Written by Ananda Pellerin, CNN

Portland Trail Blazers small forward and ten-time NBA All-Star Carmelo “Melo” Anthony has launched a collection of T-shirts, hoodies and sweatshirts in collaboration with seven New York and New Jersey-based independent designers.

Presented during a digital 3D catwalk as part of New York Fashion Week, the seven designs, brought together under the collection’s theme “A Black Future,” walked themselves as avatars through a black space in a short online video. The tops mark the launch of Anthony’s new initiative, the Stayme7o Propel program, to support Black creativity, which is an extension of his Stayme7o clothing and lifestyle brand.

Clothing designer Shakira Jovanni

Clothing designer Shakira Jovanni Credit: STAYME7O / Brandon Thomas Brown

“The Propel Program is coming at a perfect time,” Anthony said over the phone, referring to the recent rise of social justice movements. “Everybody is trying to figure out what’s next, or what to do. (The idea of) a Black future was easy to come up with because this is our way of giving back, by bringing people forward.”

While the details of the new initiative are still forthcoming, he said fashion would only be its first incarnation. His goal is to forge possibilities for a variety of Black creative workers, the “underserved and underprivileged Black community,” who may hit financial or other stumbling blocks that could stop their careers from progressing. His broader vision is based on the “incubator” model, he said, and Anthony is interested in supporting “creative minds who have a vision and different projects… it can be designing houses, designing furniture,” or anything that helps “reimagine creative spaces, the cultural landscape, with diversity. And we’re starting with the fashion industry.”

Ouigi Theodore, founder of The Brooklyn Circus line of tailored menswear

Ouigi Theodore, founder of The Brooklyn Circus line of tailored menswear Credit: STAYME7O / Brandon Thomas Brown

Also available now is a Melo x Jordan hoodie that has the famous Jordan swoosh on the front and “A Black Future” written on the back, designed with Michael Jordan’s eponymous athletic and footwear brand, and which is being sold in tandem with the capsule collection. Anthony has previously collaborated with Jordan’s label, including on a Rag & Bone limited-edition sneaker, and he was the first athlete to get a signature shoe with Jordan Brand.

A sweatshirt designed by streetwear brand Barriers Worldwide

A sweatshirt designed by streetwear brand Barriers Worldwide Credit: STAYME7O

When choosing collaborators, Anthony said he wanted to involve people that he was supporting already. “We tried to help them if “they needed more resources or outreach or just a lot of voice, so we wanted to start with that, guide that.” The lucky line-up is streetwear brands Barriers Worldwide, Does It Even Matter (DIEM) and Tier NYC, Shakira Javonni who makes custom designs, sustainability-minded brand Demestik, tailored menswear label Brooklyn Circus, and culinary and design collective Ghetto Gastro.

The notable exception of course is Michael Jordan, who has recently pledged $100 million to Black Lives Matter initiatives and is a supporter of the Propel program and collaborator and partner of Stayme7o.

Culinary and design collective Ghetto Gastro

Culinary and design collective Ghetto Gastro Credit: STAYME7O / Brandon Thomas Brown

“I think its admirable for any public figure to take a stance and use their platform as a tool to dismantle systemic oppression,” said John Gray, co-founder of Ghetto Gastro, about why it’s important for athletes to use their platform to make a statement or take action. The Bronx-based collective’s long-sleeve T-shirt features a quote from feminist Audre Lorde, “Revolution is not a onetime event” on the front and the word “Revolt” scrawled on the back.

“Black culture informs global culture, we’re affirming our power in the present and putting in the work for an equitable and empowered future,” Gray added.

A long-sleeve T-shirt designed by Ghetto Gastro

A long-sleeve T-shirt designed by Ghetto Gastro Credit: STAYME7O

While saying that “athletes have always been speaking up” — from boxers Jack Johnson to Muhammad Ali to basketball player Bill Russell — they’ve also “been told to be quiet and shut up and do what they do and play ball,” Anthony said.

“I think where we’re at right now, athletes realize the power of our voices, and the power of our reach.”

Anthony has made previous forays into fashion, including a show at New York Fashion Week in 2018, which was camo inspired, and in 2019, when he partnered with South African designer Laduma Ngxokolo to create a print-focused collection.

Top Image: A hoodie designed by Jordan Brand in tandem with “Melo” Anthony’s capsule collection

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