Naomi Osaka is so much more than an athlete. The sports star has used her voice—as well as her creativity—to speak out on causes most important to her, be they social justice, mental health, or sustainability.
The latter is the core focus of her collaboration with denim brand Levi’s. The Levi’s x Naomi Osaka collection is a four-item offering featuring pieces that hint at Osaka’s own personal style, including a denim-constructed kimono, crystal-fringe shorts, a trucker jacket bustier, and classic lace-up shorts. According to Osaka, the new collection pays homage to her long-standing relationship with denim, her evolving personal style, as well as her heritage.
“I’ve always loved Levi’s even since I was a little kid. I remember my mom taking me shopping at a mall, and we would go to the Levi’s store, and there were always so many different styles that I loved,” Osaka exclusively tells BAZAAR.com. “I also remember my parents wearing Levi’s while I was growing up, so the brand feels really timeless for me. It was also important that we made this collection sustainable by using only upcycled denim from old stock. I think that helps add an even more special element to all the pieces, because they really are one of a kind.”
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For Osaka, the collection represents her multifaceted approach to style, which requires pieces that are both fashionable and functional.
“My style tends to be equal parts sporty, feminine, and unexpected, but I also like to wear traditional pieces that reflect my heritage. I feel like this collection really melded all of those style aspects together,” Osaka says. “The lace-up shorts are super sporty, while the trucker bustier is a nice feminine balance. The crystal shorts are definitely an unexpected surprise (I like to keep things interesting). I loved wearing kimonos as a kid, so I wanted to incorporate a traditional piece into the collection as well.”
She continues, “I’m always in sportswear for the majority of the day while I’m training, so it’s nice to mix in some feminine moments, but in general, I’m almost always on the go, so the sporty vibe just feels practical. It’s really on my days off that I like to experiment with fashion and put together looks that feel more elevated.”
The athlete considers style as another medium for storytelling: to tell her fans, friends, family, and the world a little bit more about who she is, what she believes in, and what inspires her. Fashion design—like tennis and like social justice—is another vessel that allows Osaka to express herself.
“I always like to put together outfits that tell a story. I love pieces that are totally unique and that you wouldn’t necessarily see anywhere else,” Osaka says. “I’m always inspired by Harajuku street style when I visit Tokyo, and I also like to people-watch for outfit inspiration when I’m traveling around the world for tournaments. When I design, it’s usually a pretty intuitive process for me. I just get ideas that I love, and then my sister helps me sketch and bring them to life.”
Osaka insists that she’s just getting started with the fashion world; she wants to continue to stretch her design talents in the years to come.
“I’m so interested in learning about the process behind everything, from design to production, to consumer, and everything in between,” Osaka shares. “For me, design isn’t just about the creative aspect, but also really about emotion and how it will make a person feel when they wear it. I’m always so curious to understand all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into fashion, and I think the more I learn, the more my taste and design abilities will continue to evolve.”
This article first appeared in Harper’s BAZAAR US