EXCLUSIVE: Kelly Oubre Jr. Releases First Dope Soul Collection With NYFW Pop-up

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Kelly Oubre Jr. wants to remain authentic as he makes his first strides in the fashion industry.

The Charlotte Hornets star will release his first official collection for his brand Dope Soul this fall, complete with a pop-up installation during New York Fashion Week. Oubre Jr. first thought of the idea for creating the brand in 2018, shortly after his grandmother passed away — he wanted to channel his energy and emotion into something creative.

“Dope Soul came about as me trying to create a community so that people can feel comfortable and unjudged and loved no matter what they do, whatever they decide to do in life,” Oubre Jr. told WWD.

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He settled on the name “Dope Soul” because a soul is something that belongs to every being, and Oubre Jr. was still in deep search of his at the time, while dope is an ode to everyone who is considered as “dope,” including his grandmother, his family and friends.

“If you’re a dope individual and you’re trying to reach your soul’s full potential unapologetically, then you’re a dope soul,” he said.

Oubre Jr. has found inspiration in brands such as Chrome Hearts, highlighting authenticity and timelessness in his pieces, while also acknowledging that fashion in itself is also art.

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“This is an art industry. It’s not just clothing, it’s not just trends and culture,” he said. “This is a wider thing. It’s bigger than all of us. I just want to follow in the footsteps of the greats before me and just take a piece out of everybody’s book.”

A closer look at the first collection of Kelly Oubre Jr.’s Dope Soul brand at his pop-up installation in New York City.
Jocko Graves/BFA.com

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Oubre Jr. initially released a smaller collection last May called “Quarantine and Chill,” which was more “quarantine-type fits,” such as sweatpants, sweatshirts and T-shirts. This upcoming fall 2021 release will mark his first official collection, which will be on display at the Dope Soul pop-up store in Tribeca in New York City, marking his first time hosting an event during the city’s coveted fashion week.

The capsule, called “Baptized by Fire,” reflects himself as an individual “organically” and the experiences he’s had to endure to be where he is today.

“The definition of baptized by fire is someone who learns things the hard way, who doesn’t necessarily get anything handed to them nor anything easy,” Oubre Jr. said. “They have to go through a lot of strife and trials and tribulations in order to learn and grow, and that’s been me my whole life, right? I really want to just depict all the stages of my life throughout these pieces that’ll show the growth and the evolution of not only just Dope Soul, but of who I am as well.”

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Taking inspiration from the format of an art gallery, Oubre Jr. will be showcasing pieces of his latest collection in a minimalistic way, like how paintings would be displayed in a gallery. The store will be open for only one day on Sept. 10, where customers can visit and purchase pieces from Dope Soul’s latest collection.

“I want to display the garments, have vibrant lights, have a lot of space to breathe and just to appreciate the art that’s hanging there,” he said. “I really just want people to go in there and just feel free to look at the art.”

His pop-up installation, hosted in the Patron of the New store, featured dim, purple LED lights as pieces of his collection hang individually on hangers. A logo of a melted skull with a heart in the middle of its head is emblazoned on the walls and decor, as well as “Dope$oul” on other items such as a basketball backboard and hats.

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Kelly Oubre Jr.

Kelly Oubre Jr. at his Dope Soul pop-up installation in New York City.
Jocko Graves/BFA.com

Catchphrases like “The soul never dies,” “Baptized by fire” and “Forgetfulness is true death. Remembrance of it is rebirth” are also seen on the walls or pillars.

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When he’s not designing or partaking in fashion events, Oubre Jr. plays in the NBA for the Charlotte Hornets, whom he signed with last month. He previously played for the Washington Wizards, Phoenix Suns and the Golden State Warriors.

Oubre Jr. acknowledges that while he’s been very hands-on with the process of Dope Soul from start to finish, by default he can’t put in “100 percent” due to the fact that being an NBA player takes up most of his time in the year. But he tries to make up for lost time now in the off-season, before the 2021-2022 season kicks off in October.

Like most basketball players, Oubre Jr. has always had an affinity to fashion, attending fashion week yearly until the pandemic hit last year. He compares the energy in New York, or any city that hosts fashion weeks, to the feeling of the NBA playoffs “because you have all these people trying to show that they can dress.”

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Though Dope Soul is just getting started, Oubre Jr. hopes that his brand will last lifetimes, and that his pieces are continuously being worn because of its timelessness.

“I really want Dope Soul to never die so that we can just be around,” he said. “I want my garments and the things that I create to be on people in 100 years. Like, ‘Look at this Dope Soul. It’s super vintage right now.’ I want it to be around forever.”

Dope Soul fall 2021 collection will be available for purchase at its pop-up installation located on 151 Franklin Street on Sept. 10. The collection will also be available online a week or so after.

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