From Bulls ball boy to fashion designer

October 25, 2012|By Scott Bolohan @scottbolohan | For RedEye

As a ball boy for the Bulls from 1994-1997, Jason Franklin has stories. Not everyone can claim Scottie Pippen drove you in his Ferrari to your first date.

After Franklin, who grew up in Deerfield but now lives in L.A., had that introduction to the sports world, it's no surprise he never wanted to move too far away from it. Once he realized would never play for Bulls, he figured he should do something merging his love of sports and design. In 2006, Franklin started Sportiqe and soon found his clothes in every NBA arena.

Franklin, 34, is still a Bulls fanatic, but he's also learned a thing or two from Jay-Z (who naturally wore a hat Franklin designed when he was just 13). Franklin won't even criticize Michael Jordan's fashion taste--no easy feat. After all, Franklin isn't just a businessman. With Sportiqe, he's a business, man.

Franklin talked to the RedEye about sports fashion, the best-dressed Chicago athlete and the clothes that Michael Jordan wears.

How did Sportiqe get started?

It started from a love of sports. When I was 11, my doctor ruined my dreams that I was going to be the starting point guard for the Chicago Bulls. So if I wanted to be involved with sports, I had to find something else. I loved to draw. I loved to design hats with sports logos on them. At the age of 12 I got the chance to design baseball hats for a company out of Chicago, and I worked with them for 13 years. I was growing my contact base and realized if I wanted to reach my entrepreneurial goals I had to start my own business. Being a ball boy for the Bulls in high school and going to pretty much every home game from 1986 on, I thought it would be cool to do more fashionable apparel, to make a more fashionable brand for the fan. We made a deal with the NBA, and one of my friends is the violinist for a small band called the Dave Mathews Band, and we started designing for them too.

What is the most important thing when you are designing?

Comfort. Every single garment Sportiqe has needs to be the most comfortable thing you have in your closet. I talk to people all over and they tell me it's the first thing stolen out of their closet when their friends or girlfriend comes to town.

Have you noticed fashion and sports mixing a lot more?

The thing that's really great right now is people are becoming educated on fashion. Instead of wearing something oversized and uncomfortable or even a jersey, they want to wear something fashionable while cheering on their team. That understanding and appreciation of fashion, Sportique has really found that niche. Every season we can up the fashion and make it more unique.

What is the worst fashion mistake a sports fan can make?

Sportiqe celebrates uniqueness. I see some fashion that I might not agree with, but I think it's a unique way to celebrate the team. Maybe when they don't have a shirt on and their body is painted.

How did you end up as the Bulls' ball boy during the dynasty?

My dad had season tickets for the Bulls. At the age of 14 I went over to the Berto Center and knocked on their door and asked if I could be their ball boy. I was too young and they told me to come back next year. The only other way to explain it would be to be the bat boy for the Yankess when Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig were there. I would have dinner with some of the guys after the game, some would come over to my house for dinner. They would treat me like a little brother. Being around the Bulls at that time has helped me with the relationships I have now with athletes and rock stars.        

Who is the most fashionable Chicago athlete?

My friend Jay Cutler looks pretty sharp on game day. He's pretty put together. I would say he's the most fashionable Chicago athlete right now.

Michael Jordan. What is going on with his fashion?

When he was playing he was a fashion icon. Everyone is unique and people have their own unique style. Just because what Michael is wearing might be a baggier jean or is ripped, whatever you are wearing, you have to be comfortable in it. That's what fashion is.

Scott Bolohan is a RedEye special contributor.

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