fashion

Stylist Sydney Bordonaro on WNBA Fashion, Working With Kelsey Plum

Written by IhebQld

At just the start of her career as a WNBA stylist, Sydney Bordonaro has already made connections with some of the League’s brightest stars. Originally from Pittsburgh, PA, but now residing in Los Angeles, Bordonaro takes pride in working with WNBA players and styling their pregame fits. She’s worked with everyone from Kelsey Plum to DiDi Richards and Rae Burrell.

Although she’s only been styling for a year, she worked with a handful of clients around the W and even has plans to expand to work with NBA players and other professional athletes. 

“Fashion is important to these WNBA players for so many reasons, but for one, it’s getting more people involved. It’s getting people attached to them, it’s getting people to be able to see their personalities. I just feel like it helps get people intrigued or interested. It gives them an inside look to these players’ personalities and who they are. And then when you go watch the game, you’re like, Oh, wait, this game is fire! They’re good as hell!”

We sat down with Sydney to learn more about her career as a stylist, WNBA fashion, what goes into styling players around the L and her plans for the future. 


SLAM: You have degrees in sports management and you played basketball throughout your life. It’s clear that you have an interest in the sport, but when and where did you find an interest in fashion?

Sydney Bordonaro: I think it’s from Allen Iverson. He was always an inspiration to me, not only his game but his style. I feel like he was the one that really started this, you know, the way he would come to the games dressed up. I feel like that’s something I’ve always paid attention to as a young kid growing up. 

When I was in school I had all different Iverson jerseys and I was always wearing them. I always wanted to look good and feel good. That was important to me, even when I was playing basketball. I always cared about what I was wearing. When I moved to the West Coast for college, I felt like I was able to branch out with fashion. I would try different things, and maybe be a bit more outlandish with how I was dressing. I was really portraying how I feel.

SLAM: How did you start styling WNBA players? 

SB: So actually, I haven’t asked anybody to be my client thus far. My start in styling was actually kind of random. It all started off with Jewell Loyd. She’s been like a longtime friend of mine and she liked the way that I dressed. It was August or September of 2021 and she randomly was like, “Yo, what’s up, bro? You tryna style me?” Of course I said yes. So that’s really how it started. But since then, everything and all of my clients have happened organically. It’s always been through other people or by word of mouth. 

SLAM: How do you plan out a fit for one of your clients?

SB: This whole process is so new to me and I’m refining it as it goes, so the more often I get to do this, I can get more of a structure. One of the first things I do with a client that is non-negotiable is I need to get on FaceTime with them. I need to talk with them a little bit, get a feel for their personality. I can’t just start styling someone if I don’t know what they’re like on the inside.

Rae Burrell is a perfect example. We talked and she asked me to style her for a game and it was her birthday. I remember I went to Urban Outfitters, got a few things together and just pulled up at the house. From there, she literally became one of my best friends just like that. It was crazy. We get together like three hours before her games and it’s almost like we’re playing dress up. It’s hilarious.

So I think I need to get a feel for a person, you know. If they live in LA, I want to pull up on them. I just want to speak with them and get a feel for their personality and what they got in their closet. 

SLAM: Could you talk about the different WNBA players that you do style? How do they speak through their style?

SB: Everybody’s different. Like Kelsey Plum doesn’t want to take any risks. Her style is very clean cut, almost like a businesswoman. Very professional. Jewell Loyd wants to be in cargo pants and like oversized tees. And then Rae Burrell or like DiDi Richards, they don’t give a damn. I could put them in anything and they’re all for it. 

I’m putting them in these outfits, and the whole thing is like a growing process. They can get a sense of trust for me and sometimes it’s gonna take a minute. But I think I’m able to ask them how they want to dress, and I get a feel for what they’re thinking. I always check out their Instagram, too, so I can see how they are trying to dress and then I can help elevate and personify how they are.

SLAM: Does your own style ever influence what you are creating for a client?

SB: So at first, it really did. This is all so new to me; I’ve only been doing this for like less than a year. 

In the beginning, with Kelsey for example, I wanted to dress her how I would dress myself. But then I realized that isn’t her, so I would try not to do that. You have to look at each of them individually as their own being. I have whiteboards in my room to separate their different styles. I need to be focused on one at a time. I can’t shop for multiple clients at the same time. Like for example if I’m in DiDi-mode that’s all I do. Each client is so different so I need to lock in on one of them and do it one at a time. It’s almost like switching languages when you are looking for a client that is into streetwear and then going to a client that is more formal. 

SLAM: You haven’t been styling WNBA players for too long, but have you had any ‘pinch me’ moments so far? 

SB: I’d say probably working with Kelsey. Kelsey was someone who I watched growing up. She’s only three years older than me, but when I would watch her play, I wanted to style my game after hers. She was my favorite player when I was in high school, so it’s super cool that I’m now working with her. I looked up to her on the court. To have a relationship with her is one of the most amazing things for me. Her work ethic is second to none. I feel like I kind of manifested that relationship. I wanted to work with her and I kind of got a lob thrown to work with her. It happened through a friend. And now it’s just unbelievable to me. 

SLAM: It seems like you’re making really solid connections with your clients.

SB: Yeah. That’s how I want it. Like, It’s fun. I’ve always wanted to be an agent, and that is kind of how agents are. They have a close relationship with their players. I want to do deals. 

SLAM: Speaking of agents, you started your own agency, called Innovative Icon Group, which represents cultural icons in sports and entertainment. Can you tell me about that?

SB: Yeah, so after I had finished school I was going to work for a sports agency, but because of COVID, I was back home on the East Coast and the job kept getting pushed back. I decided to move back to LA to better myself. I put my head down and started working on creating my own agency. Then the styling stuff came along. Now I am completely doing my own thing, it’s very cool. At first the agency was just going to be like a marketing management agency, but now I want to shift the approach a little bit to help professional athletes with marketing deals. Along with that, I think a stylist is something that almost all of them need. It’s crazy. No one has a stylist. So I think I’m trying to combine the marketing with the styling. I want to help these athletes with their image, because that is huge. 

SLAM: It seems like you really want to be a liaison between athletes and everything that comes along with their image?

SB: I want to help athletes with their whole image. And I feel very strongly about working with athletes because I was an athlete and I can relate to them.

I know I can help these athletes a lot, like finding deals, getting them this money, putting these players’ names in with these brands. I have connections to a lot of these cool brands. I’ve always been connected with clothing brands and they’ll offer to send me stuff. And this I think benefits everybody because I can get sent this stuff and then put them in all this gear. 

I’m having so much fun with all of this, too. This is everything that I feel like I’ve always wanted. I have big goals for myself. I want to do big things and I’ve already worked so hard. I feel like I have an opportunity right now. I’m not gonna let this slip for nothing. I’m gonna bust my butt and do anything I can [to] keep going and keep growing. You know?

SLAM: Absolutely. On the note of connecting with players, do you have a dream WNBA player that you’d like to work with and style?

SB: I have a few people that I want to work with. I think in the WNBA, I’d say Skylar Diggins-Smith and then Liz Cambage. I would love the possibility to style them. Maybe Olivia Nelson-Ododa, too. She looks like she would be a high fashion model on a runway or something. Then also there is a women’s soccer player named Trinity Rodman. I think that she’s really effortlessly fly. I would love to style her at some point.

Then in the NBA, I would love to style like a Jalen Green or a Jordan Clarkson-type of guy. I think they’d be a dream to style. 

SLAM: In your opinion, what type of role does fashion play in the lives of WNBA players? Why do you think fashion matters for them? 

SB: This is really important. I think there’s a few reasons. I feel like for a very long time, everyone wanted women’s basketball players to have a particular look. They couldn’t dress too masculine, needed to wear a dress, and so on. And once you get them in the dress and heels they just look so uncomfortable! 

I think now there is this crazy switch where people who aren’t even WNBA fans will see players and become fans of them as people. Especially with social media. Like even when I was younger, because in Pittsburgh there wasn’t a team there I grew a love for Allen Iverson and I attached myself to him. 

Now it’s cool to see these WNBA players are role models through social media. I think the way people dress is just a representation of how they feel on the inside, who they really are. 

Like for example if I’m wearing all-black, baggy clothes, it’s probably because I’m feeling sad. It’s all just how I’m feeling on the inside. So I feel like it’s important that these women are able to portray how they feel and who they are, and for that to be easily transmitted when you see how they’re dressed. You see them and get a feel for who they are based off of how they’re dressing. Also, women are such a huge consumer of clothes. So this is another sort of marketing opportunity here. I just feel like this is a huge opportunity for these women to capitalize off of these social media deals they need to be making, with whatever fashion brands.

SLAM: You also play a huge role in helping these players express themselves, too.

SB: It’s crazy how people just don’t know how to dress how they feel. For me, it is something that comes very easy for me. It doesn’t come that easy for other people, so it’s so cool that I could just kind of assist them with it. I’m helping them come into their own, helping build out their closet, and they might not need me in a couple years. To me, that would mean that I did a good job. 

SLAM then showed Sydney two fits that she’s put together in the last year and asked her to talk us through what went into the styling...

SB: This was [Rae’s] birthday fit. We were going with a Hendrix vibe. That is my jacket and I was like “Hold up, this would look so cool.” I told her when she walked she better hit her Hendrix and at first she was like “No bro, I can’t.” But she did it! 

SB: I had wanted Kelsey in this one for a while. I liked this suit a lot and I knew it would fit her really well, but she had a lot of anxiety about it. It was for the first game. I said to her, “Mob. We on mob sh*t this year Kelsey.” With this fit we were thinking like we mean business, mob ties, MVP Kels, all that. She actually wasn’t sure if she wanted to wear this at first. She was skeptical. She ended up loving it and everybody went crazy over it. I feel like with a lot of Kelsey’s looks we have a similar vibe; she’s very serious before games. So, I think all of the fits are very clean, like she looks like a boss. But that’s Kels. She’s coming into her own. She’ll come out of it every once and a while with a little streetwear look but for the most part she wants to be like a professional boss woman. That’s how I found her vibe. 


Photos via Sydney Bordonaro and Getty Images.

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