The list of brands Jeff Staple has collaborated is so long, it’s tough to find one that he hasn’t worked with. The design legend’s most recent project, however, pairs his Staple brand with a new partner: Wilson.
Staple, through the lens of women’s and men’s basketball, reimagined Wilson basketballs for the “Made to Win” collection. The range features two basketballs, one in size 6 and a second in size 7, in an exclusive colorway for each size. Also, Staple and Wilson teamed up to create an acrylic ball stand.
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The Staple x Wilson basketballs and the stand are available now via Wilson.com and retail for $80 and $8, respectively. The basketballs are also available via Staplepigeon.com.
Thursday night, Wilson hosted an event at its flagship store in New York City to celebrate the Staple collaboration. Before the event, the designer spoke with FN about the purpose of the collaboration and discussed its ties to sneaker culture. Staple also revealed what he’s working on for 2024, which includes opening a new store.
We’ve talked about the notes app in your phone before and the long list of ideas you have written down. How far down the list was collaborating on a basketball with Wilson?
“Great question. Top 10, for sure. Probably like No. 6 six on the to-do list.”
Out of how many?
“Let’s do this in real time [grabs phone and opens app]. 798.”
Why does an indoor-outdoor basketball collaboration make sense for you and your brand?
“When you think about why someone falls in love with sneaker culture, anyone who was born in the era of the ’70s and ’80s, it’s going to be because of basketball. That’s why you fell in love with sneakers. It was the golden age of the same dunk contest, obviously the GOAT [Michael Jordan], but even the likes of [Dominique] Wilkins and Spud Webb, that era was so ingrained in my DNA. The only thing we could get from those athletes, those gladiators, was a shoe — and then the ball. You could actually play with the same ball that they’re playing with. So that’s what that’s how I got into sneaker culture. Why prioritize this project? It’s because we’ve never gone an official on-court, off-court basketball. And with the advent of the WNBA, it was amazing to do something men’s and women’s, so this was definitely a bucket list thing, working with Wilson.”
What box did collaborating with Wilson check off for you?
“Definitely the NBA side, but also I grew up as an aspiring pro tennis player. I was in the Junior USTAs, I was ranked No. 13 on the East Coast at one point, and I had the fastest first serve of any 13 year old. Wilson was the tennis ball of choice, Wilson was the racket of choice as well. It’s one of those brands that was always part of my upbringing and DNA. As I’m doing this brand Staple, which is a counterculture, street culture brand, to be acknowledged and accepted by these brands that I grew up with is still wild to me. It’s always like a pinch me in my dreaming moment, like ‘We actually get to f–k with Wilson, the brand that I grew up playing tennis and basketball with?'”
The list of brands you’ve worked with at this point in your career is seemingly endless. What does Wilson offer as a collaboration partner?
“To be able to mess with their classic, iconic basketball was enough. Just allowing me into the design studio and the archive with them, that’s all they needed to do. And, of course, make the ball with the same quality that you normally do. It was my job to add the flavor, the spice and the storytelling to it. Staple is now at a point where the brand has got a legacy of its own, even though it’s a younger brand [than Wilson], but as it pertains to street culture we do have a legacy. So it’s adding those two legacies together to see what we could cook up. There are four or five different samples that are on the cutting room floor, but I think what we came up with was something timeless. And similar to the Pigeon Dunk, part of the secret of the Pigeon Dunk that the reason why people still talk it today like they did 20-something years ago is because it’s a classic, timeless design versus a splashy, over the top arty design. The ball, I wanted it to be similar. We could have done a crazy art canvas ball, but I decided to go with something that you can play with all the time and it’s not that flashy — it’s like a staple, if you will, and it represents both of our brands.”
What did the cut samples look like?
“Half the time they’re cut because of production complexity issues. Like, we were able to make this great for five of them but we can’t do that for hundreds of them. As a designer, you have to balance scalability, cost. I also didn’t want an $800 ball. I wanted it to be an accessible ball. There are some creators that are like, ‘I’m going to charge $1,000.’ But I’m like, ‘I want like the kid who’s actually going to play ball in his driveway to be able to get this.'”
Is anything else in the works with Wilson?
“I take it one project at a time. Basketballs were the one because of its direct connection to sneaker culture, but they probably don’t even know that I used to play junior pro tennis.”
What else are you working on for the rest of 2023 and into 2024?
“A couple more footwear projects are coming out [in 2023]. We are continuing this project we’ve been doing for a while with Puma that reflects my Asian American heritage. We just had a new collection that just came out this week called the ‘East West Ivy’ collection, which is gorgeous. It’s taking college prep Ivy League and interpreting it onto apparel and footwear. And we’ve got something with a footwear brand that just won a huge award from Time magazine. I would love to announce it, but I’ll let them do the announcing. It’ll come out next year. And Q1 2024 is the first standalone Staple flagship store in New York City. We had Reed Space, a multibrand store, but there’s never been a Staple freestanding store. People are going to think I’m wild, and sometimes I have to check myself and the things I say, but I realized when the brand turned 25 years old that it was time to open a store. That’s just how I think. Imagine a physical space that encompasses a quarter-century of history from a brand. I consider it more of a museum than a store. I’m really excited about that.”
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