Renaissance man: Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins turns love of fashion into a business

PHILADELPHIA -- Less than an hour after the Eagles wrapped up a day of OTAs, safety Malcolm Jenkins is on the road. By 3 p.m., he is halfway across the city in the back of his new, brick-and-mortar designer menswear store, Damari Savile, completing the transformation from football player to fashion aficionado. He emerges in a tailored dark blue suit and checkered shirt, sporting a few accessories, including a pin of a clinched, black fist like the one he raised above his head during the national anthem before all but one game last season.

"The first thing is, I would say you're a little monochromatic, and that makes it bland," said Jenkins, eyeing the attire of the reporter who stumbled into the room where the custom suits are created. "So I would go with a white shirt to make your tie pop and to bring out this jacket because the jacket is actually really nice."

Such guidance has not been reserved for writers. A number of teammates have already swung by the new joint to have their measurements taken and their looks updated. Quarterback Carson Wentz, with his postgame garb apparently in need of serious work, spent around two hours in the store this past week.

“We went through a bunch of different looks for him for game day for a few different games this season. We’re really excited about the looks that we put together for him,” said Jenkins’ business partner, Jay Amin. “But he’s also a really creative mind. I know that people have said that he really can’t dress as well, and I know the media kind of took some shots at him at some point, probably as a joke, but he’s going to be looking really, really good this year.”

Wide receiver Jordan Matthews followed in Wentz’s footsteps a day or two later. Linebacker Mychal Kendricks, defensive back Jaylen Watkins and others have made their way in as well.

Damari Saville officially opens Friday. Four days will be for appointments only, and three will be open to the public. Walk in, and you might have your measurements taken by Jenkins himself.

"That's kind of the fun part is that I actually enjoy picking out the fabrics and designing the suit," Jenkins said. "I obviously have a full-time job somewhere else, but when I can, I will be here. We've done that already -- taken people's measurements and orders -- and I've been very much a part of that process."

Jenkins first caught the fashion bug on an NFL road trip. Most coaches have a coat-and-tie dress code for players while traveling. What started as a quest to simply look his best morphed into a full-blown passion. Jenkins created a bow tie line called Rock Avenue while he was with the New Orleans Saints. Last December, an encounter with Amin -- a London-born and Philadelphia-area-raised businessman with expertise in designer menswear -- quickly led to a partnership and the creation of Damari Savile. (Damari is Jenkins’ middle name, and Savile comes from Savile Row, a street in London known for men’s tailoring.)

“He’s just a leader, you know?” Amin said of what he saw in Jenkins. “He’s big in the community in Philadelphia, he’s always headlined in all of the fashion events, and he just gets it. He knows style. He does know fashion. I thought that it would be an interesting opportunity to kind of pick his brain and see how much he actually knew and how much he wanted for himself, and we quickly realized that our desires were kind of aligned.”

The store launch is the latest in a seemingly endless number of pursuits for Jenkins, who has commitments piling up to the ceiling. He helps run the Malcolm Jenkins Foundation, which is focused on "effectuating positive change in the lives of youth.” A key member of the movement sparked by the Colin Kaepernick protests, Jenkins has gotten heavily involved in social activism. He has made multiple trips to Capitol Hill to speak with politicians about mass incarceration and police brutality. He has opened a line of communication with local law enforcement and participated in a ride-along with Philadelphia police. He has visited inmates at Graterford State Correctional Institution, and he is part of a network that helps coordinate the efforts of players trying to make a difference off the field. Jenkins recently co-wrote a piece that appeared on CNN.com calling on Congress to fix the justice system. Later this month, he and teammate Torrey Smith will visit the Pennsylvania state capitol to lobby against current legislation to reinstate mandatory minimum prison sentences.

There's also his family (he has a wife and a daughter) and, of course, football.

Jenkins employs a rather large team to make it all work, including India Robinson, his manager, who oversees his brand and master schedule; Rebecca Otto, who manages his endorsements and personal public relations; Kristi Roehm, who handles his philanthropic work and social activism efforts; and Gwendolyn Jenkins, the president of the Malcolm Jenkins Foundation.

“We really work well together, as everyone has the same goal ... to help Malcolm be successful across all of his ventures as well as make a significant impact in the community,” Roehm said. “His schedule is generally mapped out well in advance, with a six-month and yearlong proactive strategy in place, but it also evolves quite frequently depending on opportunities that present themselves.”

Jenkins says he doesn’t feel any extra pressure to perform on the field, despite the criticism he’d likely face if his play dropped off while he pursued so many other interests. In fact, he said, the time demands have led to an increased focus and stricter regimen that have helped him play at a high level.

There are no complaints from the Eagles thus far, as Jenkins has developed into one of the game’s best safeties. He was recently named one of the league's top 100 players by NFL Network after he posted three interceptions -- two of which he returned for touchdowns -- 72 tackles and nine passes defensed last season.

“I think it’s admirable, just the way his football level hasn’t diminished by any means,” Eagles tight end Zach Ertz said. “I think if he was one of those guys where his play has taken a step back, it would be an issue with some of the guys. But he is one of the best safeties in the league while still doing all this other stuff.”

Although he might be on the extreme side with his Renaissance Man approach, Jenkins is part of what appears to be a growing number of NFL players who are branching out into other areas of interest, despite the demands of their football careers. Jenkins refers to it as "a wave of this conscious athlete" in which players are more aware of the options and opportunities around them and more eager to explore them. He cites three primary reasons for this:

1. The marketability of the league being at an all-time high

2. An awareness of the financial difficulties many players face after football, particularly after viewing ESPN's 30 for 30 documentary, "Broke"

3. The growing knowledge about concussions and safety, which are leading players to “weigh their options as to how long they want to play” while more actively searching for a landing spot outside of football

"So you're starting to see guys get involved in different things and know that this game, although we love it and it's been a major part of our lives, is really just a tool and a platform for us to move on and do something else," said the 29-year-old Jenkins, who is entering his ninth NFL season. "Because all of us, at some point in time, are going to have to move on and do something else."

Jenkins jokingly attributes his varying interests to being a Sagittarius, "so I love doing different things and exploring." But while seemingly scattered across the board, he says, all of his ventures are very much tied together. Football brought the love for fashion, and fashion helps feed his charitable work, with a portion of his bow tie line proceeds going to his foundation to help fund scholarships for students in New Orleans. He is also combining the new menswear venture with social activism, as Damari Saville is looking to support re-entry programs for men and women coming out of the prison system and give them suits for job interviews.

The driving force behind all of it, Jenkins says -- football, fashion, activism, philanthropy -- is to serve as a role model to as many people as possible.

"You've got a bunch of kids out here that might not want to be athletes, but they want to learn how to make a difference in their community, and I'm trying to as best I can show an example of that," he said. "Some kids want to be entrepreneurs and be their own business owners. I am an example of that. And so everything I do can be used as a piece of encouragement.

"I don't want to do things to do things. I want them all to make sense to me. These are all things I'm passionate about. So although it seems from the outside looking in that I'm pulling myself in a bunch of different directions, they really all have one synergy, and they all tie together."