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Get the First Look at LeBron James’s New Wynwood Store

Frances Dodds

The story of LeBron James started decades ago, on a basketball court in Akron, Ohio—and the same can be said for the story of the designer-sneaker-and-streetwear emporium he founded with his childhood friends Frankie Walker Jr. and Jaron Kanfer. And at UNKNWN’s new flagship store in Miami, which opened December 5, a basketball court is once again at the heart of the experience.

James says that when the trio set out to build their dream store in Wynwood—poetically, on the site of a former shoe warehouse—they decided that more than half of the establishment’s square footage would be dedicated to bringing people together. “The centerpiece is the courtyard with a basketball court, which is special to myself, Frankie, and Jaron because that’s where we came together growing up and built friendships that will last a lifetime,” says the NBA star. “The most important thing we want people to feel is a sense of community. Every detail, by design, is intended to bring people together in a way that many haven’t seen before as part of the consumer experience.”

UNKNWN recruited designer John Margaritis of New York Sunshine to envision the store, and Margaritis was thrilled by the opportunity because the founders were so willing to think outside the box. “Retail is super boring right now,” he says. “There are plenty of prestigious multi-brand sport-and-street-inspired stores across the world all carrying the same brands. But we wanted to make UNKNWN a must-see destination.” The outdoor courtyard is surrounded by 70-by-20-foot walls that will initially feature a sunset mural by Margaritis himself, and 20-foot-tall live palm trees.

Inside the store, raw, industrial materials like metal, concrete, and glass are juxtaposed with more whimsical, zen elements like a plant wall and a reflection pond. “Right in the middle of the store are suspended upside-down copper basketball hoops with water running down into a pond below,” Margaritis says. “The chain-link net is welded upside down, but when you look into the reflection pond, the hoop is right side up. The pond creates a mirror effect while at the same time evoking a calm tranquility.” The installation’s presence provides a “break from retail” for shoppers, he says. “It’s important to me that when you’re in the store, you don’t ever feel like product is being pushed on you.”

“To me this is the very definition of the word ‘UNKNWN,’ ” says Margaritis of the concept of placing an art installation in the center of a retail store.
Courtesy of UNKNWN

In terms of location, the founders say there was no doubt that the gritty, fast-evolving arts and entertainment district of Wynwood was the right home for UNKNWN’s next chapter. (They opened their first location in nearby Aventura eight years ago.) “Miami has been good to us as business owners,” Walker says. “We moved here as young men from Akron and earned the respect of the industry.”

“There are countless details to the store that speak to our life here in Miami and represent Wynwood specifically,” says Walker.
Courtesy of UNKNWN
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Now they hope their flagship can be a creative launching pad for other artists and entrepreneurs in the community they’ve come to love. “The courtyard is intended to be a canvas for continuous collaborations,” Kanfer says. “We’re excited to welcome world-renowned artists, locally based creatives, and brands to express their visions in that space. We aren’t limited to just muralists.” He sees endless possibilities ahead. “Wynwood is growing and evolving at lightning pace, and that constant newness and change has been a source of creative energy for us.”

Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest