It’s been almost five years since WNBA star Skylar Diggins-Smith became the first basketball player to sign with Puma in nearly two decades. At the time, her decision was described as fearless, considering the brand didn’t even have basketball shoes for her to play yet.
“I was listening to a vision and taking a leap of faith from other brands,” said Diggins-Smith, a Phoenix Mercury All-Star guard, after starting his career at Nike and wearing Adidas through college.
Following the rollout of a handful of basketball silhouettes taken from the brand’s iconic “Clyde” sneaker – the first signature sneaker designed for an NBA player, named after the New York Knicks goaltender of the 1970 Walt “Clyde” Frazier – Puma’s vision for its female athletes began to take shape a year ago.
The brand added costume designer and stylist June Ambrose as creative director of Puma Women’s Basketball with the launch of the High Court collection in late 2021. This served as a starting point for the brand highlighting a mix of versatile silhouettes that could operate on or off the field. .
Along the way, Diggins-Smith was working on her own capsule series — sneakers, a jersey dress, shorts and a t-shirt — named the “Desert Sky” collection.
When Diggins-Smith began creating the series with a team of Puma designers, she considered the nature of the city she currently inhabits.
“It’s the representation of duality for me,” she said. “When I got here and saw there were mountains and how scenic it was, there was something about sunrise and sunset, and the color just grabbed my watch out. When I think of sunrise, I think of opportunity and new chapters. When I think of a sunset, I think of reflection and that contrast.
While the hues are inspired by Phoenix’s landscapes, the orange and purple tones are also directly tied to his team colors. At a time when the WNBA and NBA no longer have color rules for sneakers, it’s become a bit of a rarity for athlete collections.
Posing poolside with the sneakers, or styled in a modern mansion with the elongated jersey dress, even the way the campaign images were shot took on a new tone for Diggins-Smith and Puma.
“I loved that and the versatility of not just standing in the gym and bouncing a ball,” she said.
When she debuted pieces from the collection, the Mercury star took advantage of photographers waiting for her arrival for another home game tunnel entrance shoot. She wore the No. 4 jersey dress, snakeskin pants, dark boots and sunglasses, and wore the TRC Blaze Court “Desert Sky” sneakers.
“You see more and more players being very intentional about what they put on these days,” she said. “I like people to pay attention because there’s a lot of storytelling that goes into these outfits that we create. Details that say a lot about someone’s personal style.
For example, the jersey dress in the collection represents the late 90s and early 2000s for Diggins-Smith.
“It was the nostalgia of when I started loving basketball and hoop, and those kind of vibrant colors at that time,” she said.
The collection also includes a graphic tee that harkens back to Diggins-Smith’s family, his sporting journey and his starting point with Puma.
The t-shirt has a growling Puma cat on the front and reads “You Do You” underneath. It’s a nod to the message of encouragement his mother Renee, who knows American Sign Language, would give him before the basketball games of his youth.
“She always sat up high, so she could just be in her zone,” Diggins-Smith recalled. “What she did was she was waving at me, ‘You Do You.’ Like, you do your thing. No matter what, just be yourself and don’t be like everyone else.
Along the tongue of the sneakers and the left sleeve of the shirt are a series of sign language gestures that spell out the phrase.
“Even playing in front of thousands and thousands of people, I still see her in the crowd and she will say the same to me when she comes to games now. That was the symbolism there,” she continued. “My mum always encouraged me to be myself, and that’s the message I want everyone to feel. Nowadays, where everyone is trying to imitate someone or imitate someone, do it yourself.
When she appeared in her sixth WNBA All-Star Game last month in Chicago, Diggins-Smith donned her “Desert Sky” sneakers, revealing additional phrases on both heel stripes. The left side read “Beauty”, opposite “Beast”.
“It’s really about that duality,” she said. “When you see me off the pitch or outside of this element, I’m different. When I’m in that fight or flight moment and the competition juices are on, it’s like I never know what I’m going to do the next minute.
Since Diggins-Smith signed in 2017, the Puma Hoops women’s roster has added Brenna Stewart, former WNBA No. #2 NaLyssa Smith.
Diggins-Smith, Stewart and Young participated in this year’s All-Star Game.
“We were very well represented there for our brand, given that it is 60% of our [Puma] list,” she joked.
With the launch of Stewart’s “Stewie 1” signature shoe – the first WNBA signature shoe in a decade – and Diggins-Smith’s upcoming “Desert Sky” collection, Puma plans to continue showcasing its five headliners. WNBA.
“It’s great that the brand continues to set the bar for brands with what we do,” Diggins-Smith said. “To show that they invest in their athletes is to go beyond the field and develop the game.”