From serving up some serious heat on the tennis court to hanging with celebrities like Machine Gun Kelly, Reilly Opelka is undeniably one to watch. Touching down in the city of lights this past month, the 25-year-old athlete was certainly hard to miss (standing tall at 6’11), as he got decked out in key pieces from fashion houses such as Thom Browne and Rick Owens—a favorite of Reilly and one of the brands that can actually fit the sports giant with ease. With nearly seven feet in height, it goes without saying that Opelka had the best view during all of Paris Fashion week—from savoring in the latest show spectacles to even a visit or two to some of his favorite galleries to replenish his craving for art.

As some of the latest creations walked the runways of the style capital, VMAN caught up with Reilly to chat about all things style, art, and if fashion has space in the sports world.

Reilly Opelka | Photographed by Michael Woolery

VMAN: What were you been looking forward to most this fashion week?

Reilly Opelka: Being a huge Rick Owens fan, I was looking forward to his show the most this fashion week. Rick was my introduction to fashion when I was just 17 years old, and 8 years later was my first time at his show. Being 7ft tall, there was nothing that could fit me off the shelf besides Rick. During my first US Open, I made my way into his store in Soho, and I couldn’t believe there were pants in there that were even too long on me! That’s where my love for fashion began. I eventually ventured out of Rick and made some connections to have some made-to-measure pieces from Prada, and Loewe, and occasionally found an oversized piece from Ann Demeulemeester. Rick’s show this year did not disappoint one bit, I have never seen anything like it. It was incredible, it was everything I love about Rick. From the setting to the smoke, to the music it was all spot on.

Reilly Opelka | Photographed by Michael Woolery

VMAN: What is the best part about attending shows (especially overseas)?

RO: I have only ever attended NYFW in previous years, and it’s a completely different experience in Paris. I can’t quite find a good comparison to tennis, Paris fashion week has some similarities to Wimbledon by being so chaotic, so hectic, but also so perfect. It also has the most contrast to Wimbledon by being so free and open without any rules or traditions.

Reilly Opelka | Photographed by Michael Woolery

VMAN: What is your favorite part about dressing up for events? What are some essentials you cannot live without (name top three)

RO: My favorite part about dressing up for events is the accessories, especially when wearing a suit. It forces me to pay attention to details I normally wouldn’t, for example, my socks, my belt, and a tie. I also make sure I never overmatch on those accessories to add more dimensions to the look.

Thom Browne & Reilly Opelka

VMAN: Have you been to Paris before? What have been some of your favorite places/memories from the trip overall?

RO: I have been to Paris many times, but I have never come for anything besides Roland Garros. It was such a different experience this time, I feel like I got to finally see Paris for what it really is. The food scene is absolutely incredible, and aside from all the shows my favorite memories from the trip were all the restaurant experiences my friends and I have made in Paris over the last few years. Usually when I come to Paris its for work, so I am not able to be as social and enjoy having a drink at Hotel Costes or having French toast at plaza Athenee. Not having to worry about practice and training at 8am opened my eyes to a whole new side of Paris.

Reilly Opelka | Photographed by Michael Woolery

VMAN: We saw that you’re a bit of an avid art fan. How has your experience with seeing/understanding the art of fashion during this last week differed from your understanding of traditional works of art?

RO: I feel like the line between fashion and art has collapsed in a way in the last two decades. Fashion has made its way into prominent museums, and artists are being enlisted into high-profile fashion houses. This wasn’t always the case. But when you think about it there are many similarities. Fashion designers are curious about shape and form, fascinated by color, intrigued by social, historical, and cultural references, and therefore find themselves drawn to art galleries, museums, artists’ studios, and archives, and to simply hang out with their contemporaries in the art world, or other design disciplines. From architects and sculptors to contemporary concept installation artists, the creative mind comes in many forms and often has varied influences.

Reilly Opelka | Photographed by Michael Woolery

VMAN: Have you been checking out the art scene in Paris while there? Do you have your eyes on any pieces?

RO: For centuries, Paris has attracted artists from around the world, arriving in the city to educate themselves and to seek inspiration from its artistic resources and galleries. With places like the Centre Pompidou, Musee d’Orsay, and the largest art museum in the world The Louvre, there’s an incredible amount of art in Paris worth seeing. The collection of Centre Pompidou includes incredible works by Jonathan Meese, Tal R, Friedrich Kunath, Adrian Ghenie, Marcel Dzama, Armen Eloyan, Leiko Ikemura, and Franz West. I’ve been following the works by Friedrich Kunath and Jonathan Meese very closely for a while now. When I first approached art, I hated the work by Jonathan Meese, I didn’t understand it and thought he was crazy. Then I watched his performance and saw how he spoke, and I became passionate about him. He preaches that art needs to dictate the world: an art dictatorship. Now I own a few pieces of him myself. I’m also very curious to learn more about the danish artist Tal R, he will be having a solo show in October with Tim Van Laere Gallery.

Reilly Opelka | Photographed by Michael Woolery

VMAN: How did you first start getting into art? did it all stem from one piece or was there a passion for it early on in your childhood?

RO: I got into art when I was 20 years old, prior to that I had no interest in it at all. I had just lost the first round in the Masters 1000 event in Rome and was very down on myself. It was my 6th week in a row in Europe and I felt a little bit lost and lonely. With the French Open around the corner, I wanted to reset for a few days and make sure I was in a better frame of mind. I decided to take a train to Milano and went with the intent of shopping to get my mind off of tennis. I found my way to Fondazione Prada, which to this day is one of my favorite museums of all time. Ever since then I was hooked on art, completely obsessed. From that point on, I would visit a museum in every city I possibly could. Eventually, as my taste evolved and I developed an eye for it I started to collect on my own, my collection began with Friedrich Kunath who is still my favorite artist and I have many of his works in my collection now. Friedrich led to me discover Ben Sledsens another great painter which lead to me becoming friends with his gallerist Tim Van Laere, who has been my biggest mentor in art ever since.

Reilly Opelka | Photographed by Michael Woolery

VMAN: Being a tennis star, how do you see the relationship between fashion and sports? do you think they go hand in hand or is there a bit of a separation between the two (in your world)?

RO: There is definitely a relationship between the two, but at the current time within the tennis world there is no correlation. The rules within tennis don’t allow fashion to be as present. There are so many restrictions and so many rules in such a conservative world, it’s hard for fashion to have any presence.

Reilly Opelka

VMAN: What is the impact you hope to make in fashion, now that you’re getting into the scene more and more?

RO: Going back to that last question I hope I can incorporate high fashion into tennis. I think high fashion has always incorporated sports, and athletes into their world but sports and athletes have not incorporated high fashion into their world. Especially on the court, and that’s the one advantage tennis has. We don’t have uniforms in tennis, but we are limited with what we can wear I hope to push the limit and break through some of those boundaries.

Reilly Opelka | Photographed by Michael Woolery

Kevin Ponce is VMAN’s Digital & Beauty Editor.

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