Behind the styles of some of the greatest athletes including NFL hotshots and NBA rockstars, stands Jhoanna Alba, the founder and principal designer of ALBA: Bespoke Clothing. She has created hundreds of styles for her famous clientele and has dressed sports heroes like Magic Johnson and Russell Westbrooke.
Having such a niche of unique customers, Alba has had quite the ride during her career. Her success lies in her ability to create what her clients want in a short time span.
We sat down with the athletic style guru to ask about her success in fashion and find out what it is like to dress superstars like Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Andre Drummond.
How did you end up in fashion?
My mother taught me how to sew by hand when I was six years old. I started sketching designs when I was 10 and making my own clothes. I always knew I wanted to be in the fashion industry.
One of my first jobs was working at a tuxedo shop in Beverly Hills. At 16, I was managing the highest volume tuxedo shop in the country. I loved working and styling Grooms for their wedding. I was styling major events and fell in love with menswear.
Tell us a little about your experience coming up in the fashion world - how competitive is it?
When I started my first company at the age of 21, I asked a lot of questions to potential clients. What would separate me from other companies? I took a lot of notes and executed a game plan. Feedback is important for the growth of any company. As far as competition, I do not believe there is competition in the fashion industry. Everyone has their own vision and purpose.
What's the craziest request you've ever had whilst making clothes?
I recently made this for Andre Drummond for The Espy's. Being 6'11, 280lbs, this was a unique design we created. We hand painted the jacket to give it a splash of color and completed the look we were going for. Red is Andre's favorite color so it was important to incorporate it on his suit.
How would you define your style?
Classic with a modern flare.
What is it like creating outfits for athletes - is it difficult given their different body dimensions?
Every client has their own input. It's a collaboration and my job is to educate them. With 36 different measurements, our master tailors cut the perfect fit for each individual.
How is it competing against the big male names within the industry?
Having a production house in DTLA, we are able to produce suits within 24 hours. ALBA is a very customer service driven company with our brand being the main focus. Other designers have their own business mottos that we respect.
What's your busiest season?
We are busy year round being we service NBA, MLB, and NFL. In addition, we have partnered with Robert Mata, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, stylists in which we manufacture clothes for the HBO hit show Ballers as well as his personal wardrobe. We also service clients in the entertainment industry, so nonetheless, we are busy year round.
What's next for you this year?
We have partnered with a family from Colombia where we have hired single mothers to make hand made custom shoes ranging from size 10-19. Our ultimate goal is to build a school across the street from the factory where their children can get an education, while their mothers work. It has been an honor working with Donum, which means blessed in Latin.
Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.
In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.
What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.
Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.
Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.
While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.
According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.
In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.
Source-Alex Brandon, AP
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.
Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.
The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.