The worlds of sports and fashion been on a steady path of creative exploration in recent years, and this season, it’s no different. In continuation of his budding relationship with Versace, NBA Hall of Fame champion and LGBTQ+ advocate Dwyane Wade has been tapped as the face of the Italian fashion house’s newest underwear collection.

Dwyane Wade | Courtesy of Versace

Photographed by Tim El Kaïm and styled by Jason Bolden in a series of bold new imagery that spotlights the striking collection, the updated underwear features a fresh waistband design that redraws the Greca border and brings the Medusa to center attention, including all-new packaging featuring Wade. Since wearing Versace in many of Wade’s biggest life moments, including his induction to the NBA hall of fame, the Met Gala, Oscar evenings, and beyond, Wade officially joined the Versace family in January of 2023 as the face of Versace Eyewear and even joined Donatella Versace on the house’s charitable endeavors in recent months.

With the launch of the new campaign, we caught up with Wade to chat about how his friendship with Donatella Versace blossomed beyond just fashion and how he managed to manifest the campaign.

VMAN: Well, this new Versace underwear campaign launch is super exciting. I saw a few posts on Instagram about it, and you looked incredible. How did it feel when they asked you to be the face of the new line, including the new box packaging that they’re doing?

Dwyane Wade: Well, first of all, thank you. A little Photoshop always helps (*laughs*) You know, I’m in a certain place in my life. I’m 42 years old, and anybody who knows me knows that this has been one of those bucket list [accomplishments.] I’ve always wanted to do an underwear campaign.

VMAN: Wow, that’s so specific, I love it. (*laughs*)

DW: It goes back to one of my first [few shoots][my team and I] did this underwear shoot because we were trying to go out to different [brands], like Calvin Klein or others, trying to show them how I look in underwear (*laughs*). We were pitching it many, many years ago, trying to get into this gentleman world that I’ve been trying to weave myself into. Fast forward to this relationship with Versace. We started with this first [eyewear] campaign, and from there, we were talking about how to [continue] this relationship. Jason [Bolden] and I were like ‘Well, let’s tell them this is something that we would love to do.’ This is something that we knew that Versace hadn’t done in a very long time. We knew how iconic the underwear imagery was back in the day with the Jon Bon Jovi [campaign by Richard Avedon] and all the models that they had. So we were like ‘Listen, we would love to see a black man in this kind of iconic imagery with this brand.’ There’s a relationship built with Donatella [Versace] over some time with her understanding my wants, me understanding the brand direction, and trying to see how we can both maximize the relationship with each other. And I think this is another extension of that partnership.

VMAN: That’s great to hear. You know, I will say, you aren’t an all-star in your field of work until you do an underwear campaign. That’s when you know you’re totally rock ‘n roll at that point.

DW: (*laughs*) Right, exactly. There we go, we’re on the same wavelength! That’s what I thought, and I’m glad that Donatella thought the same thing, you know? I’ve spent a lot of time with the Versace team and family, and I respect the brand so much for the family [we have] built. I think we’re just trying to develop our relationship with this brand and I think it’s been cool to see a different face [for it.] If I’m on the outside looking in, and seeing a different face as the Versace man as they rebrand and refine some of the iconic-ness of where the brand started with menswear, I think it becomes very important. And I’m super excited about this launch [extending over] to the underwear box cover. We geeked out about that in Milan, when we were at the fashion show because it started from a conversation and then it happened.

VMAN: You never know until you ask! I bet that felt surreal when you saw that.

DW: 1000%. One thing that I’ve respected is the early vision of Gianni [Versace]. Now that the brand is bringing it back to a [certain level of] iconic-ness, the timing felt perfect. Just kind of ushering in a new generation for Versace is something that I’m excited about.

VMAN: Talk to me a little bit about your relationship with Donatella. When did you guys first meet and start this friendship? It’s been nice to see it expand and blossom the way it has, from shows to campaigns.

DW: Actually, the first time I met her was in 2011. It was after [Miami Heat] lost in the NBA finals to Dallas. I’m sorry I had to bring that up (*laughs*) but that’s just a reference point. And a week later, I had this big plan to go over to Italy for fashion week. I wanted to be one of the first athletes to go over to attend the runway shows. This was around the time when [athletes] were just starting to pop up [in fashion week]. I got an opportunity after my stylist wrote probably 3 million letters to explain who I was in order to be able to go to the fashion shows (*laughs*) and then we met, and that’s when she first took notice of me. It’s been almost a 15-year relationship.

VMAN: Wow. It’s nice that you’re both sort of aligning now in both your lives and your careers, and how parallel it can feel when you find that connection, right?

DW: Right? I mean, even when it comes to the LGBTQ+ community. That’s our community that we fight for, we believe in, and we both stand for that. Obviously, in 2011, we didn’t know we had that in common, but here we are in 2024, and this is a passion that we share. We get to come together and do [fundraising] dinners together to raise and give money and it’s so cool to take [our] partnership and make it something way bigger than just a sponsorship. It’s like family supporting a family in a sense.

VMAN: Speaking of the queer community, how are you celebrating pride this season?

DW: Every year looks different for us but this year we wanted to celebrate Pride by creating a safe space, so we launched our online community support platform, Translatable. It’s something that [my daughter] Zaya and I worked on for two years. The idea started during the pandemic very early on, and it was more so about my daughter. How does she want to show up for her community We sat down and came up with what now has become Translatable. We’ve been getting a lot of calls and a lot of inquiries about what Translatable is, and I’m very excited about moving into that space with her and watching her step into [becoming a] voice in her community and not allowing everyone on the outside to say who she is and, and what she’s about.

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