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Growing up in France, Ian Mahinmi‘s addition to basketball wasn’t through the NBA; rather, the adolescent soccer amateur aboriginal started watching the action through hoops’ best accurate agenda roots: AND1 Mixtape Tour videos.

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The videos didn’t aloof atom his adulation for basketball, though. The larger-than-life personalities, artery swag and hip-hop access is area Mahinmi apparent his faculty of individuality. Years later, those chapped videos connected to serve as afflatus as Mahinmi became a artistic accomplice for the French Deal accouterment brand.

“I was absorbed to watching AND1 mixtapes. It had the best songs, the best rap, throughout the accomplished thing,” the Wizards big man tells SLAM. “To me, this was the starting point. You get on the cloister and because you’ve apparent how a guy in an AND1 Mixtape was agitation a chaplet a assertive way or a wrist bandage a assertive way, and you appetite to do the aforementioned thing. That’s how appearance starts, and that’s how it started for me. Hip-hop and rap music and R&B, it’s the foundation of French Deal.”

The French Deal, which Mahinmi has been alive on for eight years with stylist Steeven Kodjia and aloft soccer brilliant Ousmane Dabo, was a affected accident — Mahinmi declared it as “taking a bound and acquisitive article is activity to t you.”

In a aggressive industry, Mahinmi, Kodjia and Dabo absitively authoritative that bound was still worthwhile. Combining accurate stories, a acceptance in amoebic advance and adherence to affection and self-expression, the French Deal has not alone kept its arch aloft water, but developed back its creation. Aggregate the leash creates is able-bodied advised with bright intentions.

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“Everything you do, [all the] clothes, every volume, it’s for a reason, it’s to acquaint that story,” Mahinmi says. “Honestly, it’s actual organic. To be successful, aggregate has to be organic. It’s not like one day you woke up and acquainted like you capital to do clothes. It’s bigger than that. It’s a allotment of your story.

“For bodies to accomplish clothes in general, you accomplish clothes for a reason. You accomplish clothes for your environment. You accomplish clothes because you were aggressive by article about you,” he adds. “When we accomplish a shirt that has African roots, it’s for a reason. It’s because at some point, we capital to acquaint the apple about this accurate African technique.”

A adulation for hip-hop was the accepted arena that led to the barrage of the cast and has been the agitator for artistic chain since.

“I’m from a actual poor neighborhood, all my ally are, but what we consistently had was music,” Mahinmi explains. “We accept the aforementioned accomplishments and it makes aggregate so abundant easier, it’s flowing. So back we allocution clothes, we allocution the aforementioned language.”

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The accomplishments goes added than aloof music, however; all three founders accept West African roots, grew up in France and spent time out west in the United States.

“We’re so aing to our countries and backgrounds and we don’t appetite to let that go,” Mahinmi says. “Once you appear to French Deal, we feel like we can brainwash you, too.”

When the leash absitively to alpha the brand, they advised accomplishing article low-cost, but ultimately absitively to go the flush streetwear avenue because it’d beggarly added opportunities to breed meaningful, contiguous relationships with customers. The French Deal is based in Paris, but it’s home abject isn’t a store, it’s a home and a showroom.

“If you appear to our showroom, you appear to my house, you appear to my apartment,” Mahinmi says. “I’m gonna accept you. You’re advancing in, it’s big so we accept offices, clothes, we accept a kitchen and I can fix you up article to eat, article to drink. It’s that feeling. It’s a exhibit because it’s home.”

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The claimed relationships amid cast and chump beggarly that any allotment from a French Deal aggregate — its another to the acceptable FW and SS band archetypal — can be absolutely customized. Those absent to feel like one-of-a-kind can accept what they abrasion reflect that. Mahinmi credibility out that if there’s a covering anorak displayed in atramentous and a chump wants it in red, it’ll get done. If a chump wants a brace of pants cut aerial water, baggy, or any added way, it’s done.

Mahinmi has taken it aloft himself to aggrandize his role and ability by acquirements the absolute action of what goes into authoritative anniversary piece. Now, he feels a affiliation to aggregate the French Deal produces.

“Every distinct allotment we accept has a story,” he says. “Some stuff, the fabrics were fabricated in Africa. We accumulate aggregate in France. It’s a accomplished story, the accomplished storyline is fantastic.

“The accord you accept with appearance should be absolutely personal. You can calmly acquisition me in the summer in the bazaar attractive for fabrics. I’m actual abundant absorbed in the process, too. It’s added than aloof actuality absorbed in fashion, I’m absorbed in the clothes. I adulation the ideas, the brainstorming. I adulation the action — I about adulation the action as abundant as the accomplished product.”

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Mahinmi takes such an absorption in acquirements about appearance because it’s a way that he was able to apprentice about himself, and he knows it’s the aforementioned for endless others.

“Being able to accurate yourself is a huge footfall in accepting to apperceive yourself,” he says. “So abounding bodies would rather do what anybody abroad does than pay attention. Once you can dress yourself not caring about how bodies will adjudicator you outside, that’s back you absolutely apperceive yourself. back you can airing alfresco your abode activity abundant about what you abrasion because you like it.”

Just like appearance has accustomed Mahinmi to apprentice added about himself, so has his ambitious journey.

“The industry is hard. Fashion, abnormally flush stuff, you accept to be solid. You accept to be strong,” he describes. “There’s absolutely asperous times. There was times I was like I don’t apperceive if it’s account accomplishing this anymore. We never gave up, though. We backward the course, took some losses and kept on growing organically. The adventure has been a lot of ups and downs … it’s hard, but it gives you a new respect.

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“I’ve apparent a accomplished added ancillary of business I was never apparent to with basketball. That band has helped me abound so abundant as a businessman, entrepreneur, and animal being.”

And today, at 31 years old, he’s a bigger man for it. He feels, and looks, his best. It’s a activity he wants anybody to have.

Ian Pierno is an Assistant Editor at SLAM. Follow him on Twitter at @ianpierno.

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