Salehe Bembury's New Canada Goose Collab Channels the Best of '90s NBA Style
Before Salehe Bembury became one of the hottest names at the intersection of fashion, streetwear, and footwear—hugely successful projects with brands ranging from Yeezy to Versace to New Balance will do that—he was a basketball fan. In fact, as Bembury explains over email, "The NBA significantly influenced my interest in design." Tuning in during the always-experimental '90s gave him an appreciation for exploration in all its forms. And this week, in collaboration with Canada Goose and the league that set him on the path he's still following to this day, Bembury is releasing a collection that honors a golden age of NBA style while also paying homage to getting out there and searching out the new.
The collection, which makes its debut today and is available to buy on February 11—one week before the event it's celebrating, All-Star Weekend—is the second installment in the NBA and Canada Goose's multi-year partnership, and features four iconic Canada Goose pieces filtered through Bembury's creative lens. The Expedition Parka, Concord Fleece, Signal Vest, and Tundra Bib are all items that, in Bembury's estimation, "fuse with Canada Goose’s DNA, and embody the freedom of '90s NBA style."
I connected with Bembury to get the full scoop on how the collaboration came together, how he picked the styles he wanted to put his spin on, and what he's planning to keep for himself.
Esquire: Why did you want to work with Canada Goose and the NBA on this project? How did you connect and what was the process of creating the collection like?
Salehe Bembury: Growing up in New York City, there were always staple brands for specific items. It wasn’t always one brand, but a few brands that would sit on a spectrum of value and prestige. Canada Goose has always been a staple brand that communicates quality and prioritizes function. Coming from an industrial design background and spending much of my time outdoors, it is important that what I use and/or design functions at the highest level.
The NBA significantly influenced my interest in design. Growing up watching games with my dad, and loving everything about '90s basketball culture, from the '94 Knicks to Space Jam and The Fresh Prince. The '90s was a time of fashion exploration, and that ethos is what I believe Canada Goose, the NBA, and I have captured with this collection.
I see these three brands—Canada Goose, the NBA, and Salehe Bembury—intersecting because we all utilize "craft" to solve problems. I utilize my design ability to educate, give back, and create product that brings people joy. Canada Goose uses its long heritage of quality and function to solve for all types of climates. The NBA uses the abilities of its athletes to give back and enrich communities across the world. None of these initiatives would be possible without the foundation of each entity's "craft.”
I was most excited to reimagine some of Canada Goose's iconic pieces through my lens while still honoring the craftsmanship that has made these styles so coveted. It's always so great seeing conversations, ideas, and obstacles realized into tangible product and content. The collaboration and many hours spent working on with the Canada Goose team has been very rewarding.
How did you decide on the four styles—the parka, fleece, vest, and bib—that you included in this collection? And how did you make them your own, in terms of design?
SB: The collection was influenced by the bold and occasionally contrasting juxtapositions of pattern, silhouette, material, and function that '90s NBA fashion embodied. I went through the Canada Goose archives to identify heritage Canada Goose styles that I could apply signature patterns and unexpected materials to fuse with Canada Goose’s DNA, and embody the freedom of '90s NBA style.
In selecting the pieces, I thought through style choices around the world; for example, Los Angeles' weather can require anything from a shirt to a hoodie or heavy jacket. This temperature change can occur from location or time of day. Often one item of clothing is not sufficient for a full day in Los Angeles. The removable vest on the Expedition Parka and cinchable legs of the Tundra Bib speak to this need for customization for all day wearability.
The Expedition Parka is a Canada Goose icon; I’m extremely humbled to be able to put my name on it. The style is reimagined with a removable vest for an expressive take on the icon. The decision to include a chenille ruff on this style was to find balance between functionality and innovation. I spent a lot of time exploring what material would deliver function and have a similar aesthetic that also embodies the theme of "play."
Speaking of "play," the theme of the campaign for the collection is "Play in the Open." Can you tell me about that idea? How does it relate to the clothes themselves, as well as their presentation in imagery, and at All-Star Weekend?
SB: Canada Goose is a brand that enables people to thrive and connect with the outside world, and "Play in the Open" is the invitation to explore, discover, and play without judgement.
During a period where we were physically stagnant because of the pandemic, the outdoors became a place of solace for those close and distant to it. Whether hiking the Grand Canyon, or simply taking a moment to take a few deep breaths in a local park, people are stepping outside. When a product can also motivate one to do, go, or play, I feel that said product achieves exponential value. It's no different from a basketball sneaker giving you the feeling that you can dunk, or a designer heel elevating one's sense of femininity.
For me, "Play in the Open" is also a conversation of discovery through experience. With my design I strive to create experience. This is a constant variable that was initially unintentional. The result of sharing my relationship with the outdoors, unknowingly began to create a conversation and a community.
We will be bringing the "Play in the Open" spirit to life physically at NBA Crossover in Cleveland during NBA All-Star 2022. Fans will have a chance to step into the limitless universe Canada Goose and I have created through a life-size recreation of one of the scenes from the "Play in the Open" stop-motion animation [that's part of the campaign]. They will be able to explore, discover and play through the experience.
Is there anything from the collection that you plan to hang onto for yourself?
SB: I am most excited about the Expedition Parka. It is an iconic style of heritage first developed for scientists working in extreme weather conditions, that has now been reimagined while still honoring the original design but communicating it through a different lens.
From: Esquire US