Second-year New York Liberty guard DiDi Richards chats with Boardroom about the inspirations behind both her debut clothing and NFT collections.
So as focused as Richards is on helping the young and hungry Liberty to their first winning record since the 2017 season, there has been just enough room in her mind to imagine how to evolve her head-turning wardrobe into designs all her own.
Richards let Boardroom in on the inspirations behind the pieces, reflected on what her 2020 spinal cord injury taught her about self-expression, and looked toward the future.
MEGAN ARMSTRONG: What is the overall inspiration or overarching message you want to get across with this collection?
DIDI RICHARDS: Whatever I put out, I want to wear it. I don’t ever wanna just put things out just to put things out. I wanted to make it really personable and really show people what my dressing is about. The pieces that I wear, how basic they can be and how I can elevate them to be something more than just leisurewear. That’s half of my style — sweats and hoodies. I just find a way to make it look fashionable without paying an arm and a leg. I think that was my focus for this first drop, or this first venture into the fashion: Make it something affordable and things that I’m known for wearing.
MA: Were you super into clothes and style as a kid?
DR: Honestly, no. I didn’t really understand the obsession. I didn’t understand why the world was so obsessed with clothes and shoes. In high school and middle school, and honestly even in the beginning of college, I would go through the same pair of sweats, the same tee.
Right now, I understand what looks good on me and will look good on the person next to me. I felt like I was looking at other people and try and make what they were wearing fit me, where fashion is just knowing your body and what complements your body the best. Once I figured that part out, now I’m here. But before, I had no idea why people loved to get dressed up all the time. My mom would be like, “Can you stop wearing the same t-shirt?” I’m like, “No, why change my t-shirt if nothing’s wrong?”
MA: What t-shirt was it?
DR: It was literally, I kid you not, a Hanes t-shirt from Walmart.
MA: I love that. How has living and playing in New York City expanded or influenced your fashion sense?
DR: I feel like it’s given me the opportunity to get dressed a lot more. I wanna say there’s an event 24/7, or something to do 24/7, in New York. If anything, it’s broken my pocket [more than] influenced my fashion. Now, I wanna try different outfits on or I want to be cute all the time because in New York, even when you’re walking down the street, people are swaggy. It’s the craziest thing. No matter where you’re going in New York, [peoples’] style and their passion is crazy out here. So, I guess that’s how they elevated me to where I’m always looking nice. I’m always presentable.
MA: I liked the nod to Biggie with your “Liberty Love” hoodie in Coogi print. Why was it important to you to incorporate him, specifically?
DR: Because of where I am [in Brooklyn] and how many times I see him. He was born here, and you’ll never forget it. Every corner you turn, there is a Biggie mural. I just love the culture here and how die-hard everybody is about Brooklyn or just New York in general. People that are from New York are real proud, and I want to show how proud I am to be playing here and how I feel like I’m from here now. It felt like such a key factor to include [a nod toward] New York or Brooklyn somewhere in the line.
MA: Why have you chosen to wear No. 2 throughout your playing career?
DR: My brother, actually. It’s the weirdest thing. My brother is three years younger than me, but growing up, I wasn’t playing any sports. He was playing all the sports, and he was always No. 2. One day, I finally started playing basketball for the first time in seventh grade or whatever, and it gets to the point where they’re like, Okay, pick your jersey numbers.
I’m thinking, I was born in February. I could wear “2,” or I was born on the eighth day, so I could wear “8.” It was little things like that I was [drawing from] in my mind. Finally, I ran up to him when he got home from school. I’m like, “Why do you wear No. 2?” He was like, “What do you mean?” Mind you, he’s not too old at this point. If I’m in seventh grade, he’s like, nine. I go, “Why do you wear No. 2?” He’s like, “Only two people can guard me.” How am I supposed to know that? I’m like, “What two people can guard you?” He’s like, “me and God.” I’ve been No. 2 ever since.
MA: At nine?!
DR: He’s a character.
MA: I swear kids are wiser than we are as adults.
MA: I’m sure that you’re asked about your spinal cord injury a lot, and I’m assuming it’s probably not fun to revisit a traumatic experience. So the one question I have related to it came to me after seeing the “Define Your Own Fate” design. After working so hard just to learn how to walk again, did you have a newfound appreciation or perspective on being able to express yourself?
DR: Honestly, it was just like you said. To go through such traumatic injury and see yourself at your lowest point, looking at yourself in the mirror, I was at my lowest point of my life. I just remember thinking, Once I am able to walk again — forget playing, just to walk again — I’m just gonna have a different outlook on life. And that’s exactly what it did. Whether that be me being a lot more expressive with clothes or me talking, it just changed my outlook life.
MA: Did that recovery period get you thinking about opportunities outside of basketball or other interests that you might have?
DR: It should have. It definitely should have, but I don’t know. Like I said, I was at a really low point. I didn’t let my brain venture out. I was so driven to get back on the court. Once upon a time, I did want to be a sports analyst. I didn’t let my mind go there. Modeling kind of would’ve been out of the picture if I couldn’t walk, so I really couldn’t think about that. Basketball and to get back on the court, that’s all I was thinking about.
MA: When did you start thinking about venturing out, whether with creative pursuits or business opportunities, while still keeping basketball as your priority?
DR: It was after the injury, but it was because of the injury — if that makes sense — because once I got injured, it almost felt like there was nothing else in life for me. I feel like basketball was my center, and it shouldn’t have been. And so once I got injured and healthy [again], I was like, Okay, I’m never gonna get to a point where if one thing is taken out of my life, my whole life is ruined. Because of that, I decided to try out fashion or [other] causes. I just tried to do different things and try to make me everything but a basketball player.
MA: So, of course, I’m going to ask you a question about being a basketball player. How did your “power puffs” become so intertwined with your persona as a player?
DR: It just makes so much sense. Like, it’s cute ponytails that were two. And then it was different as well. It was very girly. I was a very girly person. I’m different — the way I play, the way I dress, everything is just different about me. So why not my hair?
It was something that my mom [started]. Growing up, she would do my hair in ponytails because she wanted me to be girly. She didn’t want me to play basketball. She wanted me to be in dance and cheer, so I’d put on makeup and everything. My dad didn’t like it. In order for them to come to a middle ground, I had to play basketball, but my mom had to be in control of my hair. So I’d be having bows in my hair, too. I was really extra growing up. But I kept it. It stuck. It was something that was easy for me to do in my hair. I have a lot of hair. People thought that I was doing it for fun. No, it was just easier to do.
MA: You have a design inspired by the classic concert tee. Do you have an all-time favorite concert tee that you own?
DR: Recently, I went to a Lil Durk and Lil Baby concert, and I got their concert tee. It was so fire. I’m saying “was” because I frickin’ shrunk it! I’m not a laundry person. I shrunk it, and I tried to cut it into a crop top, and it just didn’t work out. But that was my favorite concert tee by far.
MA: Do you remember your first one?
DR: Honestly? It was Camp Rock.
MA: What design ideas are swirling around in your mind for future clothing collections?
DR: Man, so much. I know I want to get away from athletic wear next time. I have so many ideas in my brain on how I want my clothes to look. And when I say clothes, I mean luxurious clothes. Like, I want some jeans, I want some crop tops. I want a little bit of everything, and I want to do a collab with my brother. I feel like I can incorporate him because he’s why I do everything. It’ll be really dope to have a little line with my younger brother. It’ll be different, it’ll be new, and fresh.
MA: Do you remember the first time that you heard about NFTs?
DR: It was last year. It was recent. I say last year, but the year really just started. It was probably October. I didn’t understand it. I was just like, “What is this world coming to?” That’s all I kept saying. I’m like, I don’t understand why something online can be worth this much.
MA: How did you go from that to deciding that you wanted to create your own?
DR: Parity does a great job at trying to keep women in the loop and giving us our fair chance and fair share at life. They decided to educate a lot of us. They reached out to me, so I’m sure they reached out to a lot of people, but they educated me on it. Once they explained it to me, I thought it was real personable. It’s a way for fans to kind of get a piece of me without even having a piece of me. That’s why I decided to do it. It’s been fun.
They want to do another drop soon. I’ve been thinking about that and working on that and seeing how I wanna go about it because I feel like I wanna do a lot of things different. I’ve been excited working with NFTs and Parity.
MA: What do you mostly want to do differently with the next drop?
DR: It’s personable already, but I want to do a little more. I want to know the people that buy it, you know?And I want to be more involved in the entire process. I think I was a little distant in the first one, and I think [using] my voice can change a little bit more to make it look a little different. It looked a little like cartoonish for me, but I enjoyed the whole process.
MA: What do you want the most to get out of this upcoming WNBA season?
DR: I hope to basically grow from last year to this year — to be more of a helping hand. Last year, I did what I could do off the bench, and I hope to do the same [this year], but a little bit more. I just want to do more for the team, whatever the team needs, and I want to be more of an asset to the team than I was last year. I got my experience last year, so I think I’m a little more ready and more accustomed to the offense [and] the flow of the league in general.
MA: Whether we’re talking about you playing, designing clothes or NFTs, what gives you the most hope at this point in your life? What are you the most excited about?
DR: Honestly, the game. I’m falling in love with it all over again. I will say, in college, I didn’t really enjoy it. And then I got drafted [by the Liberty]. I loved my teammates last year. The coaches were really patient with me, and I was really grateful for that. With new coaches, it’s the same. I’m loving the game. I’m loving learning the game, and I’m enjoying practice. I think that’s giving me the most hope — just the fact that I’m loving what I do right now.