After dropping her daughter off at school in the morning, Candace Parker had a few meetings to tend to before her interview with ESSENCE. Nonetheless, the Chicago Sky player didn’t miss a beat. She was in great spirits on the phone — and with good reason — something huge that she’d been anticipating for nearly two months could finally be revealed, and she couldn’t wait to share.
In celebration of Parker’s more than a decade-long dominance in the basketball world, she and Adidas collaborated on the launch of the Candace Parker Collection with retail partner DICK’S Sporting Goods. Including hoodies, tees, tanks, shorts, and socks with technical fit, performance features and Parker’s signature “Ace” logo, the Candace Parker Collection has been available for purchase since September 23, in stores and online at both adidas and DICK’S Sporting Goods. Within this collection lay the custom Exhibit (A)ce Low silhouette kicks, which feature a ventilated upper reinforced with a Lightstrike midsole geared for responsive movement and the ultimate versatility for the all-around player.
Parker expressed her excitement to launch this collection with her long-time partner Adidas, and hopes that she will inspire the next generation of athletes to come after her. “My team and myself have been really hands-on throughout this process, just making sure that everything is as great as we can make it,” she tells us. And while she’s been an Adidas athlete officially for 14 years, Parker had been sporting the brand throughout college and even for her last two years in high school. “To be able to create something that’s meaningful was all that went into this ACE Collection. It’s really important for us to see women in our society as leaders, so this collection is for everybody,” she says. “This process of seeing it come to life and seeing all the time that went into it [has] been unbelievable for me. For it to finally be on the shelves and be out there, is amazing.”
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“Candace Parker exemplifies what it means to be the best,” Carrie Guffey, Senior Vice President, Merchandising, DICK’S Sporting Goods, says in a statement to ESSENCE. “We join the entire city of Chicago in congratulating her on all of her achievements. We are proud to be the exclusive retail partner for the Candace Parker Collection and to have product specifically designed for female athletes. We know that it will not only help female athletes perform their best, but also will inspire young athletes to pick up — and stay with — the game.”
Kate Ridley, SVP of Brand at Adidas, also expressed her excitement. “Candace Parker is the real MVP,” she says joyously. “We are thrilled for her extraordinary achievements and the launch of her new collection. In our partnership with DICK’S Sporting Goods, we aim to further the ambitions of role models like Candace to be mentors for girls by demonstrating that anything is possible while empowering the next groundbreaking players through the ongoing expansion of our women’s basketball programs.”
Ahead, check out more from our in-depth exclusive interview with Parker, which also included juggling her personal style as a basketball player and mother and fashion advice she plans to give her daughter Lailaa.
ESSENCE: What was the inspiration behind the collection and how did it feel to see this process go from ideas and development into products on the shelves and customers?
Candace Parker: It was unbelievable to be able to tell stories that people really were interested in hearing and representing. Honestly, to me, the biggest compliment or biggest thing somebody can give me is to really support and represent what I put time and energy into. Whether that’s coming to a game, buying a shoe, rocking the sweatshirt or the shorts, or whatever it is, I think it’s so amazing. We were on the parade and all my teammates were pointing out all the people that had the ACE Collection on and it was just really special to go to arenas across the country and just see people that were rocking the stuff that we’ve been on the phone and in meetings putting together.
ESSENCE: What are some of your favorite pieces from The Candace Parker Collection?
Parker: First of all, I think the black shoes are just so nice; they’re so clean. I really have a thing for the speckled gold. It’s almost like you took a paintbrush, kind of waved it in the air, and the speckles from the paint just land on the shoes. That was what I was into at the time. You can make art out of just waving stuff in the air and that was something cool that I really liked that they added to that shoe and the black shoe is what I wore in the championship game in Game 4. I think they’ll always have sentimental value to me.
ESSENCE: How have you seen the Adidas brand overall evolve over the years in its diversity and inclusion efforts?
Parker: I think it’s an ongoing process. That’s a special part to Adidas. We know we’re not at the final destination — you never arrive. It’s constantly continuing to push the needle. It’s constantly continuing to try to open up doors and talk about more things that maybe we didn’t talk about 10 years ago. What’s so special about being a part of this brand is seeing the evolution of where we started and where we are now. I was one of very few athletes that Adidas initially sponsored, and now we’ve come into this evolution of Adidas athletes. It’s super important for us to continue to evolve, grow, and not think that we’ve made it towards evolution, equality, or whatever we’re trying to work towards.