Stylin’ On Ya
Élevée: Elegantly elevating players to the Next Level.
by Tzvi Twersky
In last Thursday’s NBA Draft, UNC had three players taken in the first round; Louisville saw two players selected; UCLA, USC and Wake Forest each also had a pair of first rounders. Only one other entity had at least that many players chosen in the first round. With a minimum of 12 of its clients hearing their names announced by David Stern, the under-the-radar designer clothier, élevée, was the real winner on draft night.
Élevée, French for “elevate,” “rise above” or “enhance,” was founded by Jhoanna Alba, the current head designer, 10 years ago to do exactly that: elevate her clients game, image and style. This year, while she and four other designers were scampering around a Times Square hotel on draft day, ensuring that the 12 guys élevée was outfitting were looking sharp from head, outfitted in custom hats, to toe, outfitted in custom shoes, Alba recalled how the company began its draft day business.
“We started with one NBA client who introduced us to his team,” says Alba. “Then people got traded, and those people referred us to their new teammates. That was eight years ago. This year we have 12 of the 15 [players in the green room]. In those eight years, we built our business on word of mouth and relationships.”
Jhoanna isn’t a loud, boisterous person. She doesn’t wave her obvious talents in your face. Élevée has taken on her diminutive grace and soft-spoken skill. It isn’t a loud company, they don’t plaster their names or insignia all over the players’ clothing; rather they’ve silently built up a portfolio that includes over 3,000 professional athletes by making a lifestyle that all players dream of—the ostentatious clothes, tricked out cars and MTV Cribs-esque houses— a reality.
Similar to the way that most of the rookies are more than just scorers, rebounders, passers, or any singular element on the hardwood, élevée is multi-dimensional off the court, providing every aspect of the glamorous lifestyle to freshly minted players. From the motorsport division that decks out whips with the latest and flyest technology, to the interior design wing that makes penthouses and mansions into Penthouses and Mansions, élevée takes care of its athletes every need, making the transition from college (or overseas) life to the NBA an easy and magnificent one for the newly drafted players.
“I got a fresh élevée suit picked out,” says Tyler Hansbrough the day before becoming financially set for life. Brandon Jennings and Hasheem Thabeet concurred: “They (élevée) got me a suit ready.” Blake Griffin, the No. 1 pick who ended up not wearing his suit said: “I picked out an élevée suit [for draft night].” Conversation with all the players spoken to during draft week, excluding Jonny Flynn and Jordan Hill, began and ended in similar fashion: with élevée on their tongues (and bodies).
According to Alba, “many of these players have probably never worn a suit before in their lives.” With that in mind, how do these young players, kids used to donning hoodies, sweats, shorts and tees, know and decide where to turn for their draft day (and future) dress up needs? Like many things sports related, the answer lies on a relatively kosher medium somewhere between innovation, exposure and hard work.
Vice President of élevée, David Paletz, agrees with Alba when discussing the “hard work” aspect of their success. He says that no one works harder than employees of élevée. They’re constantly on the road with their clients, are always available to customers and provide a product that is manufactured to perfection—kind of like the players who rep élevée. In terms of innovation, Paletz explains it simply: “The competition is mom and pop custom clothiers, often referred to as, one-man shows. They simply can’t do what we do. What separates us is a couple of things: We are the only completely vertical clothier in America. Meaning, from beginning to end, everything is done under one roof. Our fabrics, our tailor shop, it’s all done in-house in Van Nuys, California. Other custom clothiers don’t have anything like this.”
If you add the first two elements together—the hard work and unique setup— continued exposure, even if laymen aren’t familiar with the clothier, is sure to ensue.
When former All-Star Steve Smith and Hall-of-Famer Magic Johnson are among your first and most consistent clients, the young players, guys who grew up watching ballers like that, are sure to follow. When you add that all together, and throw in a few, possibly stronger tactics, agents, already affiliated with the Company through their well-established veteran clients, tend to recommend élevée to their newest crop of guys. And in 2009, that’s how MSG’s WAMU Theatre turned into an élevée showcase.
So while they may not help prepare rookies for the Next Level like Coach Roy Williams, Coach Rick Pitinio or Coach John Calipari, and they may not be of use to guys on the court, élevée most certainly helps. They help elevate the young players in their own fashionable way—a way that is simply impossible to overlook.