keep it moving

The Sports Stylist Playing With Personality

Styling Didi Richards. Photo: Christopher Samson

Though always fashion-forward, Sydney Bordonaro had no intention of becoming a stylist before the pandemic hit. After a lifetime in basketball — she played Division I at Pepperdine University as an undergrad, then at Long Beach State University as a grad student — she was poised to start training at a Los Angeles sports agency when COVID torpedoed the program. Suddenly, she needed a new plan. She landed on styling when her friend Jewell Loyd, a guard on the WNBA’s Seattle Storm and an Olympian, asked her for help. After that, a chance meeting with her longtime idol, WNBA champion Kelsey Plum of the Las Vegas Aces, led to a second partnership. Things snowballed from there, until she found herself with a busy career.

“It just caught and more opportunities kept coming my way,” Bordonaro recalls. “Everything kept bringing me to styling.”

Now, Bordonaro is crafting some of the most memorable tunnel looks in the game. Praised by the likes of the Los Angeles Times and Slam, Bordonaro has styled campaigns for Google Pixel, WNBA x Glossier, and Samsung Galaxy Watch x Women’s Health, and works with athletes of all stripes — though she always holds a big place in her heart for her sport. She believes, too, that styling can get people interested in women’s sports because, of course, “Ballers respect other ballers.”

What is your styling philosophy overall?

Styling comes from knowing who my clients are, elevating it, and making it visible. This is for their image; it’s marketing. The labels we put on each player matter to their brands. I want those to match who they are, and I want them to feel comfortable in their own skin. In general, you see athletes play, but you don’t know who they are. On the court, they can be super locked-in and Mamba mentality, but off the court, they’re a girlie girl. Understanding the culture, knowing their game and what type of person they are — it all goes into what you put them in.

Having a stylist is more like having an image consultant to me. Stylists bring everything together.

Photo: Rodney Williams

How has style become part of the athlete’s life in the last decade in ways it wasn’t before?

I can’t stress this enough, I think it’s everything. Allen Iverson broke the barrier. He came in wearing the durag and the oversize stuff; he had earrings, the braids. Michael Jordan was super stylish, too. But even though people noticed their style, I don’t know if it fully translated to the same kinds of brand deals back then. Now, especially with social media, it’s crazy. Including playoffs, the NBA has 82 games, the WNBA has 36, and you’re getting a runway every single time. There are 15 photographers ready to take the players’ pictures every time. There are so many opportunities for them to be seen. These athletes, they’re superstars; they have huge followings on social media. Brands are starting to realize it.

How did you put together Isabelle Harrison’s look for the WNBA All-Star red carpet, and what’s the secret to wearing a dress like this?  

Styling can empower the clients and help them push the limits. It’s putting clothes on them and saying, “Look how good it looks,” making them feel comfortable and hyping them up. Izzy is six-foot-three, absolutely gorgeous; a great body and a long frame. I wanted the look to be tasteful but I also wanted it to match her personality. Izzy was fearless. When I pulled up to the Andre Emery showroom and I saw these pieces, I sent her a picture and she was like, “Oh my God, I love it.” They fit perfectly. She brought her own silver heels and I got the earrings.

What was the inspiration for Kelsey Plum’s WNBA All-Star red-carpet look, and what was the look development process?

Kelsey got a major deal with the brand GSTQ, which custom-made the white blazer for her. Kelsey wants to be sexy and beautiful, but she also wants to feel like the boss she is. A blazer was perfect, but now we’re thinking, It’s Vegas, let’s make a statement. Let’s shake it up a little. We emphasized the blazer with the bedazzled bralette. We found a pair of slacks with two bedazzled stripes down the side — sporty but elevated — and the all-white Marni heeled clogs, which gave her that up but still felt comfortable and sexy.

What’s it like seeing WNBA stars get press for their style as much as their NBA counterparts?

It’s a dream come true. I played basketball my whole life and it’s been the center of my universe. Last year, the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball National Championship game was the most-watched college basketball game on any of ESPN’s platforms, ever. On social media, these girls are gonna start eating the boys up. In terms of on-court money, there’s been a pay gap for so long — it’s really amazing to see that women can make up for it in off-court and off-field deals. It’s fulfilling: We’ve come so far and it’s gonna continue to grow. People get drawn in from the style, but then they tune in and they’re like, Dang, these girls can really ball. Style can help get more people there and watching, and once you watch you’re sold.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

The Sports Stylist Playing With Personality