SNEAKERS & FASHION TRADING CARDS & COLLECTIBLES

Tiffany & Co.’s Timeless Sporting Legacy

Under the ownership of LVMH, the classic New York luxury jewelry brand is leveraging its legacy in the world of sports.

It was a frigid Friday morning in Cleveland with neither snow nor sleet stopping sneakerheads from lining up at the StockX space at NBA All-Star Weekend.

With Off-White and Jordan Brand fitted on their feet, the hype among fans in line was at a fever pitch. The pinnacle purchase of the weekend, however, wasn’t the new LeBrons nor Yeezys.

It wasn’t a pair of sneakers at all.

Rather, the collectors were lined up for Tiffany & Co.’s iconic turquoise blue box. Typically, diamond or sterling silver jewelry pieces are housed inside. But on this day, it was a redesigned Wilson game ball by multidimensional artist Daniel Arsham in the brand’s prized Pantone.

The $575 art piece adjusted for inflation is far different than the rocks — and the consumer base — typically tied to Tiffany. That was by design.

“I’d been working with Tiffany on a couple of other projects in the jewelry space but we started talking about All-Star a year ago,” Arsham told Boardroom. “I thought it’d be cool to do the ball in their signature Tiffany blue as a limited gift to [fans in] Cleveland.”

Sold exclusively in the city both Arsham and the Cavaliers call home — Arsham was named the Cavs’ in-house creative director in November 2020 — the ball drop shows the LVMH-owned brand pivoting to new conversations in culture.

Tiffany is no longer exclusive to esteemed elders. Through campaigns starring Jay-Z and Beyoncé as well as diamond-encrusted specs sported by Skateboard P, Tiffany is becoming a brand chased by the youth.

Beyoncé, Hov and Pharrell are giants in music, and the arts are moving the modern needle in Tiffany’s direction, but the Big Apple brand has also long lived in tandem with sports.

Summer Love

In the 1996 offseason, NBA free agent Allan Houston boarded a private plane to New York. The Detroit Pistons shooting guard had just averaged 25 points per game in his first playoff series, heading to free agency the same summer he was set to get married.

Looking to woo H20, the Knicks covered each seat with blue and orange jerseys bearing his name and number. As the icing on the cake, the Knicks sought to win over Houston’s mother and fiancée with crystal apples from Tiffany & Co.

When it was all said and done, the Knicks landed Houston for $56 million.

As Chris Herring tells it in Blood in the Garden, Houston’s teammates in Detroit were so upset by the move that they skipped his wedding. While the private planes and big checks won over the star shooter, it was the local luxury and upscale slice of Americana that won over the leading ladies in his life.

This intersection between sport and splendor 33,000 miles above Lake Erie in 1996 is far from the first example of Tiffany setting the standard of opulence in athletics.

Eye on the Prize

Spanning generational pop culture from Audrey Hepburn to Aubrey Graham, Tiffany & Co. embodies luxury in all eras. While blue boxes bearing bedazzled bracelets resonate as romantic, Tiffany is just as storied in representing crowning achievements across sports.

Since the 1800s, Tiffany & Co. has designed prizes for victors from horse racing and sharpshooting to figure skating. The ultimate in American sport, though, is the trophy presentation in major pro leagues. And famously, Tiffany designed the NBA’s golden Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy since 1977.

Equally impressive, the brand has crafted every Vince Lombardi Trophy for the NFL since Super Bowl I in 1967.

Under the ownership of LVMH since January 2021, Tiffany looks to tell new stories tied to sports through more modern messaging. With artists such as Arsham bringing a unique perspective next to LVMH honing a nuanced sense of scale, there will soon be more touchpoints relevant to young adults.

“I started with Tiffany when they had just been purchased by LVMH,” Arsham shared, back at All-Star Weekend. “There was a big shift in their thinking. Some of the projects that I’ve done with them? I’m not sure if they would’ve happened previous to that. I worked very closely with [Tiffany executive] Alex Arnault, who brought me into the company.”

The release of Arsham’s Tiffany basketball at All-Star is an inflection point in that shift.

However, as the tale of the tape tells it, Tiffany has long possessed the power to shift sport in an everyday sense.

Sign Up For Our Newsletters

Get on our list for sports business, industry trends, interviews, and more.

Not New to This

In the world of sport and sportswear, there’s arguably no item more iconic than the New York Yankees baseball hat. Worn proudly by the likes of Roger Maris and Jay-Z, the Big Apple baseball club’s storied logo is actually rooted in Tiffany folklore.

Back in 1877, Tiffany & Co.’s Chief Designer Edward C. Moore was tasked with drafting the Medal of Valor for the NYPD. By introducing an interlocking “N” and “Y” insignia, Tiffany was suddenly inspiring the Bronx Bombers and the ballcaps they’ve worn for over a century.

New York City’s most prevalent symbol has subtly been tied to Tiffany, but the relationship between brand and city cannot be missed.

“Tiffany is a very New York brand,” Arsham noted. “If you grew up in the U.S., you know it as a luxury brand. When we think of luxury in jewelry and fashion, it’s often European brands. But Tiffany is a New York brand.”

Now under the ownership and leadership of Arnault and the LVMH family, the brand is bringing its same sense of luxury while catering to the client. Arsham is undoubtedly a part of this with his Blue Box basketball drop at All-Star Weekend, signaling just how far the legacy label is willing to push it.

“The first project I did was the bracelet,” Arsham recalled while wearing it on his wrist. “I think they’re open to rethinking luxury and who Tiffany is for. It’s a heritage brand that’s over 100 years old, and sometimes just having a new group of people in there can create change. What they’ve done with Beyoncé and Jay? It’s super fun and interesting.”

Walking the StockX space in Dior x Air Jordan 1 sneakers, Arsham has an understanding of art, luxury, and sport that’s classically trained yet in tune with access. Arsham sees sport as the great unifier in society — a stage to introduce gallery ideas to a wider world of people.

Interestingly enough, it’s on-brand with ownership as illustrated by LVMH namesake label Louis Vuitton. The French fashion house has been instrumental in bridging worlds by collaborating with artists such as Takashi Murakami and Kanye West in the 2000s. Just the same, they’ve become storied in sport through their recent collaboration with the NBA.

Perhaps most notably, they’ve offered access through entry-point items such as coin pouches and wallets. As Tiffany takes its brand to the world of collectible culture throughout music and sport, it seems safe to say they’ve come a long way from their Hepburn heritage. Not only will Tiffany be for the rich and famous, but it will prove a trophy piece for those enthralled by fashion and art in all walks of life.

“I think we’ll be looking at things that are a little more mass, lower price point, and are available to more people,” Arsham teased of upcoming ideas with Tiffany. “This is where things get interesting.”

Sign Up For Our Newsletters

Get on our list for sports business, industry trends, interviews, and more.

Subscribe

Enter your email below