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Stylist discusses Kobe Bryant's L.A. Times Magazine's photo shoot

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With the Lakers' Game 1 victory over Utah boring everyone to tears, I couldn't help but notice that many of the media, including myself, spent most of the second quarter  on something more engaging. We all stared in amazement, astonishment and downright confusion when sorting through the L.A. Times Magazine's recent profile and photo shoot of Lakers guard Kobe Bryant.

Besides discovering that you should think twice before allowing your dog to do its business on Bryant's lawn, there's the discovery of Bryant in some interesting fashion choices. I'm no fashion expert, but I couldn't really wrap my head around these looks. Others shared similar sentiments. Ball Don't Lie's Trey Kerby wrote, "If you were to put Kobe Bryant in an all-white pilgrim outfit, that might look weird. Or, I don't know, maybe a super deep white v-neck with a head scarf that might be made out of a pillowcase. Just off the top of my head, I'm thinking those might be bizarre looks." ProBasketballTalk's Kurt Helin simply stated, "Maybe it would have worked better if he had gone with the game-face jaw jutting, under bite look. Certainly couldn't have made it look worse."

My reaction? I'm confused. I don't know if I like it. I don't know if I don't like it. But I certainly don't get it. Rather than rail on about it, I figured it'd be better to let the photo-shoot stylist, James Valeri, speak about it instead.

Photo 1: white button-down shirt, white bowtie, hat and headband

This was a prep look, but still unconventional. He's wearing a shirt buttoned up with a bowtie, but we put a hat on and created a character. Kobe was amazing to work with because he was cool with everything. He trusted us. We took a picture and he liked it so we kept going. We wanted to do a picture with a hat because the photographer wanted to do everything in white. I didn't want to use accessories that would look too retro. Let's do it in a cool, young way because that's what Kobe is. He's a cool, young and successful athlete. I wanted to give a modern approach. I was thinking of [rapper] Tupac [Shakur] where I put a band underneath in the hat to make it look hip-hop, but ... it translates in a surreal look where it creates a strong image. It was something that hasn't been done before. It's mixing the inspiration of Tupac and a gentleman with a white hat ... a mix of a hip-hop and a conservative look.

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On the project's concept

The concept was about shooting everything in white. That was Ruven's idea [photographer Ruven Afanador]. But I wanted to do something more modern and less conventional and less cliched. ... It's a more modern silhouette. It's not like, 'Let's just put Kobe in a pair of pants and a shirt or in a suit.' The clothing is all layered.

Photo 2: long-sleeve T-shirt over short-sleeve T-shirt 

It's two T-shirts layered. ...  It's tight because it's like a jersey. The material is pulled up because it's tight and oversized. I wanted it to be stylish but not too perfect and still casual. Those are casual clothes but with a modern approach. It's not like a suit or anything that is stiff. I like Kobe's personality. It's very cool and relaxed. I didn't want to dress him in cliches. Every time you dress an athlete in sports magazines, you always tend to put them in suits, and I think it's really boring.


Photo 3: single-button jacket and shorts

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This is layered but loose-fit. I thought it was cool because it was casual. When I was prepping, I wasn't looking into suiting, such as a pair of pants and a sweater. That would've been so easy and predictable. This stuff is fashionable, but the fit and cut are modern and comfortable. It has an eye for athletic wear and it's a new way of dressing. The fit and the cut are geared more toward athletic sportswear, but it's highly fashionable because it's super-sleek, expensive materials.

Photo 4: hoodie

It was about doing unexpected clothing, stuff that usually you wouldn't see on athletes. But you still find them in the department stores. It's more abstract fashion and more conceptual than what is usually expected. With celebrities, you tend to just make them look good. But in this particular shoot, I didn't want to do that. We wanted to do something more modern. In this particular picture, we liked the fit. It was a hoodie but done by an amazing designer. It's cutting edge. There was no particular concept about that look, but we liked the clothing and it fit in with the rest. A basketball player usually wears a hoodie, but instead of it being a plain hoodie, this is more conceptual. The cut of the hoodie is very baggy and layered.

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Photo 5: V-neck T-shirt and scarf 

The fabric is very ... luxurious, but the look is very casual. For me, it was casual but looked like futuristic fashion inspired by what everyday guys wear but with an eye for the future. It's inspired by athletic wear on the cut, but the fabric and design are more futuristic. Don't get me wrong: This is the fashion of today, and it's on the catwalks and in the stores. But if people like Kobe will wear them in magazines, it'll translate in everyday life. I thought it'd interesting to have an athlete like the most famous basketball player in the world wear that because it'd be unexpected. But I totally see Kobe wearing that stuff. It looks good on him. It's a different way of dressing instead of just putting on a suit. He's not wearing a sweat shirt and sweatpants. He's wearing cool and relaxed clothes, but it's from a high-end designer. At the end of the day, he's a multibillionaire guy and probably doesn't want to wear sweat shirts or suits every day. So this is sort of in between.

On the negative reactions

The scarf picture and the hat picture were more to create an iconic image. When you do a portrait, you do think of the styling in how they're going to be different and how they're going to stand out. In 10 years time, or five years time, there has to be something particular or strange or different that will stand out. That image will stay in your mind. That's how it's going to become iconic. ... A lot of people aren't used to that, so when iconic pictures come out, they're disturbing, insulting, fascinating, it has a strong feeling attached to it, good or bad.

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I was struck that he was a gentlemen. He was very polite and very friendly, but at the same time he was a normal guy. I thought he was a noble man and cool at the same time, extremely professional. I'm half-Italian and half-English, and I knew he lived in Italy when he was a kid. So we chatted in Italian on set. It was a way to get to know him. I remember there was hip-hop music in the background, and he was singing it and knew all the lyrics of the songs. It was fun. It wasn't a normal shoot. We were working and very professional, but it was very fun. ... He was very relaxed and didn't give us an attitude at all.

-- Mark Medina

Follow the L.A. Times Lakers blog on Twitter. E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Photos by Ruven Afanador

1: Adam Kimmel white button-down and bow-tie, Black Fleece by Brooks Brothers linen pleat-front trousers, Worth & Worth Treviso hat,  American Apparel unisex terry headband and wristband.

2: Rick Owens long-sleeve and short-sleeve T-shirts, Dark Shadow by Rick Owens drawstring shorts.

3: Kris Van Assche greige sleeveless one-button jacket, Kris Van Assche greige shorts in jersey fabric, Harry Winston diamond ear studs set in platinum. 

4: Ann Demeulemeester hoodie, Givenchy trousers. 

5: Rick Owens jersey V-neck T-shirt, Damir Doma hooded scarf with braid detail.

 
Comments () | Archives (159)

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Thank you Kobe. Kobe has opened the gates to real conversation about art. Amazing. In honor of Kobe's somewhat dissident art, I offer Laurie Anderson: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vzYu88jIDYs


Go Lakers!


Wes

The stylist, like most I've worked with, is an idiot. Any art director with brains would have thrown him off the set.

Sonny B,


I myself have had that Thai food in Chaing Mai. I loved the Kao Soi best, but the Moo Guitiem (garlic poek) was good too. I loved Chaing Mai, or "the Rose of Thailand" as it's called.


Wes

Kobe, please tell me your wife Vanessa is the designer.

If so, she did a good job on pic 1 and pic 5 especially. That bow tie along with that headband and hat, outstanding! The white v-neck t-shirt with the scarf wrapped around the head middle eastern style, amazing!

Go Lakers!

In my opinion,

These pics are cutting edge. Different in a good way. When I first saw them I couldn't imagine what Kobe was thinking but I love uniqueness. The mundane is just that mundane. Only a man that is secure in who he is and what he represents could do a photo shoot like this. Most of the guys here, especially Sonny B, is reflective of the in the box thinking or the mundane. Wes, justa, etc... understand that outside the box thinking is unique, unusual and cutting egde. I like some of the pics better than others but the statement is VOGUE!!!

Way to go Kobe. Keep thinking outside the box!

Whoever made the comment about Kobe's darker complexion being ugly; that's pure racist and ignorant.

oh , my god !

Who in the world is consulting Kobe? He looks so Gay in the pics. As an old school Laker fan I am laughing hard at Kobe's spread. I'm dropping Bball and staying with football.

Wow, for the most part I just see the shots as artsy, but I just finished laughing harder than I have in a long time after first seeing the "scarf" shot. Oh my :)

Dear James,

I doubt you really believe that lame excuse (conservative Tupac) for an explanation that you gave as the reason/inspiration for your recent and well lambasted photo shoot of Kobe Bryant. Do you really think that a bandanna, headband, or durag under a hat is something new? No, of course you don't, but you expect readers of the LA Times to buy that nonsense don't you? I would waste my time pulling up example after example of men wearing their hats (much more stylishly, I might add) with bandannas or headbands under them, but I'm sure you've seen enough to style bite it and try to pass it off as an original idea.

You sir, are a clown of epic proportions. Of course your name is getting some burn out there for this joke a spread, but please know that you are be roasted, my friend.

The next time you want to play dress up and try "something that hasn't been done before", put on a decent outfit, sling your camera around your neck and try dressing up as a decent photographer whose work isn't noticed due to it's ridiculousness. Making a statement is simple, but making one that has substance, as opposed to your lame attempt at "fashion" styling is obviously a bit more difficult and should probably be left real artists, you hack.

Good for Kobe for being willing to try something so different. He looks great in white, although I can't honestly say all the choices are my cup of tea. Great photos, though.

Ummm.... yeah... well... {Shuffles feet} so...

What do we play for? RINGS!!!

Lakers Today... Lakers Tomorrow... Lakers Forever.

GO LAKERS!!!

The more I view the photographs, the more I appreciate them. It's refreshing to see Kobe outside of his jock image. He has beautifully chiseled face & long curly eyelashes.

OMG. Kobe,you remind me of a Drag Queen!!!!!!!!

Yah very weird... y did I think that 1st pix was way too gay? Is he? lol

um, no, countermand all that. What exactly is so gay about this ph0to spread? Do you guys know anything about gay fashion? You know nothing. Go back to Fashion 101 and try to convince them that you can be a fashionista with your hetero or hetero-'ness' good luck. Y'all know nothing.

Bah.

i hate to state the obvious but word

Fire this guy...pronto! This photoshop was an EPIC FAIL. 'nuff said.

Two words...Naomi Bryant...

I was a little confused to why RON ROn was in the shower with Kobe after the 2008 championship lose,now I know.

OMG!
Whom ever put the ensemble together and took these photos for Mr. Bryant know that they are dead wrong. All of those photos were alright as art pieces, but for fashion photos this is a big hell to the NO.

In a word, no. just say no... nope... h to e to the double L no... those are not stylish, artistic, etc photos... those are weird and unflattering... and I took art as a minor in college... whew...

Sorry, Kobe looks awesome here.

Like Andre 3000 in Outkast video, just that Kobe's jawline is way more beautiful.

White on him is glorious.

I know, I am a fashion sucker, but I LOVED all this intensively :)

I hope the smug Laker fans that show up to Staples Center these days don't come wearing that stuff. Anybody get mad at the crowd that showed up in game 1? Last game was the quietest hard fought playoff game in NBA history. Kobe made some tough shots and got less than a clap. Pau had a couple of his 5 blocks in crunch time, nobody said anything. Phil Jackson almost fell asleep and missed Rony Price coming in and figuring out the triangle that the bench mob runs. I hope the Jazz play well and the Lakers win. We need some good intense games at home to get us ready for the next rounds.

love the photos. He can be a model. Maybe he should be a movie star after he retires from the NBA. He will be only 30 something.

This is highly Laker-Sexual.

As the writers states, he's no fashion critic. He's also not much of a writer.

His incorrect use of a reflexive pronoun in the first paragraph is very common, but wrong, nonetheless.

Not quite the samurai warrior I know him to be. I was shocked initially but then read the interview... and it's "okay" now. It'll take me decades to like the hat or scarf pictures though. Kobe's still the BEST player in the NBA. Kobe's the only athlete that can make me believe, momentarily, in the metaphysical. As long as he brings us another championship in June, I don't care if you see the hat and scarf pics on buses, bus stops, and billboards all summer long.

lollolololol

He looks like Grace Slick from the Bond movie.

What the heck happened? this is not the Kobe we love.
Do not do this again, Kobe.

Somebody probably already said this: is it just me or does Kobe's skin look like it was cosmetically darkened? Maybe it's all the white clothing that contrasts so starkly with his skin tone, but this is just kinda weird.

All I can think of is the song chorus:
I see your true colors shining through.......
Yikes buddy wish the lake show had a more respectable frontman, War RonRon

I was half expecting the 6th pic to be facial

Damn Kobe u look soft! You havent been the same since Chris Childs attacked you with such violence..

Is this a joke? I'm a die hard Kobe fan! I think of him as "The Black Mamba" not this? I'm sorry is there like a GIANT, BLINKING billboard at the top saying "JK" because if so I missed it? Take of the scarf and put on your jersey! You got business in Utah and you better make up for this... I don't even know what to call it, because right now your letting your fans down (me) with this "photoshoot"? Stop shooting the camera and start shooting the ball? Coach Jackson it's time to have a talk!

-Confused in San Antonio

GAY!

Just wow, Kobe man what is up with that? C'mon now... I would think you would of looked at those pics and been like.. Wait.. we taking those pics over again. Im sure your homeboys in the locker room are giving you mad shiii~

Whomever was the stylist needs to be taken off of the job. These pictures are terrible. The clothes are awful and the concept, whatever it was supposed to be, is taken way out. Did Kobe actually really agree to take these pictures this way? If so, he should have never agreed to take them!!

KOBE LOOKS GOOD IN ANYTHING HE WEARS. YOU CAN DO THIS WHEN YOU HAVE MONEY.

I think it's cool. It's different. How many more times do we need to see a basketball player in a photo shoot wearing a suit or holding a basketball? Like the fact that he was willing to experiment a bit.

I'm a huge Kobe fan who just don't get it. Those pics, especially that thing with the hat are horrible. Kobe, how the hell do you let somebody do that crap to you? I heard you say on last nights game interview something about photo shop and just don't get it. You should sue that idiot who took these pics and think twice before doing some absolutely gay crap like that again!!! Right now, just freakin play ball!!!

this is super!...kobe bryant is not only a basketball super star, he is also a super model...photo-shoot stylist james valeri and photographer ruven afanador put it all together very well...it's one of the best fashion photo-shoots I've seen...and Kobe, the model, definitely does not even hint or mimic the NBA 'Black Mamba'.
excellent and congratulations!

hey, he's hot i like the pics . he has the look for them

thelma long beach,california

okaaaaaaaay... here is my 2 cents...i am no laker fan but kobe is a good player-no1 can take that away from him. his bball skills have NOTHING 2 do with the queerness expressed in this shoot...WOW...photo 1 screams gay runaway slave, photo two screams come get it big daddy, photo 3 are those capris??????!!!! if so WHYYYYY? photo 4 not so bad...tight shirt but compared 2 the others...not bad...now photo 5...why oh why did the designer decide make kobe pose as a cross dressing muslim? LMBO!...ok that is my 2 cents...this is wierd...very wierd...very wierd and very effiminate...i'm done now...now getting ready 2 be lynched by the lakers' fanatic fans...lol

I have two words: GRACE JONES! LOLOLOLOLOLOL...ok so that was three. This was the (wo)manliest photo shoot ever....imagines Kobe viewing this pics snapping and saying ***OKAAAAAY***

THese pictures make me laugh!! lol I love KOBE! but DAM KOBe why You let THEM do THIs to you.. lmao.. ahhh its ok.. i bet hes laughin it off too.. lol

Very photo shooting Kobe!! Keep up your good work!!

Kobe,
I think you are the sexiest man in the world i would love to see you play ball in person i love the way you lick your lips before you throw the ball.

This is a joke on so many levels. How do you get "Tupac" from the white hat and bowtie with a headband?

If you read the stylist's explanation it makes this whole thing even funnier. This is a close second to those A-rod pictures of him kissing himself in the mirror...lol-Classic!

This is a joke on so many levels. How do you get "Tupac" from the white hat and bowtie with a headband?

If you read the stylist's explanation it makes this whole thing even funnier. This is a close second to those A-rod pictures of him kissing himself in the mirror...lol-Classic!

This photo shoot is CLEAR INDICATION that Kobe has been initiated into a secret society. Doubt me? May 3rd, the day the images were printed, is the pagan holiday called the Feast of Beltane and the participants where white and red clothing.

This pagan ritual celebrates the end of winter with the symbolic marriage of Father Time and Mother Earth. Kobe is dressed as both Father and Mother in two separate images. The ritual also assured success into the future.

Let us hope Kobe sold his body for silly clothes for a day and not his soul.

Kobe's face looks interesting, but shock value is usually a weak concept and that's what I'm seeing with these clothes. Just because these photos elicit strong reactions, or that they're so out of the ordinary, doesn't make them good.

whether these pictures are art or not there is something wrong about it hilarious
what a mess

I think it's another example of an unnatural photo session going wrong. Blame it on the overuse of photoshop, unnatural light and a damn bad taste of the director of photography lol
really hilarious

I'm a black gay photographer. And this spread is really PATHETIC. I can hear all of the ridiculous people involved saying "fabulous" as the shoot progressed. A white story with KOBE is a good idea...the styling is a BAD JOKE. Sorry, but VERY FEW men can pull off these looks....and an NBA basketball player is not a high fashion model. What's even more surprising is that one of my favorite photographers, Ruven Afanador, shot this "hot white mess" as somebody called it. In the opening photo he looks like a well dressed African fruit vendor who one would see on the side of a dirt road someplace. Or perhaps half of an organ grinder DUO. Either way, it's another affirmation that very few in the fashion business know how to present black men in a sophisticated manner. With the exception of maybe two shots, THIS SPREAD IS A BAD JOKE. And it's sad that Mr. Bryant doesn't realize how RIDICULOUS he looks. The joke is definitely on HIM.

Horrible, just horrible. I do not know what they were thinking.

Look he's a handsome man and the camera captures that really well as in terms of art i don't see where that's showcased here...seriously do we just take anything and call it art, my god. The point is though that regardless this was not something Kobe came up with, the photographer and stylist were experimenting, he simply agreed...so i don't know what the fuss is art or no art it's not a 'revolution' or 'metamorphosis 'of Great Kobe (smh). Lovely pics..do think some of them look ultra feminine...Art? No! it's almost as comical as watching the 'The artist is Present exhibition at MOMA'.

His life, must not be very exciting

lol..when they told me i couldnt belive it.. why would kobe play? i dont even like lakers.. but this? makes the whole team look bad in my eyes.. bravo kobe bravo ! can you say female? a little homosexual on kobes behalf..

 
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