The W in Designer: WNBA Takes On New York Fashion Week

A historic year for sports stars to bring their strength and beauty to the runway. 

While players on the Las Vegas Aces and Connecticut Sun battled it out in the WNBA Finals, other players set their sights on New York Fashion Week. From September 9 to September 14, independent designers and major sportswear brands scheduled exciting runway shows, presentations, and hard-to-get-into parties. Building off of the momentum for fashion from the 2022 season, several players walked in their first shows and were spotted in highly coveted front-row seats. Offering a unique opportunity for exposure that’s outside of the sports realm, the latest iteration of New York Fashion Week proves that female athletes have an undeniable influence on style.

Historically, WNBA players haven’t been invited to participate in the high fashion world as often as their male counterparts are. It’s rare to find their presence in past Fashion Weeks, apart from Skylar Diggins-Smith, who was spotted at shows in 2014. As more designers and brands aim to expand the female identity through clothing, it’s a fitting opportunity for WNBA players to join the conversation around fashion finally. Since designers plan custom fittings for their runway, the minor height differences between the players and models sample sizes aren’t noticeable– it’s tricky to spot Isabelle Harrison, Katie Lou Samuelson, and DiDi Richards, among the other models. 

“The WNBA is the most expressive and progressive league in the world. The players know exactly who they are and how they want to express themselves. Tunnel outfits helped perpetuate that, and I see players’ confidence grow year by year. Their style, their fashion choices, their conscious effort to STUNT is dope,” says Ari Chambers, “It naturally lends itself to the blurred line between fashion and sport.” Celebrating the trailblazing quality of New York Fashion Week, here’s a recap of the WNBA players (and a broadcaster) with an undeniable impact on the future of high fashion and sports. 

Isabelle Harrison Closes the Kim Shui Runway Show

Making her first runway debut, Dallas Wings player Isabelle Harrison closes out the Kim Shui Spring/Summer 23 runway show in a silky dress. Continuing their relationship, where Shui created custom outfits for Harrison with the Jordan Brand, the dynamic duo reunited at the Grand Terminal Station for a high fashion event. Although the player recently sprained her ankle, she strutted down the runway with an undeniable sense of confidence while wearing Shui’s armored-inspired designs. With each model showing the multidimensional identity of the Kim Shui brand girl, Harrison brings a rare combination of beauty and exceptional basketball athleticism. 

Katie Lou Samuelson Spreads Positivity at PUMA’s Futrograde Show

Signing a multiyear contract with PUMA in 2019, Los Angeles Sparks player Katie Lou Samuelson was spotted on the runway for PUMA’s Futrograde show. Exploring PUMA’s sportswear heritage and futuristic applications of technology, Samuelson was dressed in a classic mustard-colored outfit with colorful hair accessories and a pair of white PUMA sneakers. Sitting at the intersection of sports and fashion, the show invited Samuelson and other athletes like Usain Bolt and Kyle Kuzma to participate as models. Pushing these athletes outside of their comfort zones, it’s exciting to see a sports brand and its ambassadors in an unfamiliar, seriously chic setting. 

Lexie Brown and Michaela Onyenwere Watch DiDi Richards at Dur Doux

Working in partnership with the WNBA, Dur Doux invited DiDi Richards to walk in its show and Lexie Brown and Michaela Onyenwere to sit in its front row. By elevating athletes to the most visually important parts of its runway presentation, Dur Doux is representing how hard and soft qualities can appear in fashion. Founded by a unique mother-daughter duo, Dur Doux dressed Richards in a bright orange maxi dress, gold bangles and seashell hoop earrings. While brand DNA lays in Florida’s tropical environments, its free-flowing looks fit the elegant vibes of New York Fashion Week. 

Ari Chambers Reps Brittney Griner at KA Originals Runway

Taking place at a sunny rooftop in New York’s Soho neighborhood, KA Originals made its Fashion Week debut. Featuring Ari Chambers, an on-camera talent and co-host of WNBA weekly, as one of its models, the looks combine founder Kristine Anigwe’s affinity for ultra chic materials with sports references. As captured by Charles Spears and Derrick Lockett, Chambers wears a backward jersey with Brittney Griner’s 42 number with structured leather pants and a long coat. “There’s something so symbolic about elevating Brittney Griner while being on an elevated stage during Fashion Week,” shares Chambers. Presented under independent designer platform Flying Solo’s programming, KA Originals continues its neutral color palette with an entire collection of stunning looks. 

Natasha Cloud Stunts at LUAR and Kim Shui 

Running into Natasha Cloud at the LUAR and Kim Shui runway shows, the Washington Mystics player blends in with New York City locals with an array of edgy, all-black outfits. Cloud’s natural sense of style can be seen in all of the player’s pre-game outfits for this season, and her friendly personality led to epic New York Fashion Week mingling moments. Besides showing support for Harrison on the Kim Shui runway, Cloud used the week to debut streetwear-approved hats like a Prada bucket hat and an interesting black and white checkered hat.

Charli Collier slays at Sergio Hudson’s collection launch

Dallas Wings Player Charli Collier was also spotted in New York at Sergio Hudson’s collection launch in a silky teal outfit. When she was the number one draft pick in the 2021 season of the WNBA, Collier wore a custom Sergio Hudson dress for the virtual draft. Continuing her relationship with the brand, Collier brings her natural strength and beauty to the brand’s event. The latest collection from Sergio Hudson features bright solid colors in fun shapes like mini dresses and collared blouses that tie at the waist.

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.