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Victor Cruz is an NFL success story. After graduating and going undrafted from the University of Massachusetts, he was signed by the New York Giants and became one of the most accomplished receivers in the league. He's still recovering from a devastating knee injury that ended his 2014 season; in his downtime, the wide receiver has made several plays for fashion glory. He's modeled for New York-based streetwear brand Kith and sportswear giant Nike, and was named the face of high-fashion label Givenchy. However, nothing may go as far solidifying his place in the fashion world as his latest turn as designer for denim brand 3x1.
Cruz has teamed up with 3x1 on a five-piece capsule that includes a variety of denim and denim-inspired items, like a mandarin-collar shirt, distressed jeans, and a limited-edition indigo-dyed wool overcoat. There's no overt Cruz branding; the initials VC only show up on one top. Interesting details, like patches inspired by a trip to Tokyo and tuxedo stripe on a pant, convey serious designer intentions. Cruz, wearing an outfit of his own design — that mandarin-collar shirt, distressed jeans, and a pair of tan, yet-to-be-released Nike Air Trainer Cruz sneakers — spoke to Racked about the line and his future design ambitions at a release party for the collection last night.
How did the collaboration with 3x1 come about?
They reached out to me through a mutual friend and I thought it was an amazing idea. I wanted to come in and see what we could do, and we started to talk about ideas.
I had an upcoming trip to Japan and planned to use that trip to build some inspiration to influence the capsule collection.
Where did you go when you were there?
There are a ton of vintage shops in Tokyo where it's all denim. Stores had denim baby clothes, older clothes, flags, patches of denim, and all sorts of other things which inspired some of the pieces, like the jacket with the patches. Japan was definitely one of the biggest inspirations for this collection.
Is there a reason you wanted to connect with 3x1 to do denim?
Well, 3x1, they're the masters at it, right? They curate clothes from scratch and build them to your preference, like the shape, how heavy or light you want it, the wash, the color, all sorts of things. What better brand to partner with than the leaders in denim? So it was hand in hand, working with (3x1 founder) Scott [Morrison] and all the amazing people here.
Was there anything about the design process that surprised you?
Just how many different things you can do with denim. There are so many ways you can spin denim and wash it to come up with different colors and textures and sizes and lengths. It really, really opened my mind to the things that we could do with the collection.
Do you have a favorite piece?
I love it all, obviously. But the indigo wool jacket. It's really rare because of the material that was used, there's not a lot of it that can be sampled at a time per year so we only made nine or 10 jackets. That's definitely one of my favorites.
Do you feel like you had a clear understanding of what you wanted to create coming in?
I had a pretty good vision and as I was giving it to Scott and the team, it came to life. But I knew what I wanted [the collection] to become and to look like. Once we started to hash it out a little and really dive into it, that made the process that much easier because I had a vision early on that we were trying to capture.
Do you have any design plans coming up?
Nothing yet other than my signature shoe with Nike that's coming out November 20th. Other than that, I have no more designing stuff in the future, but I'm certain that things will pop up, hopefully, god willing, and I can work on things as they come through.
Is that something you'd want to do, post the NFL? Start your own brand?
Absolutely, it's something that I've definitely given a lot of thought. I'd like to start off small, which is why this is perfect for me, five pieces, six pieces. I'd like to grow my fashion sense in terms of fabrics, how to do things, lead times, and things like that. I want to start to develop my brand and my knowledge for that early on, and then we'll go from there.
You've become the fashion darling of the NFL. Is that something you expected to happen?
Not necessarily. I obviously have an affinity for fashion and clothing so I guess just showing those interests and playing in New York and being successful on the field, it kind of came with the territory.
The biggest thing I want to come across is that I'm genuine about it and it's not just formore publicity or to get more eyes to watch me and look at me on the red carpet. This is real. This love for fashion is real, it's not fake, and it's not just for more attention. This is what I love to do and it's been this way for a long time.
This is real. This love for fashion is real, it's not fake, and it's not just for more attention.
It's comes off really genuine; you're not just trying to slap your name on something.
Exactly, it has to be the right thing to attach your name to so it matches your brand and what you want to portray as a person.
Have you noticed more of your teammates getting into fashion? Like (New York Giants teammate) Odell Beckham Jr. was in Vogue, did you have anything to do with that?
I didn't. He's done a good job himself of making himself someone that people want to get behind in fashion, modeling, things like that. But guys are paying attention now. You can see it in the football world, in the NBA, and all over the sports sphere, you can see different guys are paying attention. They care about how they look, they care about how people perceive them and look at them and it's good because you want people to start to learn about different clothing and how they dress themselves and what fit them.
Do you look at athletes like Dwyane Wade, who designs with Hublot and Tie Bar, and Russell Westbrook with Barneys, and think I can do that?
Obviously, you're inspired by what other guys do and those two guys are friends of mine and they've accomplished great, great things.
You want to emulate what they do in certain areas. You want to take what they've done as the template. Those guys are doing great things in the fashion world and I just want to continue to follow that trend.
Are there other NFL players whose style you really respect?
Absolutely, you got guys like Tom Brady, Larry Fitzgerald, Odell Beckham Jr., of course, Cam Newton is one of those guys, Colin Kaepernick. I mean, those are guys that I really look at when it comes to fashion in the NFL.
Thursday, Sunday, or Monday night games?
New Jersey or New York City?
New Jersey, that's home.
Backstreet Boys or *NSYNC?
Mets or Royals, who's going to win the World Series?
New York or Paris Fashion Week?
That's tough. It pains me, but I gotta go Paris Fashion Week.
Donuts or bagels?
Beyonce or Rihanna?
Oh my god...Beyanna.
In-N-Out or Shake Shack?
There's new emojis now. My favorite emoji right now has to be the champagne popping one.
I thought you'd say the salsa dancing one.
That's been there, that would've been cliché.
Salsa or guacamole?