daily Beast. “What’s causing fashion’s surge in interest with these WNBA players is social media. Look at the Instagram accounts dedicated to athletes doing their tunnel walks, and everyone wants to know where these players are getting their fits and who they are wearing. With brands doing more of their marketing nowadays through influencers and people with high social media followings, the interest in WNBA players just makes sense.”

Bordonaro also said one of the big advantages brands have with dressing WNBA players is the amount of opportunities they have to be photographed.

“If you’re dressing an actress or actor, they’ll need looks for however many weeks their press tours in and then they are done,” she said. “WNBA players have 36 regular season games, which means if a brand wants to dress a WNBA player, that’s 36 chances they have to be photographed and get an athlete in their clothes. At the end of the day, these brands are trying to make money, and this is great marketing.”

A'Ja Wilson

A’ja Wilson of the Las Vegas Aces before the game against the Puerto Rico National Team on May 11, 2024, at Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, South Carolina.

Travis Bell/Getty

Look no further than two-time WNBA MVP, A’Ja Wilson, and the manner in which her debut signature shoe was announced. After much speculation that Nike would be giving the Las Vegas Aces’ player her own shoe, Wilson confirmed the exciting news through an exceptionally cool, sartorial mic-drop. She appeared in the tunnel walking into a preseason game in her native South Carolina while wearing a short black skirt and a cropped sweatshirt reading, “Of Course I Have A Shoe Dot Com.” The spelled-out URL redirected to Nike’s website and their announcement.

Other players have also proven their power to go viral—in fashion perfectly made for athletic bodies. At the WNBA season opener, Kelsey Plum wore a head-to-toe black leather Alexander Wang ensemble, featuring a cropped waistcoat with no bra and leather pants, that got the internet talking. Angel Reese got the ultimate fashion industry stamp of approval at this year’s Met Gala, where she wore a low v-cut 16Arlington by Marco Capaldo dress with a feather ballerina style skirt.

Angel Reese before the Met Gala

Angel Reese departs The Mark Hotel for 2024 Met Gala on May 06, 2024 in New York City.

Ilya S. Savenok/Getty

This came just a month after Reese was selected as the seventh overall pick by the Chicago Sky. Nika Mühl of the Seattle Storm went viral for her pregame outfit for a game against the Minnesota Lynx, where she wore an oversized blazer over a sports bra revealing her belly ring, and accessorizing with a hat and sunglasses.

Nika Muhl

Earlier this month, Skims—the official WNBA underwear partner—released a groundbreaking campaign starring all WNBA stars, including WNBA legend Candace Parker, second overall draft pick Cameron, Dijonai Carrington, and all-stars Kelsey Plum and Skylar Diggins-Smith.

In a statement, Skims founder Kim Kardashian said, “I’m proud to launch the new WNBA campaign starring such an incredible cast of athletes. Championing women and women in sports is incredibly important to Skims.”

Brink’s stylist, Mary Gonsalves Kinney, echoed Bordonaro’s sentiment that if brands are trying to make money, the WNBA is a prime target right now.

“Brands are looking for sales,” Kinney said. “You’ve got fashion publications talking about the WNBA, you’ve got these players doing press circuits, and that gives these brands so much opportunity to have these women showcase their outfits in a positive way. The hype right now around women’s basketball is intense.”

Kinney said that while she’s been working with NBA, WNBA players, and NBA player wives for years, it’s only recently that she’s found that there are brands now approaching her hoping that Brink will wear their designs.

Cameron Brink at the WNBA Draft

As a longtime stylist, she’s formed a relationship with notable luxury brands, ranging from Balmain to Dior. When it came time to select options for the WNBA draft, Kinney had ten different brands on option hoping Brink would wear their designs. In the end, she selected a stunning black and white Balmain dress.

Balmain did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment on Brink’s look.

Tosha Hartzog, a stylist who dressed Rickea Jackson for the 2024 WNBA draft, like Bordonaro also believes fashion’s relationship with the WNBA has grown so much in part due to social media.

Rickea Jackson at the WNBA Draft

Rickea Jackson poses after being drafted by the Los Angeles Sparks during the 2024 WNBA Draft on April 15, 2024, in Brooklyn, New York.

Brandon Todd/Getty

“WNBA players are now more at the forefront of the public eye thanks to social media,” Hartzog said. “Back in the day before social media, nobody was paying as much attention to what athletes were wearing. Now, all eyes are on everything athletes do, especially their wardrobe choices. There are entire Instagram accounts just dedicated to athletes looks, and some of these pages have tens of thousands of followers.”

Hartzog also said the growing interest in the WNBA’s relationship with fashion is also in part due to women’s sports pushing to get as much representation as men’s.

“I love this new push for women’s sports representation,” Hartzog said. “There’s been so much discussion around the pay disparity between male and female athletes, and fashion is helping these women catch up to their male counterparts in terms of income with major brand deals that just weren’t happening on this level before. There’s a huge shift happening, and as these players become more popular, we’ll see more popular brands want to work with them.”

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