Calyann Barnett Takes Dwyane Wade’s Style Game To The Next Level [Interview]

Dwyane Wade and his stylist Calyann Barnett.
Photo: Getty Images

When it comes to the unique (but growing) intersection of sports, more specifically basketball, and fashion, there is one dude who consistently slays, always dressing a cut above the rest: Dwyane Wade. The Miami Heat point guard was one of the first to start wearing “nerdy” thick-rimmed glasses to the post-game podium, helping jumpstart and trend within the league. From there, he’s catapulted to bona fide style star status, appearing alongside our girl Karlie Kloss in Vogue (granted, he’s shirtless), collaborating on dress shoes (not just sneakers!), and hosting his own charity runway show. Of course, it’s important to note that he does this all with the help of one very talented lady who was the catalyst for his fashion overhaul, his stylist Calyann Barnett. We caught up with Barnett for a quick chat about Flash’s wave-making style as we look forward to aaaaall the amped up post-game podium looks to come while the Heat forge ahead on their quest for another go-around at NBA Finals glory. Check it out!

MTV STYLE: How long have you been styling Dwyane Wade?

CALYANN BARNETT: I think five and half, almost six years

How did that relationship start and what was the first time style consulting for Dwyane like?

The first time was actually Christmas five or six years ago. They were going to play LeBron for a Christmas Day game. I had met him earlier that year and had tried to convince him that he needed a stylist. At the time, he was just having someone make his suits. He had a photoshoot for ESPN magazine where he was on the cover, and I ended up style assisting on that job, so I got his information again. I reached out to him again just before that Christmas game. Basically like, “Hey, you’re going to play LeBron James. He’s well-dressed. Let me get you right,” and he decided to try it out. He let me get him dressed, and he loved it and got tons of compliments, and from there, we started working together.

What’s the process like dressing him now? How has it evolved since then?

I usually start by giving him some direction on where I think he should go, and I get some input from him What does he want to try? Is there anything that he’s seen? You know, he travels a lot. He might’ve seen something in some city and thought, “Oh, I want to try this,” or just even from Fashion Week, so we’ll go over that Then, I’ll do some shopping for him, calling different stores, doing some custom pieces because I work with tailors for suiting and shirts or just anything that I may have come up with in my head but I couldn’t find in a store, I’ll have created. And from there, I’ll put together the looks for him.

How long does that process actually take?

It’s an on-going process. I’m literally doing something just about every day whether it’s online, in the stores, reading magazines. There’s always something going on because he is seen so much, I have to keep it new and fresh. I have to keep evolving his look. And there are so many NBA athletes now who are trying to follow suit, so we have to make sure that he’s ahead of the game.

So how much of Dwyane’s wardrobe are you styling? It’s not just going to the games and post-game press conferences. It’s other stuff, too, right?

Everything. Just about everything in his closet, I have in some way purchased or pulled or had the designer send with the exception of the sports wear. Which I’ve actually now started working on, too. In a little bit, that’ll all be mine!

How has his attitude toward fashion evolved since that first time that you worked with him?

It has changed so much. I know when I first worked with him, like most guys, he loved clothes that were a little bit more loose. But now, it’s a completely different Dwyane than when I first started working with him. He’s open to trying things now. He’s gone to Milan Fashion Week. He’s gone to Paris Fashion Week. He’s seen what’s on the runways. Now, although this may not be what people are used to in the states, he wants to try it. He’s very open to trying color, silhouette, patterns, textures. I wouldn’t say there’s no “No,” but he’s always open to try and see how something looks.

Does he have any favorite designers?

He loves Versace, loves Gucci, loves DSquared2, he has a really good relationship with the twins, Lanvin. Those, I would say, would be his top designers, and all of them make clothes that are for a more muscular build. They fit his shoulders and take into consideration a small waist.

Oh wow. I imagine the process of dressing an athlete is so different from dressing other clients.

It’s a lot different because you do have to take into consideration that they have broader shoulders, they have longer arms, a longer inseam. Thank God that the designers have come on-board. When I first started, there were no sizes out there. Everything I did for him was custom. Now, just from them being exposed and even Dwyane meeting with a lot of designers, they’ve realized that there is a demand out there for these larger guys to look amazing, so they provide the sizing, but it’s still limited. Working with an entertainer, generally, sky’s the limit because they tend to be a smaller build, but with an athlete, there’s a lot more planning that goes into it. You can’t just go out last-minute and expect to run into a store and pick up all your needs.

Totally. So when you’re outfitting Dwyane for a season, do you put together outfits for the maximum number of games from the get-go? There has to be some kind of strategy for styling that many appearances.

Well, and this is the same for my work with other guys. I dress two other guys.

You dress Rondo, too, right?

Yea, I dress Rajon Rondo and Josh Smith! Basically I tend to do it monthly, where in the beginning of the month, I go over your schedule and know how many games you have, and then, I’ll put together any additional looks for if you have a set event. I’ll put together a look for that. Or just an occasional because things pop up. During the season, you never know. There’s a charity event or this dinner here that you have to go to, so I make sure they have the options in case.

For individual games, do you put together multiple outfits depending on whether they win or lose?

Honestly, I don’t think that if you win or lose, it should change how you dress, and I honestly think that the better you dress that day, the more likely you are to win. That’s my philosophy. It’s how you feel. It’s how you look. It’s how you walk into the arena, how you walk onto the court. It’s a confidence that you have when you get dressed, so I try to make sure that every look is a game-winning look.

Other than shoes, because we know he loves them enough to collaborate with Del Toro on them, are there any other accessories that he’s really into?

Socks. He loves his socks. He actually has a sock line with Stance that should be releasing this summer. We do a lot of looks without socks because it’s getting warmer, but if he’s wearing socks, you’re gonna see something exciting between the pant and the shoe. Almost guaranteed. No black socks here. And then, his tie selection. He has, I can’t even count how many ties. It’s almost unbelievable. And, like, you can never have enough because you’ll start with a look and be like, “Agh, if I only had this tie! Seriously, I have maybe over 400 ties right now, and I can’t find one?” And just little accessories that go on the jackets whether it’s lapel pins, whether it’s buttons, different little accents, tie bars. And the glasses, of course.

Dwyane Wade at 2013 All-Star Weekend.
Photo: Getty Images

What are some of your favorite looks that you’ve put him in this season?

I love what we did for All-Star Weekend. Everything we did for him was black and white. Black and white can sometimes be boring, so we incorporated little details. For his charity event, he wore this Adrien Sauvage suit that had this hook-eye metal detailing underneath the lapel, so it almost looked like a double lapel. We did the leather sweats. We actually started tying scarves around his waistline, so it was almost like a cummerbund but with an Ottoman Empire sort of feel, so it had, like, tassels hanging down. I definitely love the sweatpants and blazer look because it shows both sides of him.

Two of the biggest noise-making outfits that he’s worn this season have been the Versace floral jacket and the capris. Can you talk to me a little about those looks?

With the floral jacket, he loved the floral jacket. He absolutely loved it and wanted to wear it. I loved it, too, but I don’t think that behind the podium, it did the jacket as much justice. When people saw it, if people took the time to see the look all together, it was such an amazing look.

And I think maybe set against that really distinct bright cobalt blue NBA backdrop that’s also printed didn’t really do it any favors.

Yea, it’s harsh! It’s a harsh color. Like, you might need to change that color back there because it’s ruining guys’ outfits. [Laughs] But yea, I think a lot of guys, they’re still so uncomfortable with a man wearing florals, a man wearing pink, you know? And especially sporty guys. It takes them a little while, but from my experience, especially with Dwyane, they catch on. They’re a little bit behind the curve, but next year, lo and behold, we’ll see a lot more floral. And then, in terms of the capris, the Gucci suit is actually a full-length suit, and you can put it at whatever length you’d like. I know for the summer, there’s a lot of capris on the runways. It’s super European. It’s super Milan, Paris. And that’s one of his passions. He loves fashion. He loves going to the shows. So he likes to bring the shows to the states every now and then. That walk from the bus into the arena is his runway.

Dwyane Wade made waves in Versace during the 2013 NBA Playoffs.

So true. As far as your relationship with fashion, when you first started getting into styling, did you ever really think you were going to be doing this much sports styling? What kind of stuff did you see yourself doing and what do you think about this new niche that you’ve had a hand at creating?

In an ideal world, I would have probably gone into movies. I love period pieces. I love costuming. And it actually kind of shows a little bit in the way Dwyane and I kind of have fun because there are a lot of fun elements to it. We play around with as much as we possibly can get away with in normal wear. Somehow I ended up falling into sports, working with Dwyane, and it was an area that there were no stylists. There was LeBron’s stylist and maybe, like, one more, I’m not even sure, but there really weren’t a lot. I think it was Phoenix All-Star Weekend when people were in an uproar about the nerd glasses and the bow tie, and I realized, “You know what? This is kind of fun. We can do something different, and we can be pioneers in this space.” So I just decided to keep doing it. I still every now and then work with an entertainer, work on a commercial or something like that because it is a little more fast-paced and entertaining at the moment, but I love my athletes.

It’s also fun because you know that they’re naturally competitive, too, so then it becomes this new level of competition where they’re trying to beat each other to the next trend or look the flyest.

Yea, and I actually have an agency with other stylists, so it’s great that there are so many other people now. That’s how I started, I was like, “There’s no agency out there that understands my needs,” so Khalilah Williams-Webb, she’s actually Carmelo Anthony’s stylist, and I started the agency, and now we have Brandon Williams who dresses Mike Conley and Courtney Mays who works with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. There are a lot of people getting into it, and we have some of the top guys in the industry right now. It’s fun.

Do you think after seeing what’s happening with fashion in the NBA, that other sports will start to pick up the style game?

I definitely think so. I’ve seen it in football already.

Yea, Victor Cruz looks amazing.

Exactly! I definitely think that with all the attention that they’ve gotten, all the sports will get on-board.

Agreed! We can’t wait to see what happens.

Like us on Facebook so we can be friends and follow us on Twitter @MTVstyle to talk.