WNBA Icon Skylar Diggins-Smith Talks New PUMA Hoops 'Reflections' Collection & The Power of Authenticity
Skylar Diggins-Smith sports her PUMa Hoops "Reflections" collection. Photo courtesy of PUMA
There are many words to describe Skylar Diggins-Smith: Warrior. Mother. Six-time WNBA All-Star. But as much as the basketball star is a champion on the court, she also excels in style off the court. Diggins-Smith has long had an appreciation for fashion, and her knack for design was first displayed last summer with her debut "Desert Sky" collection with PUMA Hoops. Now, she's returned with another capsule collection with the brand that encapsulates her decorated career.
Titled "Reflections", it celebrates Diggins-Smith's 10-year basketball career. The collection features hoodies, bodysuits, basketball shorts and t-shirts (which are all emblazoned with Hieroglyphics-inspired details that embody Diggins-Smith’s “Don’t Play Yourself” mantra) and the iconic TRC Blaze court sneaker.
"It's the diversity of the athletes that they have. When you see Puma football, you see amazing international players like Shelly-Ann Fraser-Price. And of course Rihanna is back with her new sneaker," Diggins-Smith tells EDITION of PUMA's legacy as a classic brand. "The creative control is definitely unique. In the past, you can pick but only from a red, blue or green. Also, it’s more than just sports. It’s music, fashion, pop culture and social justice. There’s a lot of history and loyalty with the athletes. It’s been a unique experience.
Below, the basketball star speaks more about the creative process behind the new collection and her current state of mind as she prepares for her court return.
This is your second capsule collection with PUMA. How do you think your relationship with the brand has either strengthened or changed since last year’s collection?
Since my last collection, the response that we got was very positive. We just continued to evolve with the brand. We've been together since I believe 2017. So we've been together even before there was even a PUMA basketball to design for. So it's been amazing to see the growth of the brand and the growth of our relationship. Hopefully it just continues to take off with the announcement of this collection.
My second collection is called “Reflections”. I'm really proud of it. Because during the time that we started designing it to now, I had my daughter. I found out I was having my daughter during the design process. It started with celebrating 10 years of being in the WNBA. I got drafted in 2013. When you think about all that and what that means, I knew that was the perfect name for this collection to be called Reflections. It’s s great having an opportunity to do a second collection and now I have more pieces to this collection. I'm obviously excited about everything that we do with the brand and looking forward to having the relationship get even better. I really appreciate the ability to be creative from start to finish. I love how Puma gives me creative control. Especially as a Leo, you know what I'm saying?
I feel like Leos and Virgos are very similar.
Yes, we are very adjacent in the end. So, I have had the ability to showcase my abilities as a designer and my creative ideas. It's been a unique experience being with Puma. I love how involved I was able to be in. I got to showcase what I'm capable of in designing. I look forward to more opportunities like that, of creating fashion moments. No matter if you play sports or not, it's just about a vibe that you want to feel in your clothes. You want to feel comfy in your clothes, you don't want to feel distracted, and you want to feel empowered. So it really is what this collection embodies.
As much as you're a stellar basketball player, you're great at putting together outfits as well. That’s why I think this brand relationship has a lot of synergy.
That was very well said. First of all, thank you. I'm really just trying to show that you don't have to go work out in these things. This is a very versatile collection. I have to be ready in a pinch. I have a six-month-old and a four-and-a-half-year-old. A lot of women and people [like me] are on the go. Everybody's lives are different—we're not all monoliths. But with this collection, you can dress it up, you can layer, there’s so many ways to swag it out. I’m showing that these pieces should be adjacent to high fashion. And so should the Puma brand. Hopefully, moving forward, I'm able to bring more pieces that are high fashion-adjacent to fruition.
I think that versatility is what makes the capsule collection cool.
I appreciate it. That's exactly what I was going for. Everybody can wear this. Fashion is just making it yours, whether we're talking about performance, street style or high fashion on the runway. I think that's what we all are striving for: authentic expression.
TRC Blaze Court NU Skylar Basketball Shoes. Photo courtesy of PUMA
Did your inspiration for this collection change once you learned you were pregnant?
Yeah, I think initially. That whole phase of my life just fits in seamlessly into the whole idea of reflections. It ended up being a very big part of my ideation in the discovery phase and layered the message if you will. Just the whole idea of focusing on the future, but having that moment where you sit back, and those memories pop into your head. It's a sense of pride. I'm proud of the woman that I am today. I'm proud of this current manifestation of myself because I know it'll be more iterations. I wanted the brand to literally reflect in how it appeared aesthetically, but also how I provoked people mentally.
I would love for you to walk me through the process of making this collection since you played an integral role in actually designing it.
Yes. So you come up with a mood board and pull different looks, colors, materials, metallics. Even down to the details of how you want your strings to look, the fit of a drop sleeve, different textures. We had to know what we didn't want or what didn't work. We got our first mock-ups over a year ago. So you do your fittings…we had so many meetings here in Phoenix and everyone was super involved. I was happy that I was able to be a part of that and to put my input into it and it be received, instead of “we're still gonna make it blue, even though you said not to.” I had a good team that I vibed with and we had an open line of communication.
That's what you love about a brand like Puma and working so closely with your people, because there’s not 1000 people you have to go through to get to [a certain] person, you can work with your team. I'm not saying I came into this experience being a designer, but you learn a lot about it. I look forward to seeing how people respond to it. I'm excited because we put a lot of time into this.
All that time makes it even more significant just knowing how much work you put into it. Once you see people's reaction to it, it will make it feel that much more worth it.
Absolutely. It's definitely gratifying because it's hard, right? I've done things in the past that were cool but I wasn’t really invested in. It’s even more [special] when you're involved from start to finish. It’s like a little fashion baby.
I love that. You mentioned earlier you're celebrating 10 years, which is a huge milestone.
You know what, I should get somebody to throw me a party. But it’s so dope. I wouldn't even say 10% of women who come into the WNBA are able to sustain that for 10 years. So I really am proud of that and I don't take it for granted. Now that I have my kids, I'm even more motivated to push myself further than I would have probably cared to go without them. I'm not saying another 10. But I love for the idea for them to see me pouring into what I'm really passionate about and to see how high I can go. You put your work into this craft, you don't cheat it. It opened doors to me. At the end of the day, basketball is what I'm really passionate about. But on that journey, I've been able to find other passions of why basketball is the mecca of pop culture. You're immersing into the music, and then fashion and then TV along the way. I definitely look forward to seeing what my personal best is because I feel like I still have more to give to the game.
That's beautiful. Going back to reflections and looking back on the past decade, what are lessons that you have taken away from your experience with the WNBA and life in general?
Being okay with not everybody liking you. I promise, it's okay. My mom always said, “If you act right, you are right.” When I was coming out of college, the social media wave was just starting. So you get all this attention. People were like, “I want to be nice. I want to be sweet. I don't want to be sexy, but I don't want to be too prude. But I don't want to be a bitch.” Girl, just be yourself.
Skylar Diggins-Smith sports her PUMa Hoops "Reflections" collection. Photo courtesy of PUMA
That’s the story of our lives as Black women, right?
You want to be there for everybody else but [also have] self-care] As a woman just navigating that space…I don’t think I'm exclusive to that experience. I think it's a coming-of-age thing as you learn. Like you said, especially as women of color, how do you be perfect and never respond to any of these behaviors without coming off rude? I just had to find who I was authentically and be okay if somebody didn't like me. If I had to give advice to my younger self, or anybody else younger, even my daughter it’s who cares who doesn't like you. Just be your authentic self. And then just trying to find role models. I had so many women that I looked up to who are my support system. Even if I call them now. we could talk about anything. So just finding people that you vibe with, who listen and make you feel good. Don't be around people that don't make you feel good. I wish I would have learned that at an earlier age too, because a lot of people wouldn't have been around me, I’ll just say that. And not toxic positivity, either. Because sh*t happens sometimes. I need you to be real with me because sometimes when you get into a certain space, people tell you what they think you want to hear. So just having those people to say, “Bianca, you’re trippin’”.
Like, girl, get get real.
Be so freakin for real right now! And then finally, just pushing yourself, I always say it's okay to take breaks. We’re all doing the best we can do. But how it relates to me, it's like, “Dang, let me do one more rep. One more sprint. I'm just gonna go for a walk.” So it’s just finding that balance between giving yourself grace and still making sure that you challenge yourself. One of the quotes that I have in my collection is “Don't play yourself.” We always talk about two types of pain: the pain of navigating through it or the pain of regret. That's the quote that really stays in my mind. So yeah, don't worry about people liking you. Push yourself and see how high your elevator can go.
Is there anything you learned from basketball that you maybe incorporate into motherhood?
How to work well under pressure for sure. Well, I think everything prepares you for that. And that's why I think a lot of athletes are great in other work fields because you just get so used to always constantly working under pressure. The whole game is pressure. You're in fight or flight the whole entire time. It makes you be more solution-based. Because in the games, that's what I'm trying to be. Also discipline, work ethic, patience and working with a team. All of it translates to motherhood, even encouraging and nurturing [others]. That nurturing spirit had me look at both hats and how they were intertwined. I think it made me better in both aspects.
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I was watching your Instagram posts where you're practicing on the court. I’m curious to know where your mindset is as you prepare to make your return. Once you’re ready, of course.
Right now I have been trying to give myself grace and not putting that pressure on myself to be ready now. I'm just going through flowing through the process. I've been feeling really good. Obviously, it's still the WNBA playoffs so I still have time to prepare. So that's really what's been on my mind. I hate this freaking snapback culture. Nope, I'm not conforming to that. I just want to take it one day at a time and that's really what it's been for me. I definitely am excited to continue to have this whole offseason. I'm glad I had time to spend with my daughters. I was obviously blessed. I know not everybody has that luxury to take on maternity leave. So I was able to do that and just recover.
So I didn't feel the pressure to have to pop right back up to practice. I look forward to next year returning back to the court. I hated missing this year as a competitor, but it gassed me up for next year. For real, it's the most excited I've been in a long time. Because I missed this year. Also the entertainment aspect of it. I love the fans. I love to compete against the best. I’m still deciding when, but I just can't wait to get back on the court again. I’ve definitely been working towards trying to have one of my most productive years next year, because I think a lot of times—especially in sports—you're not encouraged to have kids. And the teams that I played for in the past when I got pregnant didn't like that. And so I'm looking forward to being somewhere where my family and I are supported and welcomed.
The "Reflections" collection by Skylar Diggins-Smith is now available on PUMA.com, the PUMA NYC stores and select retailers.