russell westbrook true religion

Nowadays, brands must constantly devise smart ways to create frenzy and fascination around their identities. A little bit of celebrity association can go a long way toward capturing the consumer’s imagination. Fashion brands, in particular, have maintained aggressive relationships with celebrities but a recent trend is taking these partnerships to a new level.

As reported last week, NBA star athlete Russell Westbrook has been named Creative Director for True Religion’s Spring 2015 campaign, “Be So Bold.” Westbrook not only creative directs but also models the clothes in much the same way a Brand Ambassador would.

Westbrook is noted for his fashion sense but this new definition and extension of his personal brand plays off of his celebrity as much as it does his style acumen. He now joins an increasingly long list of notable celebrity tastemakers adding “Creative Director” to their CV’s from Rihanna for Puma to Swiss Beatz for Reebok to the highly criticized choice of Lindsay Lohan for Emmanuel Ungaro.

In her commentary piece for Forbes, Kim Winser breaks down why luxury brands need high profile Creative Directors to maintain their reputation of exclusivity and an aspirational lifestyle. Yet, when it came to more accessible brands bringing on celebrity Creative Directors, she felt very differently:

But, in a desperate bid to add that elusive street cred, many brands make bizarre appointments and I question the Brand integrity of them: Justin Timberlake as Creative Director for Bud Light? Alicia Keys in a similar role at Blackberry? Victoria Beckham at Range Rover? These incongruous collaborations simply don’t work for me. They are PR stunts, rather than true creative roles. They bring power, but it’s superficial and short-sighted. It’s like putting Angelina Jolie or Nicole Kidman in the lead role of a movie: it might draw people to the Box Office, but it doesn’t mean the film will be good. And too many flops dilute the actor’s reputation.

For many people, these situations feel like a celebrity Spokesperson dressed in Creative Director clothing. When one breaks down Russell Westbrook’s personal style in particular, he has become known for bold, rule-breaking fashion choices that are often well-tailored even when complete whimsy. So, his creative direction of a “Be So Bold” for a fundamentally denim brand isn’t that far of  stretch. Time will tell if the Westbrook/True Religions collabo yield long-term growth for both brands but either way, there will be plenty of people watching. – JD