The W in Designer: How Stylists and Players Team Up for the Orange Carpet

The best-dressed WNBA players and their visionary collaborators share their strategies for creating impactful outfits.

Taking place on Friday, July 8, the Orange Carpet is a visual celebration for the players at the WNBA All-Star 2022 Weekend. It’s a rare opportunity for players to apply personal twists to a formal dress code, which adds a glam moment to their versatile outfits this season. Although some players are naturally cool enough to style themselves, we’ve invited stylists, brands, and friends to speak on their strategies for creating the best Orange Carpet outfits. 

This All-Star edition of “The W in Designer: Flyest Fits of the Week” provides a behind-the-scenes look at the relationships between players and their trusted style advisors. From locking in with professional stylists for the season to asking teammates for an outfit assist, creative collaboration fuels the best Orange Carpet outfits. The heavily photographed event also allows players who are part of a brand’s family to show off their hottest releases. After missing the in-person Orange Carpet last year, every player brought the energy that reflects the future of the WNBA.  

Erica Wheeler

Only Erica Wheeler would say that her Orange Carpet outfit has her feeling “super casual, super comfortable with this Gucci and Adidas tracksuit.” As an Adidas athlete, Wheeler rocked a head-to-toe look from the Adidas x Gucci collection with the expertise of Bukunmi, a photographer, stylist, and art director. Focusing on Erica’s androgynous but elevated personal style, Bukunmi says that “they discussed how comfort was key to the Orange Carpet, so the inspiration was to ensure that all pieces were classic yet sophisticated.”

“Erica’s confidence and candor is so refreshing and dashing. I thought it would be great to emphasize her cool, calm, and collected demeanor while hyping up her playfulness. The new Adidas x Gucci collection highlights heritage while establishing a new creative code and to me, Erica does the same in her own way,” says Bukunmi. “Paired with Erica’s sentimental and highly valuable jewelry pieces, the look exuded a polished, yet personal flair.

Jewell Loyd

Known for her sneaker collection, Jewell Loyd caught everyone’s eyes with a rare pair of Dior x Air Jordan 1 Low sneakers. They’re more than hype to the Seattle Storm player, who explains that “For me, I look down and I get appreciative of everything I’ve been through. My story, my journey and to see that I can have something like this, and be a part of this, means a lot.” Since Loyd already owned the shoes and has worked with stylist Sydney Bordonaro all season, the long-time friends didn’t overthink their process… Bordonaro explains, “I seen them when I went to Seattle to check her closet and immediately was like ‘Yea, those are what you’re wearing for All-Star.'” 

Bordonaro finds inspiration in a Devin Booker-like style for Jewell, which is “super clean, comfortable and relaxed, with a subtle flex! That’s really her.” With pinstripe pants, NV Neo Waveson shades from NOUVINTAGE, and a silk shirt, she explains that they went with a “mafia-style.” Although the final look was simple, she sent Loyd a variety of accessories like a matching Dior bucket hat. Overall, Loyd is happy with their collaboration, which allows her to focus on other parts of the game: “It’s been great, Sydney styles really well, so it makes it easier for us to pick outfits.” 

Isabelle Harrison

Resembling a supermodel, Isabelle Harrison is the perfect player to bring runway-worthy pieces to the Orange Carpet. As a Jordan Brand athlete, she’s made waves with her pre-game outfits that re-imagine the iconic Jumpman in leathers, delicate porcelain prints, and diamanté from independent designer Kim Shui. “Isabelle is a modern-day heroine,” explains Shui, “On-court, she is tough and focused, off-court, she’s this really charming, kind, and personable woman. We wanted our look to show that duality.” 

For the Orange Carpet, Harrison wore a custom Kim Shui bolero and snakeskin skirt to fulfill Shui’s vision that’s equal parts “sculptural, armored, sexy and confident.” Featuring Chinese-style embroidery cloud brocade, the gold fabric is meant to increase the Dallas Wings player’s good fortune: the cloud motif is “perceived as an auspicious sign and symbolic of celestial mobility,” and the Chinese word for cloud yún (云) is pronounced the same as yún (运) for luck. Sharing a mutual respect for strong and sexy women, their ongoing collaboration introduces new textures and shapes to classic Jordan sports bras and bodysuits. 

​​Rhyne Howard

With big eyes and lashes, to see her bright future in the league, Rhyne Howard used her Orange Carpet debut to show what’s closest to her heart. The large emblem on her customized jacket by JT, who crafts contemporary letterman jackets for players in the league, contains a “TC” and “5” to pay tribute to Howard’s late friend, Terrance Clark. “She rocks the dog tag necklace with a picture of him, so we wanted to be sure to keep that as a part of the look,” explains stylist Amadi Brooks. Although this is the first time that they’ve teamed up, it’s a seamless addition to Howard’s ongoing story. 

“Rhyne’s game and personality is a juxtaposition in itself,” says Brooks, “Her game is powerful, smooth, and loud; while her demeanor is sweet, calm, and quiet. I wanted to encapsulate that. The jacket was a beautiful tribute, so I wanted it to have its moment and speak for itself.” Brooks adds that they landed on an Aaliyah vibe to give the oversized letterman jacket a ’90s touch and “incorporating the leather crop top with the baggy pants was very intentional.” Staying true to Howard’s “feminine tomboy aesthetic,” her jacket is paired with cargo stacked pants by designer Corey D. Williams‘ label, GRÉVYI.

Arike Ogunbowale

Even when she’s in her signature streetwear-heavy outfits, Arike Ogunbowale has a natural ability to shine. Although fans may have expected an elevated streetwear outfit from the Dallas Wings player, she transformed her regular drip into a shiny, silk custom suit from KA Originals. Working with Kristine Anigwe, a player-turned-fashion entrepreneur, Ogunbowale wore a green silk suit with the brand’s signature cropped blazer and wide-leg pants. 

There’s a balance of elements borrowed from Anigwe’s elegant style and elements that are essential to Ogunbowale’s image, like a gold chain with her official logo. Instead of being an individual player’s outfit, this outfit reveals more about both of their stories. Finding inspiration in their shared heritages, Anigwe explains, “We both have a Nigerian background and we understand the significance of the color green. It was a good way to rep and show love to Nigeria.” The custom suit was constructed while Ogunbowale was in Jamaica, but the pair used their discussions on the garment’s design, fabric, and color to achieve her Orange Carpet aesthetic.

Natasha Howard

There must be a secret to Natasha Howard’s extremely cool aura, but learning about her process will leave you more stumped. The New York Liberty player typically rocks complex, color-coordinated outfits, but found success in an unpretentious Orange Carpet look from ZARA. “It’s simple, I’m very simple,” says Howard, “All my pictures, I style myself– actually, Michaela is the one who picked this outfit out for me, last minute. We was in Vegas, she helped me pick it out.” With the growing trend of players styling other players, perhaps Howard will join this legacy, as she says that “If anyone needs [a stylist], ‘Hey, I’m here.’”  

Michaela Onyenwere confirms that it was as straightforward as it sounds: “I was excited when Tash asked me to go to the mall and help her pick her outfit, I suggested Zara and it was really fun.” Howard wanted a casual but sophisticated look, but there’s no one who knows your style better than a teammate. “I knew she’d look good with the tailored suit pants. I thought the blue would be good because black is boring and she can’t be boring at All-Star,” says Onyenwere, “Altogether, she looked like a baddie and I was proud of her and happy I could be a little part of her experience.” 

Arella Guirantes

Drawing people in with her natural sultry look, Arella Guirantes brought a powerful outfit to the Orange Carpet that looks like she’s married to the game. Confusing sports-centric reporters with her “Jordan bridal look,” the outfit is the climax of an ongoing collaboration with Vaquera, an independent New York-based brand, and the Jordan Brand. Wearing official Jordan Brand’s Women’s Apparel like her white sports bra, Vaquera added a bespoke ivory lace cape with a supersized silver belt for a disruptive styling moment. 

After seeing Guirantes’ fierce style, Vaquera designers Patric DiCaprio, Claire Sullivan, and Bryn Tauber say they “were excited to learn that she loves characters, dressing up, and fashion’s power to transform.” Vaquera has created several pre-game tunnel outfits for the Jordan Brand family player, which are all “loosely inspired by superheroes.” To reflect Guirantes’ love for Marvel characters, her lace cape was inspired by one of her favorites, the Moon Knight. “When you wear our clothes, we want you to feel empowered. We wanted Arella to feel confident, like a superhero,” explains Vaquera. Adding to her active role in sparking new conversations around WNBA fashion, Guirantes wore her own shoes and earrings as the finishing touch. 

Newly hired WNBA reporter Kirsten Chen writes a lifestyle & fashion column on throughout the season and can be reached on Twitter through @hotgothwriter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the WNBA or its clubs.