Whatever Happens at the Super Bowl, She’s Already Won

Whichever team takes home the Vince Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl LVIII, the San Francisco 49ers or the Kansas City Chiefs, there is already one indubitable winner. Not Taylor Swift, whose interest in football has attracted almost as many conspiracy theorists as fans, or even the N.F.L. itself, which is trying to figure out how to hang onto its sudden influx of Taylor-related female fans, but rather another player’s significant other: Kristin Juszczyk.

In the last month, Ms. Juszczyk, the wife of Kyle Juszczyk, a 49ers fullback, has gone from little-known football spouse with a sideline in customizing old team jerseys (and T-shirts and footballs) to rising fashion star, with an N.F.L. licensing deal, a “Today” show interview and stories in Harper’s Bazaar and Footwear News. Vogue has also reportedly been in touch.

On Sunday, as her husband takes the field, Ms. Juszczyk, 29, will be in the stands, modeling one of her creations to an estimated 200 million viewers. And she may not be alone. De facto brand ambassadors who have worn Ms. Juszczyk’s made-just-for-them products at games include Olivia Culpo, the fiancée of 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey; Brittany Mahomes, the wife of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes; and Ms. Swift.

Fashion brands have been wooing sports stars for a while now, transforming their “tunnel walks” into catwalks and signing them as official “faces,” but none of them has had a promotional opportunity like this one. And Ms. Juszczyk didn’t even have to buy a $7 million 30-second ad spot to get it.

A brief recap of how it happened: Ms. Juszczyk first burst into the public eye thanks to Ms. Swift, who wore one of her customized jackets to support her boyfriend, Travis Kelce, during a game on Jan. 13, generating the same sort of buzz around the jacket she has created around friendship bracelets.

Though the look was mistakenly attributed to Nike at first, Mr. Juszczyk took to social media to set the record straight. His wife refrained from most formal interviews after the brouhaha started, so he stepped in as a sort of fashion proxy, talking her up to reporters and replying to numerous social media posts to make sure she was credited for her work.

Since then, Ms. Juszczyk has accrued over 450,000 more Instagram followers, all of whom have been treated to mini videos of her making her crop tops, puffer coats, bustiers and jackets on her sewing machine at home. There are also pictures and videos of the celebrities for whom said looks were intended, such as Simone Biles and Taylor Lautner. In one, Mr. Lautner is seen unboxing his jacket on the field.

Still, Ms. Juszczyk, whose website says she is self-taught and started her business after making Halloween costumes for herself and her husband, has more than just the endorsements of Ms. Swift and other celebrities going for her.

The fact that Nike was first credited with making Ms. Swift’s jacket reflects the fact that Ms. Juszczyk has, consciously or not, positioned herself at the red hot center of a number of macro fashion trends. To wit: the buzz around upcycling; the desire for customization; the transformation of streetwear into luxury; and the increasing convergence of sports and fashion. As one of her followers posted under a photo of her work, “Finally great clothes that’s not a crew or v neck shirt.”

The N.F.L., for one, has apparently recognized the opportunity. Rather than going after Ms. Juszczyk for exploiting their trademark without approval, they decided to — well, team up with her, and grant her a license to use, or reuse, their apparel. (Attempts to reach her were unsuccessful; presumably she is busy getting ready for Sunday.)

Now the question is whether Ms. Juszczyk can leverage all of this to vault her brand from the equivalent of a kitchen-sink hobby to a genuine business. A big test will come with the first piece she has made for sale (previously she gave her designs away): an “officially Licensed Super Bowl Puffer vest.”

The product, a relatively straightforward silver and black number with purple and red accents and embroidery commemorating the date and game, is being auctioned on her website. The sale started on Thursday and ends Saturday at midnight.

As her first official piece, the vest looks a lot more merch-y than her earlier creations, which had more of a clubbing Edward Scissorhands vibe, like an elevated version of what you might have done to old T-shirts as a teenager before you went to an Arcade Fire concert. Whether the more generic style marks a design evolution is hard to tell, since the vest is the only item available in the shop. Ditto on whether Ms. Juszczyk’s example might inspire other sports wives and girlfriends to start their own fashion lines. (After all, there is precedent in Victoria Beckham.)

What is clear: though all proceeds are going to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, as of Friday morning the high bid was $32,800 — putting Ms. Juszczyk’s work smack in the middle of the luxury segment. At least as far as pricing is concerned.

The post Whatever Happens at the Super Bowl, She’s Already Won appeared first on New York Times.

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