- Sam Alipour
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HOLLYWOOD -- Amare Stoudemire stood on a basketball court in the backyard of his rented Hollywood Hills home, marveling at his latest creation.
"I had no idea how much effort this would take," he said as he slapped at his wet brow. "Like basketball, fashion is hard work."
No, the Knicks big man wasn't talking about a new back-to-the-basket move he'd developed over the offseason. He was commenting on his primary lockout pastime, a collaboration with renowned fashion designer Rachel Roy on her women's clothing line, which they unveiled last week to members of the fashion media.
Standing before a rack of their wares, Stoudemire sounded like a proud father giving his daughter away.
"There's a lot of work that went into this -- almost a year's worth," he said. "But women are very conscientious about what they wear. A woman's outfit says a lot about her. We were passionate about designing something they'd be proud to wear."
The line, which is being billed as "courtside apparel for the fashion-forward female," features Stoudemire's daytime gig as a motif, with the Knicks logo, his jersey number (No. 1) and Star of David tattoo (on his left hand) adorning many of the pieces.
The collaborators say they set out with a singular vision for their line, which will retail at $50 to $235 when it hits Macy's stores in the fall: supermodel Kate Moss, sitting courtside at Madison Square Garden.
"Women should be comfortable going to games. That's the most important thing," Stoudemire explained. "But we also want them to feel beautiful and sexy in their courtside apparel. That's the target we're going after."
Looking at the Knickerbocker's offseason uniform -- dark slacks, a button-up shirt and leather hard bottoms, all by designer Tom Ford -- it isn't hard to envision a successful leap into the fashion arena for Stoudemire. But the forward wasn't always fashion-forward.
Back in the day, "my parents always made me dress up for church. I really didn't want to," he recalled. "When I got to the league at 19, I didn't want to dress up then, either. I wanted to be street, more urban in fashion. So, I only wore suits during the playoffs. But as I got older, I started to enjoy suits more. With age, I started to clean it up a little bit and make more of a statement. It kind of grew from there."
Today, Stoudemire is considered to be among the most stylish players in the NBA, on par with LeBron James. The two men share a stylist, Rachel Johnson, who, together with Stoudemire's longtime tailor, Wariare Boswell, helped elevate the six-time All-Star into the realm of style icon. Since joining the Knicks last summer, Stoudemire's sartorial game has been on an uptick. So, too, has his profile in America's mecca of style, where he has scored front row seats at New York Fashion Week, a fast-friendship with American Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour and the notice of Roy, who saw in Stoudemire a kindred spirit.
"With my secondary line, [called RACHEL Rachel Roy], I'm looking for new artists to work with who can inspire me," Roy explained. "I like to choose artists who are at the top of their game in arenas I know nothing about, like basketball. What set Amare apart is the fact that he truly loves design and fashion so much. He has a very strong point of view. He knows what he's doing on that front."
Roy was particularly impressed with Stoudemire's work ethic.
"For this line, he had to select every single thing, from logos to colors to fonts," she said, adding that she'd often receive emails as late as 2 a.m. from her collaborator. "You will only succeed in this business if you have a true passion and willingness to put in the long hours. He absolutely has that passion."
The teammates didn't always see eye to eye, though.
"There were designs he didn't like that I loved," Roy said. "There was a beautiful military jacket, for example, that I wanted on the line but he wanted off, so I took it off. At the end of the day, I wanted my girls to know that everything was thought-out and hand-picked by him."
Stoudemire, who counts Gucci, Dior, Tom Ford and Louis Vuitton among his favorite labels, will next get to work on his own line, which will be informed by his style mantra: dare to be different.
"I see myself as a revolutionary, as a fashion rebel," he said. "I feel comfortable doing things that aren't normally done. If what's normally done is suits with hard bottoms, I'll wear suits with tennis shoes, I'll wear jeans with a button-down, sport coat and handkerchief. I think style is about having that kind of confidence."
Roy, for one, has high hopes for Amare Stoudemire, fashion designer.
"He absolutely has a future in this business, if he has the time to do it," she said.
Not that his work on Roy's line is finished.
"I just sent Amare some sketches yesterday, actually," she noted. "Luckily, he's still on vacation."
Sam Alipour is a contributing writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter.
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