Launching on her birthday on Aug. 2, the six-time WNBA All-Star co-designed a capsule collection inspired by her path and the Arizona scenery.
The “EST. 2017” that reads across the t-shirt included in Phoenix Mercury point guard Skylar Diggins-Smith’s footwear and apparel range with Puma is a not-so-subtle nod to their starting point — the one at which the WNBA star signed on as the first basketball player to join the brand in nearly two decades.
It’s a year not often referenced enough, with sports media and even a Twitter Moments feature at times incorrectly pointing to the brand’s 2018 NBA Draft signings as the official Puma Hoops re-launch – a suggestion that the player herself does not hesitate to correct.
As it stands, Puma’s renewed basketball project is now five years in, with a stable of All-Stars and crossover stars alike on both the women’s and men’s side now bossing the pro hardwood in cat-laden logos and form-striped footwear.
For Diggins-Smith, from becoming the first hooper in this modern Puma era to take “a leap of faith” on the brand to the eventual launch of the first Puma women’s basketball collection a year ago – the High Court Collection, coached by June Ambrose – it’s all led up to this, the latest breakthrough in the brand’s elevation of women’s sports and their greatest athletes.
To hear all about her new “Desert Sky” collection with Puma – a four-item range including the TRC Blaze Court sneaker, a jersey dress, t-shirt and shorts all available now at Puma.com – we caught up with Skylar Diggins-Smith for more on the insights, details and pride that went into her upcoming launch.
NICK DePAULA: What was the initial design inspiration for the “Desert Sky” theme?
SKYLAR DIGGINS-SMITH: Really, it’s the representation of duality for me. The sunrise and sunset is how we got started with the color palette. I’m from Indiana, and coming out here [to Phoenix], I didn’t know anything about the southwest. My perception was that it was flat out here and all desert.
When I got out here and saw that there were mountains and how scenic it was, there was something about the sunrise and sunsets, and the color just caught my eye.
When I think about sunrise, I think about opportunity and new chapters. When I think about a sunset, I think about reflection and that contrast.
Then, I thought about how I wanted the capsule to be versatile and inclusive. Have something for everybody, even if you play basketball or not. There’s that line where basketball fuses with fashion.
Seeing that in a different light, it really was so different how we shot this capsule, compared to the Puma Hoops and basketball shoots that I’ve done in the past. I loved it and the versatility of not just standing in the gym and bouncing a ball. I got a lot of creative control to show, ‘Okay, who is Sky?’
When you look at the TRC Court Blaze, on the back of the shoe, one side says ‘Beauty’ and one side says ‘Beast.’ It’s really about that duality. When you see me off the court or outside of this element, I’m different. When I’m in that fight or flight moment and the competitive juices are turned on, it’s like I never know what I’m going to do the next minute. That duality is still Sky, and showcasing that versatility in the collection is what we were after.
NDP: Which apparel silhouettes were you focused on incorporating?
SDS: I loved the idea of a jersey dress. In the 90s and early 2000s, that was a thing, and everybody had a jersey dress. It was the nostalgia of when I first started loving basketball and first started hooping and those vibrant colors at that time.
A jersey dress was something that I was really excited about, and the way that they executed those [tearaway] snaps on the side — to have that iconic snapping off your pants, going into the game feel to it. I loved the opportunity to have something different in a basketball collection, and something practical that everyone could wear.
NDP: What can you tell me about the “You Do You” tagline on the shirt and the story behind it?
SDS: Growing up, my mom took ASL [American Sign Language], and my dad coached me for most of my life in AAU and high school. She hated to hear the chatter, so she would always sit way up top, so she could just be in her zone. What she did, is she’d sign to me [before every game], ‘You Do You.’ Like, you do your thing. No matter what, be yourself and don’t be like anyone else. Just do your thing.
That was our thing, even to this day, when she comes to the games now. Even playing in front of thousands and thousands of people, I spot her in the crowd still and she’ll say the same thing to me when she comes to games now. That was the symbolism there. My mom was always encouraging me to be myself, and that’s the message that I want everyone to feel. In this day and age, where everyone is trying to imitate somebody or emulate somebody, just do you.
You can really hoop in that thing if you want to, or it can be your favorite t-shirt at night when you’re just eating popcorn and watching Netflix. I really wanted to make [the jersey dress and shirt] something that you could dress up, dress down, and move around in. That representation is like my real life.
NDP: You debuted the jersey dress in the tunnel. How much of a priority has the tunnel fit become in your eyes, and how much are players now looking to take advantage of that visibility with new items and products?
SDS: You see more and more players being very intentional about what they’re putting on nowadays. I love it that people are paying attention, because it is a lot of storytelling that goes along with these outfits that we’re putting together. Details that tell a lot about someone’s personal style. That’s kind of avant-garde for us, as far as WNBA players getting that opportunity, because we’re gone most of the year.
We’re usually heavy on basketball content when you see us, and I love the content to showcase the other side, see people’s personal styles and tell those stories. For me, it meant a lot to debut my own capsule collection, wear it, and see it come to fruition [after] starting where we started … I thought it was dope.
NDP: With so much attention now and even accounts like LeagueFits that are paying attention on a daily basis to the tunnel, how do you find that balance in deciding on going all out or playing it more casual?
SDS: I think finding my baseline style is really key. What is my look? What’s my go-to? [Sometimes] I want to be really chic, but I want to be really comfy and move around. I do kind of like that darkness, kind of Matrix look. That’s like my villain story, I guess. [laughs] That’s my baseline. Tailored clothes. And I’ve gotta give a shoutout to [my Mercury teammate] Kristine Anigwe. I started working with Kris, and she’s a very talented fashion designer, and a very dope and skilled basketball player as well.
Collaborating and trying to figure out what I wanted for myself and what I wanted to look like — once you start wearing ‘em, though, Nick, then you gotta keep putting together these outfits [laughs]. It just really challenged me and my creativity to try new things and find out what I like about my body and what I wanted to highlight and accent.
NDP: I saw the W SLAM account posted the photoshoot that you had – have you come up with an album title yet?
SDS: No, no, I haven’t [laughs]. That was so funny. I saw someone say something about my stomach [must’ve been] hurting and I said, ‘Oh, I’m blocking you.‘ [laughs]. It made me chuckle, ‘cause I didn’t even think about it like that.
I love stuff like that, ‘cause it’s all about engagement. I love the buzz that I’ve gotten from the collection and the responses that I’ve gotten for it. It drops on my birthday, and it’s an overall dope moment that will come full circle. I’m looking forward to more to come from Puma and myself.
NDP: One thing I noticed at All-Star Weekend was that a lot of players didn’t have a special edition shoe for the All-Star game, but we saw Breanna Stewart debut her signature shoe and we saw you break out the Desert Skys. What was it like representing for Puma on that stage and you each having your own special footwear?
SDS: It was cool, and it was also dope being on the same team as Jackie Young, so we were very well represented there for our brand, considering that’s 60% of our [Puma] roster [being in the All-Star Game.]
I love the representation, and I’m happy for Stewie. It’s well overdue for that [signature] representation to come out on the women’s side and have a shoe that’s designed for us and by us. That’s dope that the brand just continues to set the bar for brands with what we do.
Showing that they’re investing in their athletes, it’s going beyond the court and growing the game. Incorporating things like fashion, basketball is the mecca of pop culture when you talk about about music, [sports], and fashion and how those all cross over. I really appreciate a brand like Puma that’s listening to their athletes and what they want, and thinking outside of the box when it comes to creating.
NDP: You were the first one to sign on as part of this whole basketball re-launch. Now that it’s been five years, what are some of the biggest milestones you’ve seen as the category has grown?
That was obviously huge, becoming a part of the brand. I was listening to a vision and taking a leap of faith coming from other brands and with my past. Coming into Puma, it was really just about believing in the people that were there and the direction that they had for the brand and really diving in.
Being transparent with each other and saying, ‘Okay, we’re figuring out this stuff together. It’s okay and we’re navigating this new space.’ Also, how can we be different, and not just be the same old rotary phone? That was obviously big.
The continuation of athletes that we’ve signed, bringing in Breanna Stewart was really big. Deandre Ayton was a big signing at the time as a top pick, and Marvin Bagley, too.
And obviously [LaMelo Ball] was a big get with the way that he’s playing now and being an All-Star. People continuing to come and show interest in the brand, obviously the response has been people from all around, saying ‘Hey, what do you got on? I like that.’
It made me feel good to say, ‘Okay, I started this back up and I was a big, big part of this.’ Now, to see it grow legs and even go into grassroots and have my own AAU team wearing Puma at these big tournaments [where the players can] get exposure, it makes me feel good. I really think we’re just scratching the surface of what we can do.
NDP: Last one for you – I assume you’ve ridden on the Puma jet. What was that experience like and how cool is it that the brand has a jet for the players?
SDS: We went to [Las Vegas] All-Star in it [last year]. We went straight from a game, and it was actually me and Stewie, and our families on there, going to All-Star last year and the USA team [showcase].
It’s dope. I’m trying to get them to take me on a vacation to celebrate this collection [laughs]. We gotta do something and go to an exotic destination.