Last Friday night, Carmelo Anthony made his way from downtown Manhattan, where he’d been attending the Rag & Bone show, to Harlem. The former was the homebase for the first "Melo Made" collection last year, which saw Anthony collaborating with a series of well-known brands like Rag & Bone, Williamsburg’s favorite millinery Goorin & Bros, and Rochambeau. This year, a hundred blocks north, he was holding the second annual Melo Made event at the Harlem Parish, a gorgeous high-arching church-turned-event space on 118th street. This time, he was turning the spotlight from typical fashion week fare to an unheralded brand from South Africa named Maxhosa Africa. Anthony might be in career limbo at the moment, but he’s still doing interesting work and pursuing fashion just as, if not more intensely, than his peers.
He arrived wearing the uniform of Carmelo Anthony 2.0: not the basketball player, necessarily (after a rough 2018, he remains unsigned for the upcoming season) but the New York-based entrepreneur. The uniform itself took the form of a matching sweatsuit from his new collection with Maxhosa (size: Biggest They Could Find on Short Notice). He spent the past year designing the sweatsuit and the other pieces in the collection after meeting Maxhosa designer Laduma Ngxokolo on a trip to South Africa last year.
Video chats, phone calls at all hours, and packages from South Africa filled with fabric samples followed Anthony through the door. After collaborating with the likes of Rag and Bone last year, Anthony explained that he is hoping to use his star power to put less familiar names on the NYFW calendar – and, hopefully, on more people’s radar. “I love his – how can I say this? – his flavour,” Anthony said. About that flavour: Anthony was specifically attracted to the brand’s knits, seasoned with kaleidoscope-like patterns and heavy doses of bright colours. In their joint collection, Anthony purposefully steered away from making any explicit nods to basketball. “I didn't want it to be too sporty,” he said. “I didn't want no basketball vibes. I wanted it to be subtle.”
I was catching Anthony at an interesting time: the first NBA off-season in 16 years where he’s generated little interest from NBA teams, beyond the hopes of basketball bloggers who want to see him Banana Boating on the Lakers or making his comeback in New York – with the Brooklyn Nets. If this is the end, he said, fashion will “definitely be a big pillar” of what comes next.
Anthony’s Melo Made is a culmination of the style revolution that basically ran parallel with Anthony’s own career, which started in 2003. Consumers and fans are more interested than ever in what their favorite players are wearing, and selling. “The platform is there for us to be creative as athletes,” he said, “and as basketball players in particular.”
By now, the NBA has spawned plenty of players with a passion for fashion. Today, celebrities with brands (or at least a brand collaboration) are as commonplace as Stephen A. Smith rants. Anthony probably could have relied on his reputation to sell the easy stuff. At the beginning of the last NBA season, after a photo of him wearing a hoodie went viral, Nike quickly sold out two runs of “Hoodie Melo” sweatshirts. In contrast, Anthony is going as far as to stage an entire fashion show with his name on it. And he’s using his built-in fashion credibility a little differently than his peers, too. “That's what Melo Made is,” he says, “to take these brands and bring them to the forefront.”
Melo Made is an umbrella for him to work with a variety of designers all under his name and create something more close to home. When guests entered the Harlem Parish Friday night, they were guided through a brief hallway where several paintings by the South African artist Nelson Makamo (from Anthony’s personal collection) were on view. On the other side of the wall, Makamo was there painting something in real time. (He insisted that I make my mark on his canvas, too.) In the center of the room, on an assemblage of blocks, the models sat in their vivacious knit hoodies, shirts, polos, and sweatshirts.
Anthony’s hope was to create an atmosphere antithetical to the usual NYFW spectacle. “I didn't want to do a typical fancy show,” he said. “I'm all about experiences. I want people to feel what I feel. I want people to go and have a good time and come and vibe with me, and get to know me and my creativity. If I try and show you that in five minutes, I don't get nothing from it.”
But while Anthony might be moving beyond his playing days, he can’t escape his former career entirely. The crown jewel of his collection with Maxhosa was a show-stopping coat with a geometric pattern in yellow, green, and a whole spectrum of blues. “I'm a big overcoat guy,” he said. The design was taken from a project Anthony worked on while he was in South Africa. “That's the exact print of my basketball court that's in South Africa.”