Esther Wallace, Founder and Designer of Playa Society, models the new Black History Month-inspired T-shirt. (Courtesy of Playa Society)

Playa Society, as part of its ongoing collaboration with the WNBA, has dropped a special edition T-Shirt celebrating Black History Month.

The shirt features a design that reads “WNBA Black History Every Game” and is available for purchase on Playa Society’s website.

“The thing about Black History Month is that it should never be reduced to just one month in general, and that’s never the approach that I would take to designing anything for Black History Month,” Esther Wallace, Founder and Designer of Playa Society, tells Just Women’s Sports.

For Wallace, a former Division I and professional basketball player, the February collaboration is a chance for her to honor and applaud the athletes of the WNBA.

“Eighty percent of the players are Black women,” she says. “That’s something we want to talk about and celebrate all the time because it’s so important for girls like me to see that representation and, even beyond that, for just the world in general to see that and to celebrate it.

“That’s really to me what the WNBA represents. Every single time that I watch a WNBA game, I feel like in so many different ways and so many little ways and sometimes in big ways, the players on the court are contributing to the progression of Black women, of the Black community, of women’s sports.”

WNBA players have been an integral part of Wallace’s success as a designer, supporting her before Playa Society officially launched. Wallace’s Female Athlete” collection quickly took off in 2018, thanks in large part to players like Elena Delle Donne, Sylvia Fowles, Candace Parker and Sue Bird wearing the T-shirt from the beginning.

The graphic tee features the phrase with a line drawn through the world “Female.” Wallace’s own experience playing basketball at Fairleigh Dickinson and overseas inspired her to create a product dedicated to equality for women in sports.

“Every player who represented the brand early made a huge difference because honestly, as a solo entrepreneur starting out on a new venture in a space that is not well-supported, as a Black woman entrepreneur, we often don’t receive the support and resources that we need,” she says. “So any support that I got from WNBA players and professional athletes meant the world to me.”

The encouragement Wallace received from WNBA stars helped her push through the challenges of early entrepreneurship and gave her the confidence to build Playa Society around the success of the “Female Athlete” shirt.

“There were times when I had conversations with myself internally, like, ‘Candace Parker believes in this. You have to keep going,'” she says.

Wallace is now hoping to pay that support forward, using her latest collaboration to give back to other creators and entrepreneurs.

A percentage of proceeds from the “WNBA Black History Every Game” T-shirt will be donated to Black Girl Ventures, an organization that provides Black and Brown woman-identifying founders with access to the resources needed to build their businesses.

“As a Black woman entrepreneur, supporting Black women-owned businesses and ventures is really important to me,” Wallace says. “It’s full circle to be able to deliver this specific project that shines a light on Black players in the league, while also paying it forward to uplift other Black women in business.”

(Courtesy of Playa Society)

While Wallace says the WNBA’s influence is still untapped in many ways, the athletes of the league have become prominent cultural figures and fashion icons.

Liz Cambage, Arike Ogunbowale, Diamond DeShields and Kahleah Copper are just a few players currently on Wallace’s mood board. Wallace is not alone in her reverence for the athletes’ style, with their pregame looks making a splash on social media and underscoring their uniqueness and effortless swagger, qualities innate to the WNBA.

“The thing about fashion and style is that it such a form of self-expression, and I feel like for a group of women that aren’t often heard, they’re using that as just their form of communicating and expressing themselves,” Wallace says. “I think that is so dope for them to be able to use fashion in that way.”

Wallace is building Playa Society into another avenue for fashion and women’s sports to intersect, with WNBA athletes leading the way.

“What I want to do with Playa Society is to be able to iconize them,” she says.

Clare Brennan is an associate editor at Just Women’s Sports.