After dropping her daughter off at school in the morning, Candace Parker had a few meetings to tend to before her interview with ESSENCE. Nonetheless, the Chicago Sky player didn’t miss a beat. She was in great spirits on the phone — and with good reason — something huge that she’d been anticipating for nearly two months could finally be revealed, and she couldn’t wait to share.
In celebration of Parker’s more than a decade-long dominance in the basketball world, she and Adidas collaborated on the launch of the Candace Parker Collection with retail partner DICK’S Sporting Goods. Including hoodies, tees, tanks, shorts, and socks with technical fit, performance features and Parker’s signature “Ace” logo, the Candace Parker Collection has been available for purchase since September 23, in stores and online at both adidas and DICK’S Sporting Goods. Within this collection lay the custom Exhibit (A)ce Low silhouette kicks, which feature a ventilated upper reinforced with a Lightstrike midsole geared for responsive movement and the ultimate versatility for the all-around player.
Parker expressed her excitement to launch this collection with her long-time partner Adidas, and hopes that she will inspire the next generation of athletes to come after her. “My team and myself have been really hands-on throughout this process, just making sure that everything is as great as we can make it,” she tells us. And while she’s been an Adidas athlete officially for 14 years, Parker had been sporting the brand throughout college and even for her last two years in high school. “To be able to create something that’s meaningful was all that went into this ACE Collection. It’s really important for us to see women in our society as leaders, so this collection is for everybody,” she says. “This process of seeing it come to life and seeing all the time that went into it [has] been unbelievable for me. For it to finally be on the shelves and be out there, is amazing.”
“Candace Parker exemplifies what it means to be the best,” Carrie Guffey, Senior Vice President, Merchandising, DICK’S Sporting Goods, says in a statement to ESSENCE. “We join the entire city of Chicago in congratulating her on all of her achievements. We are proud to be the exclusive retail partner for the Candace Parker Collection and to have product specifically designed for female athletes. We know that it will not only help female athletes perform their best, but also will inspire young athletes to pick up — and stay with — the game.”
Kate Ridley, SVP of Brand at Adidas, also expressed her excitement. “Candace Parker is the real MVP,” she says joyously. “We are thrilled for her extraordinary achievements and the launch of her new collection. In our partnership with DICK’S Sporting Goods, we aim to further the ambitions of role models like Candace to be mentors for girls by demonstrating that anything is possible while empowering the next groundbreaking players through the ongoing expansion of our women’s basketball programs.”
Ahead, check out more from our in-depth exclusive interview with Parker, which also included juggling her personal style as a basketball player and mother and fashion advice she plans to give her daughter Lailaa.
ESSENCE: What was the inspiration behind the collection and how did it feel to see this process go from ideas and development into products on the shelves and customers?
Candace Parker: It was unbelievable to be able to tell stories that people really were interested in hearing and representing. Honestly, to me, the biggest compliment or biggest thing somebody can give me is to really support and represent what I put time and energy into. Whether that’s coming to a game, buying a shoe, rocking the sweatshirt or the shorts, or whatever it is, I think it’s so amazing. We were on the parade and all my teammates were pointing out all the people that had the ACE Collection on and it was just really special to go to arenas across the country and just see people that were rocking the stuff that we’ve been on the phone and in meetings putting together.
ESSENCE: What are some of your favorite pieces from The Candace Parker Collection?
Parker: First of all, I think the black shoes are just so nice; they’re so clean. I really have a thing for the speckled gold. It’s almost like you took a paintbrush, kind of waved it in the air, and the speckles from the paint just land on the shoes. That was what I was into at the time. You can make art out of just waving stuff in the air and that was something cool that I really liked that they added to that shoe and the black shoe is what I wore in the championship game in Game 4. I think they’ll always have sentimental value to me.
ESSENCE: How have you seen the Adidas brand overall evolve over the years in its diversity and inclusion efforts?
Parker: I think it’s an ongoing process. That’s a special part to Adidas. We know we’re not at the final destination — you never arrive. It’s constantly continuing to push the needle. It’s constantly continuing to try to open up doors and talk about more things that maybe we didn’t talk about 10 years ago. What’s so special about being a part of this brand is seeing the evolution of where we started and where we are now. I was one of very few athletes that Adidas initially sponsored, and now we’ve come into this evolution of Adidas athletes. It’s super important for us to continue to evolve, grow, and not think that we’ve made it towards evolution, equality, or whatever we’re trying to work towards.
ESSENCE: You’re a mother, professional athlete, and businesswoman. What are some of your go-to fashion pieces while balancing your life?
Parker: Anytime I am able to wear something comfortable, I’m huge on that so it’s possible for me to mix a look of business casual and being comfortable. I am definitely still trying to squeeze every piece out of the “party down low, business up top” look. I really like the jeans that are more like the material of sweats that are dress pants. In terms of mixing and matching hoodies, I’ll put a blazer over the hoodie. I really like that [and] I think that that kind of came from the pandemic as well. I’m not really big [on] gender roles and I’m not really into gendered clothing either. I love mixing heels with sweats and I’ll wear a bow tie, or I’ll wear a dress with wearing sneakers. I like mixing and matching that because I just don’t want to fit into one lane.
ESSENCE: How has your personal style evolved as your career has evolved?
Parker: I would describe my style as constantly questioning the defined lanes, if that makes sense. On Turner [Sports], I’ve really consciously tried to do that. One week I’ll wear a dress; the next week I’ll wear a suit; next week I’ll wear a bow tie, and next week I’ll wear sneakers; next week I’ll wear heels. I really like playing with that because I think all of us have fallen into this, “if you’re a girl, you wear this.” I love what Russell Westbrook and even Jordan Clarkson are doing to push fashion forward and to push our mindset into the society that has defined that, as what we should wear and what we shouldn’t. I’ve become more confident in what I want to wear as opposed to what I should wear. I believe that in terms of maturity, I’m becoming more comfortable and confident to walk into a room with whatever I decide.
ESSENCE: For new mothers, what are some pieces of fashion advice that you would give about juggling their careers and personal life?
Parker: I was late to the party on this, but I think it’s really important to be scheduled. I don’t mean just in your work and your kids’ activities, I mean schedule time out for you as well. I mean I was late to the party where I didn’t really operate on a calendar. I forgot a lot of things, but I also forgot about myself, too. It’s just as important to schedule those times out. I block off my schedule every single day to pick my daughter up from school. My agent and everybody on my team know that during 3:00 to 4:00, 4:30, and then I have maybe a 30-minute block where I’ll take calls. After that, it’s family time and then on the days when she’s in school, I’ll block off time to work out. It’s super important to operate on a schedule and allow yourself “you” time because I think I’m a better mom when I am present, I am not stressed, I’ve mapped out time for myself, and I feel good.
ESSENCE: What style advice would you give to young upcoming athletes who are trying to find their own swag and their own look?
Parker: Be authentic. I really believe in being genuine and being authentic to who you are. It’s almost like that when you’re watching television and you can tell somebody playing their heart out. You can’t really touch it. It’s intangible, but at the same time, you can almost see it. It’s like energy to me in that way and the same thing with being true to who you are, being genuine, and being authentic. If you’re those things in fashion and you’re comfortable and confident, then you’ll make the right choice and you’ll be happy with whatever you decide.
ESSENCE: For you and for your hometown of St. Louis, MO, what would you say is really special about that type of swag, as well as Chicago style?
Parker: It’s weird because I came out west and everything is a little bit more casual out here. In Chicago, Naperville, and Knoxville, you walk in, and if you’re not wearing a suit to a business meeting, you’re kind of in the minority. A minority, more so just only you, but yeah. If you come out here and you wear a suit, people would think you’re crazy if you show up to a meeting, a lunch, or whatever, in a full-out suit or a suit jacket. I think I’ve adapted just as an adult to what it is and where I’m at in the best way I can, still being who I am. You can’t really wear jeans and a suit coat in Knoxville, for instance; in the south, especially but out west, you can.
You can always tell somebody’s from Cali. From college, I could spot it. It’s just more of a laid-back look. I did get my first pair of Dickies a couple of years ago. My daughter rocks Vans occasionally. They came out with these Adidas that basically look like the little slip-ons, so I’m a little Cali when I do that – a little skinny jeans and some Vans, some Van-like Adidas and it works.
ESSENCE: What have been some of your favorite Adidas sneakers throughout your entire career to wear?
Parker: I first started off playing in the pro models and I think my biggest memories are from rocking those in the Christmas tournaments in high school. Those are probably some of my favorite shoes. The Tracy Mcgrady’s are another favorite of mine. The old school Kobe’s were my first AAU tournament. I played in those in seventh and eighth grade. I’m old school and obviously, I’m partial, but I like the ACE Commanders. I also like the ACE Collection that we have now. It’s been unbelievable to see that shoe come to life and to see this collection come to life.
ESSENCE: What are some pieces of fashion advice that you’d want to share with your daughter Lailaa to carry through with her for the rest of her life?
Parker: I don’t think you should do something for anybody else. There are so many times where I went into my closet during the pandemic and it’s something I haven’t worn in a year and a half and clearly, I was wearing it for other people. I would tell her to get rid of those clothes and to be her. You want to rock something that somebody else doesn’t think looks good and you feel confident and comfortable walking in? Please, be you. That’s the biggest thing that I’ve tried to guide her in. I love when she calls me and picks out outfits. She picked out her outfits for the WNBA playoffs and was so excited about it. I’m really big into letting her decide what she wants to wear and giving her the parameters of where we’re going. “Okay, we’re going to a nice dinner. You got to wear something nice,” or “We’re going somewhere, pick up your sweats or school,” or whatever but just allowing her to be creative.