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Terrell Owens: ‘My new line is flashy and unique, kind of like I was as a player.’

The former football star dives into a crowded athleisure clothing market

Former star NFL wide receiver Terrell Owens is looking to be reborn as a sportswear designer.

If all goes well for Owens, his new apparel line, Prototype 81, will be sold online and at brick and mortar retail outlets alongside competing brands such as Nike, Under Armour and Adidas. Owens, 42, previewed eight full looks of the collection (named after his NFL jersey number) on Monday at the MRket Tradeshow in New York. Prices for the workout and streetwear apparel, which is set to launch next spring, are expected to average around $90 retail.

“Tretorn, Guess, Members Only β€” those were some of the popular brands when I was coming up, and we couldn’t really afford any of it,” Owens said. “For me to get a pair of Nikes or anything name-brand, I had to cobble money together from my mom, my grandmother, even my dad. I wanted to have a brand that’s cool and affordable.

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 18: A model poses wearing Prototype 81 Collection by Terrell Owens at the Preview of Prototype 81 Collection at the Jacob Javits Center on July 18, 2016 in New York City.

NEW YORK, NY – JULY 18: A model poses wearing Prototype 81 Collection by Terrell Owens at the Preview of Prototype 81 Collection at the Jacob Javits Center on July 18, 2016 in New York City.

Photo by Paul Zimmerman/WireImage

“My new line is flashy and unique, kind of like I was as a player. I tried to play good and look good doing it,” said Owens of his days as a star wide receiver on the rosters of the San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys. “If you see some of my pieces in this collection, they’re a little different and unique with the colors and patterns. Based on what I’ve seen guys wear in the gym, people aren’t afraid of being fashion-forward or wearing pops of color, prints, color blocking.

“A lot of the core pieces are active and functional. But I hope they will also inspire people to work out. This isn’t a brand that’s just for a skinny consumer.”

Owens is just the latest in a long line of current and former pro athletes who’ve waded into the fashion business. Michael Jordan, David Beckham, LeBron James and Serena Williams have apparel collections, either as name-only collaborators or hands-on creative leads.

Despite being one of the best wide receivers of his era (and some say, of all time) Owens never secured a marquee sponsorship contract. “I was never endorsed by any of the big brands β€” never had my own shoe or an endorsement,” he said. “I think they probably thought I’d tarnish their brand, or be too controversial.” Owens says he was probably a little ahead of his time, that people may not have been ready for his kind of bold style. “Timing” he says, “is everything.”

Jill Hudson is the senior style writer for the Undefeated. She is an evolved nerd, a caffeinated shoe fanatic, and a maker of long lists and perfect martinis.