You have to dress the part on NFL draft day.
"I want to look my best. So I needed to be dressed by the best, and that's Jhoanna Alba," said 2017 NFL draft prospect and former Miami tight end David Njoku.
Jhoanna Alba, chief visionary and founder of ALBA in Los Angeles styles athletes from a variety of sports along with a few Hollywood A-listers, including NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson, NBA All-Star Russell Westbrook and actor Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. However, Njoku is new to her squad.
espnW got to catch up with her at her L.A. shop to learn more about her past, present and future as a master designer and more.
espnW: How did you become a stylist to the stars?
Alba: During the week, I was teaching during the day and then working at a tuxedo shop during the evenings. Instructing pre-school children was rewarding, but once they graduated to grade school, it was difficult because of the emotional attachment.
However, I also found that I had a deep love for fashion and I followed my heart. I started managing the tuxedo shop at 19 years old, and that's where I met Magic Johnson.
Once I met Magic, he started introducing me to his peers like [then MLB players] Frank Robinson and Dave Winfield, who both became my clients. After that, I met players across different leagues, and it was like a word of mouth domino effect.
I was later recruited by another clothing company to run their women's division where I had designed custom clothing for athletes' wives such as Magic's wife -- Cookie [Johnson] and Holly Pete Robinson.
Magic further encouraged me to start my company at 21 years old. He's been with me through the ups and downs, and I've been styling him for over 24 years now.
espnW: Who was your first NFL client?
Alba: Jerry Ball [former NFL defensive lineman from 1987-99]. That was a really long time ago!
I was introduced to Jerry by Tommy "Tiny" Lister, who played Deebo in the movie series "Friday." I had made this ivory suit for Tiny and Jerry asked him who made the suit, and just 48 hours later I was on a plane to Minnesota, [where Ball played for the Vikings], to measure him.
And the next thing I know Ball had six guys lined up for me to dress for the season.
espnW: How do you prepare clients for major events like the NFL draft?
Alba: For the NFL draft, I like to be a little more formal. It's a huge deal, and I like to keep it elegant. When they look back ten years from now, they can say, 'I'm wearing a beautiful classic suit,' instead of, 'What was I thinking wearing that red and white pinstripe suit?'
However, I like to add a little more detail and personality for each client. For example, with David Njoku, the front panel of [his draft suit] will have an African pattern that we'll design ourselves, [so we can highlight his Nigerian culture]. David's appearance is just as important as his resume. And being professional doesn't mean he or any athlete has to sacrifice their personal style.
espnW: What has been your most interesting style request thus far?
Alba: It was from [former Wide Receiver] Terrell Owens. I've been working with him since his second year in the league. The last couple of years he hasn't been inducted into the [Pro Football] Hall of Fame, so he wanted to create his own "Hall of Fame" gold blazer. On the back of his jacket, we embroidered all of his football stats and why he believed he should be a Hall of Famer and the front patch read "Earned not Given."
espnW: Which athlete has the most original sense of style?
Alba: Russell Westbrook. I've been dressing him since his rookie year and did his NBA draft suit. We've done special events like his wedding and the ESPYs. When Westbrook accepts an award in a tuxedo -- then that's normally my work, but the more flamboyant outfits that he wears is his personal style, and you have to love it because he's the fashion king.
Also, check out this video where espnW goes behind-the-scenes with Alba and Njoku as they collaborated on his look for the NFL draft.
Gianina Thompson is ESPN's senior publicist for NBA and MLB on-air personalities and shows. She's sports all day, every day and lives for overtime games, unless it's on Thursday nights when she's locked onto "Grey's Anatomy," "Scandal," and "How to Get Away with Murder."