Made in Italy (via Memphis): Jaren Jackson Jr. on launching a line in Pitti and promoting NBA style

We are used to seeing peacocks at Pitti. But the Grizzlies? Not really. So it was fun today to meet the NBA’s Jaren Jackson Jr., who is in Florence to launch a 33-piece fashion capsule featuring the Mauna Kea. For those unaware of this brand (full disclosure: I was one of them too until today) Mauna Kea is an Italian surf-inspired label founded in 1988 that has thrived for a some time – you can still find his vintage Patagonia-on- ’90s acid fleece pieces online, before becoming as inert as the Hawaiian volcano it’s named after. It was revived in 2018 by Florentine entrepreneur Felix Vannucci. In the four decades since the Mauna Kea’s first incarnation, what was once called “surfwear” has evolved, primarily through the pioneering work of Shawn Stussy, to become a central part of the source code for contemporary streetwear: Vennucci applies those salty, analog-satisfying codes via a Made in Italy process to great effect.

That’s what duly caught the attention of Memphis Grizzlies forward Jackson Jr., who is fresh off a season in which he averaged 16.3 points per game. Here are some edited highlights from our conversation about how this collab came about, the very particular pant shape he chose, and the bold masculine temperament he favors when off the court.

So it’s been in development since before the pandemic?

Jaren Jackson Jr: Yeah! And it all started when my stylist Toni Lowe bought me a piece; I didn’t know where it came from at the time, but I loved it. It was this jacket and hoodie set. The fit was great. So I’ve worn it a lot, and I’ve been seen wearing it, and the brand has reached out to me to say they appreciate me wearing it. And the relationship started from there.

I never would have thought then that it would lead to this. But once it started I was really happy and wanted to see where we could go. What I really appreciated was the degree of control I had over everything: they always wanted feedback and they always wanted me to tell them what I wanted. And I was so ready to tell them! There were so many photos I had on my phone and things I saw over the years that inspired me. And this collection is all those ideas, all those conversations together. And when I got here, I was nervous because I hadn’t seen him. But I’m blown away.

Photo: Dominique Oliveto / Courtesy of Mauna Ke

Photo: Dominique Oliveto / Courtesy of Mauna Kea

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