Unknwn is about to become more known, if LeBron James and his business partners have their way. On Friday they are launching Hotel, the first private-label collection under the Miami sneaker and streetwear boutique’s brand umbrella.
Tapping into the loungewear market, the collection, which retails for $10 to $70, is designed to take the traveler from the airport lounge to the resort and from the beach to the street with Ts, hoodies, pants, mesh Ts and shorts with the brand’s path icon logo and gold hardware detailing. No-show socks and sandals are also in the mix.
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“Hotel represents LeBron, Frankie and me and our lifestyle…it’s about form and function, and it’s very strategically thought-out in terms of closures, pockets and fabrications keeping the traveler in mind,” said Jaron Kanfer, the store’s chief executive officer and head buyer, who founded Unknwn in 2011 with his two childhood basketball camp team buddies from Akron, Ohio — game legend and L.A. Laker James, and Frankie Walker.
“This marks our transition and our evolution into private label in the sports fashion world. It’s a great stepping stone and our first collection in a new space,” said Walker.
The brand’s first chapter was as a multibrand store that opened in the Aventura Mall in December 2011, when James played on the Miami Heat. With rollouts of limited-edition sneaker drops and new designer launches, Unknwn quickly became a voice in streetwear culture in South Florida. In November of this year, it will move to a new 9,500-square-foot property in the city’s Wynwood Arts District, which reflects the founders’ wider merchandise assortment and grand ambitions for their own private-label business. The store will be five times the size of the old one, with 2,300 square feet of selling space and an outdoor garden for events, both for their partner brands — which include Comme des Garçons, John Elliott, Adidas, Nike and Ksubi — and their own.
The founders say they expect to expand their private label into other product categories using a drop model. “We are developing multiple in-house brands under the Unknwn umbrella so we can deliver product to specific customers strategically under different tier price points,” said Kanfer. More stores are also in the plan.
James, who is shooting “Space Jam 2,” was not available for comment. Certainly he has his hand in a lot, including basketball and Hollywood, as well as having deals with other fashion-sports brands, Nike chief among them. But his partners said he still weighs in often on Unknwn, whether it’s over dinner, via e-mail or a phone call.
“LeBron is part of our DNA. He has so much influence on some of the things we do, from his opinions to things he wears day-to-day,” said Walker. “We try to bring him into the store through some of the brands he wears and promotes and markets. We want to house those as a representation of LeBron, but we’re not a sporting goods store. We represent the lifestyle, fashion and art side of LeBron.”
Added Kanfer, “It’s about having him open doors for us…and being able to capture that and deliver that through the Unknwn experience.”