Duke’s fashionista forward designs coach’s gameday outfit
DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — Duke women’s basketball player Erin Mathias turned the sideline into a runway — and her coach was the model.
The starting forward for the 20th-ranked Blue Devils — and budding fashion designer — created the outfit coach Joanne P. McCallie wore during Monday night’s 79-66 upset victory over No. 9 Florida State.
“Obviously, it’s magical,” McCallie quipped afterward.
It’s the latest foray into fashion for the visual arts and media studies senior, who spent a summer interning with a New York-based designer, created her own clothing line (Erin Mathias Designs) and last fall staged a fashion show in Durham with her teammates modeling her creations.
“Growing up, I was sort of handed a basketball in one hand, and in the other hand, just sort of handed creativity in general,” Mathias said. “My mom was very interested in fashion, so athletics and fashion became two major parts of my life.”
The outfit McCallie debuted a few minutes before tipoff consisted of a sleeveless black top with silver trim and pink accents, a pink tank top under that, and black pants and white Nike sneakers with pink trim. The unveiling marked the culmination of a process that started earlier this month when Mathias began sketching out a handful of ideas to create a design that was both functional and true to McCallie’s high-intensity character.
The pink accents were appropriate because this was the Blue Devils’ “Play 4 Kay” game to honor N.C. State Hall of Fame coach Kay Yow by raising money for the cancer fund that bears her name. The plan is to auction the outfit for charity at some point after the game.
“I had a general idea in my head of what I wanted to do, and sort of wanted to stick to my aesthetic but also incorporate aspects of Coach P into it, trying to incorporate pink into it as well,” Mathias said. “So I’ve played around with a few different things, ordered my fabric, got my fabric in, got my patterns made, just kind of laid my patterns out and my fabric and kind of started constructing it from there.”
Unlike coaches of other sports, basketball coaches in both genders have a unique relationship with style — with extremes ranging from John Calipari’s designer suits to Bob Huggins’ trademark pullover — and McCallie says she is excited to wear whatever Mathias sews together with pride.
“I’ve watched Erin and her fashion show and her taste, but either way, it wouldn’t matter. It’s just the idea that she’s making this, and I don’t know how many coaches across the country could ever say her student-athlete made her an outfit for such a game like ‘Play 4 Kay,’” McCallie said. “I just think Kay would get a big kick out of this.”
Mathias’ interest in fashion took off after she bought a sewing machine on a whim, upon receiving a handmade denim jacket. She spent the summer of 2016 as an intern with designer Charles Harbison and came up with the plan for the fashion show the following summer.
“Erin just has amazing taste,” said Harbison, a Lincolnton native and North Carolina State graduate who also has a connection to sports. He’s the son of Charlie Harbison — a well-traveled football assistant recently hired by the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals to coach defensive backs.
“It’s exciting to see a woman who has a foothold in athleticism and rigor also have the ability to understand proportion and balance and have a really elegant approach to design,” Harbison added. “I think that sets her apart.”
Duke spokesman Lindy Brown said the NCAA approved the show and fashion line because Mathias’ clothes are not for sale.
Mathias described her style as “taking industrial aspects” such as chains, bolts and bottle caps “and incorporating them into my clothes, just collaborating the hard and the soft,” influenced by both Durham and her hometown of Pittsburgh.
Mathias has kept an eye on fashion trends and developments while also focusing on basketball and helping Duke try to finish the regular season strong.
“I’m really in the zone right now,” Mathias said. “It really makes me want to be (at Fashion Week). So hopefully someday, if I continue working hard, maybe that’s down the road.”