Athletes are competitive by nature, especially those in the National Football League. They want to be the best they can be on the field, garnering attention by making game-changing plays, but they also like to stand out off the field, too. When he first broke into the NFL in 2009, Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins quickly realized that professional players don’t hold back when it comes to making a fashion statement.
“Every Saturday in the NFL is basically a travel day, and most teams have a coat and tie dress code for traveling,” Jenkins said. “That basically turned into a fashion show in the locker room.”
As a first-round draft pick, Jenkins was used to being noticed when it came to his football abilities, but his fashion game wasn’t initially at an NFL level.
“That’s when I really started paying attention to the things that I wore,” he explained. “My second year in the league, 2010, is when I started getting into bow ties as a way to kind of stand out. That took off and became kind of my signature thing.”
After first dipping his toes into the fashion business in 2013 with his company Rock Avenue Bow Ties, Jenkins decided to take a full plunge into the industry this spring with business partner Jay Amin. In June, the duo launched Damari Savile, a full men’s line with a storefront at 709 Walnut Street.
“It was always my end goal,” Jenkins, 29, said. “It was just all about timing, whenever the time was right for me and I felt good about it, but also having the right team and partners in place to actually execute it, knowing that I am still a full-time football player. That’s what really allowed me to take that jump this offseason.”
Jenkins has learned on-the-job through the years running his bow tie company, but he doesn’t have any formal fashion training. He actually sees that as an advantage when it comes to the mindset and target customer at Damari Savile.
“You don’t have to be fashion forward to be a customer of ours,” he explained. “Our suit is for the everyday consumer. We have suits that you can literally wear every day. We focus on small details that will separate your everyday suit and still make it look good.”
Men in search of a new suit for their wardrobe can choose a made-to-measure custom suit, or shop from the line of ready-to-wear styles at Damari Savile. Both Jenkins and Amin had a hand in designing that line.
“For our ready-to-wear suits, we basically split the line,” Jenkins said. “I made six of them and Jay made four of them. You can see the different styles in each one, especially when you open them up and you look at the linings.”
Jenkins and Amin each have their own distinct sense of fashion, and that shows in the suit designs.
“You can usually tell who made what,” Jenkins said with a laugh. “If you look at our ready-to-wear collection, the linings and the small details from the lapels and pocket combinations that we use, are not your traditional way of thinking, I guess you could say. I enjoy not having a fashion background because I’m not locked into these age-old traditions. The creativity is kind of where my strength is.”
Damari Savile’s unique approach to design is what sets the store apart from a typical men’s clothing shop.
“We don’t really push fashion, because fashion is really all about trends and seasons and colors and what’s ‘in,’” Jenkins said. “Fashion is not individualistic, it’s very mass produced. We don’t want that. It’s hard to take something that everybody is using and make it fit the individual. We try to bring out the individual in the clothing that they wear.”
The ready-to-wear collection at Damari Savile runs between $599 and $749, while made-to-measure custom suits start at $899.
“Our custom suits are usually a collaboration between the customer and us,” Jenkins said. “We’ll ask them what their style is, what they already have in their closet, what they’re looking for. We’ll suggest some fabrics, or they might pick out their own, and we help facilitate the building of the suit.”
The name of the store is a nod to the personal backgrounds of both co-founders. Damari is Jenkins’ middle name, while Savile is a reference to Savile Row, a street in Amin’s hometown of London that’s world-renowned for its bespoke tailoring shops.
Just as they each contributed something to the Damari Savile moniker, Jenkins and Amin each bring certain fashion strengths to the table, making them a perfect fit.
“Jay does all of our fittings and he’s been awesome at it,” Jenkins said. “His tailoring and eye for detail is great, and my ability to think outside of the box and kind of break some fashion rules and really focus more on style makes our looks unique.”
Damari Savile isn’t just an investment for Jenkins’ portfolio; he’s heavily involved in the day-to-day operation of the business.
“Everything you see in our store or in our suits, I’ve had my hands on at some point,” Jenkins said. “I’m in the store, making decisions. I don’t just throw my money into things, I like to actually be part of the process, and that’s been fun.”
This offseason, Jenkins has been at Damari Savile three to four times a week, but once the season begins, he will have to scale back.
“I’ve been involved a lot, especially knowing that I’m probably going to be very unavailable once the season comes,” he said. “I’ve been putting in a lot of time just to make sure that things are in place, that we kind of get moving and started on a good foot. I also honestly just enjoy being there. It’s an awesome space. I enjoy helping people put together looks that they feel good in.”
Although his favorite job is suiting up for the Eagles, Jenkins cherishes the opportunity to engage in his hobbies and interests during the offseason.
“I enjoy learning,” he said. “I have a personality that once I learn about something, I like to pursue it. Whatever I have my eyes on at the time gets 100 percent of my attention.”
Pursuing interests outside of football is something Jenkins thinks is extremely important for all NFL players, because a professional career in sports can only last for so long.
“When the offseason is here, I’m able to work on some other skills, some other crafts, some other businesses, because I am starting to think about life after football, and I want to try to use my celebrity to help me in these areas before all of a sudden I don’t have any celebrity because I’m done playing,” Jenkins said. “I think that’s one of the things you’re starting to see league-wide. There’s an urgency among NFL players to get things done while they’re still playing, knowing that your shelf-life, influence, and popularity is very short once you step out of this league. Often times, once you step out, you don’t have much experience in anything. You’re under-prepared. The amount of hands that reach out to help you once you’re done playing are a lot less than the ones who are willing to help while you are playing. We’re trying to take advantage of the platform and the influence that we have right now.”
Between his football career, his two fashion companies, his charitable foundation, and his family (Jenkins has a wife, Morrisa, and a 3-year-old daughter, Elle), Jenkins admits he has a lot on his plate, but he isn’t concerned with being able to juggle all of his duties and responsibilities.
“It’s one of those things where I’ve kind of looked up like, ‘Oh man, I’ve got my hand in a lot of different things right now,’ but I do a good job of putting together a team to help me manage it all, to help me keep things running so that I can focus on one thing at a time,” he said. “I enjoy working. None of this really seems like work to me. I get to learn a lot, I get to do new things, be creative, feel like I’ve made something, and it’s awesome. To be able to even wear my own clothes is mind-blowing. It’s a rewarding feeling.”
When football season comes around, Jenkins is confident he’ll be able to excel as usual, despite the increased workload in his life with Damari Savile.
“I don’t see this as affecting football at all,” he said. “My play isn’t going to drop off because I’m distracted. I’m able to focus wholeheartedly on the team and the season and my play.”
Both the Eagles organization and Jenkins’ Eagles teammates have been supportive of his new endeavor this summer. Among the players to purchase suits or stop by for fittings have been Carson Wentz, Brandon Graham, Jaylen Watkins, and Mychal Kendricks. Former teammate Marcus Smith even wore a custom Damari Savile suit at his wedding.
“It’s a lot of guys, and I’m sure we’ll get a lot more as guys get back to the city,” Jenkins said, adding that the Eagles will be the best-dressed team in the NFL “by far.”
Damari Savile clothing is turning heads outside of Philadelphia, too. At the 2017 ESPY Awards in Los Angeles this July, Dewayne Dedmon of the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks wore a custom Damari Savile jacket on the red carpet. Jenkins, of course, also sported a custom suit from his store. Not surprisingly, Jenkins and his wife Morrisa were tabbed as one of the evening’s best-dressed couples by Esquire.
Jenkins’ fashion game is clearly on point these days, but for those who still haven’t quite found their look, he’s happy to help.
“We don’t try to reinvent the wheel or force our personal styles on someone else. We want people to embrace who they are and embrace their own style, and if they don’t know what their style is, to find it, and that’s kind of what we base our designs and consultations on,” he said. “We put people in things that make them comfortable, because when you feel good, you look good.”