THE NBA'S new dress code may have rankled some--the 76ers' Allen Iverson said the league went "way overboard" by taking away players' individuality--but it has been a boon to élevée clothing, an appointment-only L.A. fashion house that caters to scores of NBA players. Since commissioner David Stern decreed on Oct. 17 that players must wear sport coats or suits on game days, the six-year-old company has had "a huge influx" of orders, says CEO Mike O'Brien. "It had been a 50-50 split between casual wear and suiting for NBA clients," O'Brien added. "Now it's 75% suitings. Players that hadn't ever worn suits are wearing them."
Élevée's custom-made, hand-stitched suits sell for $1,600 to $15,000, with shirts priced at $250 to $650. "I try to get the nice, soft fabrics," says Shaquille O'Neal, whose initial order from élevée, five years ago, was for 52 shirts and 20 pairs of pants. "All the cool fabrics." The company specializes in delivering suits anywhere at any time after clients, who include the Cavs' LeBron James, the Warriors' Baron Davis and, yes, Iverson, meet with designers, stylists and tailors to create a personalized "pattern." One day last March, O'Brien got a noontime call from Davis asking for a pinstriped suit by 6 p.m. "He had just landed in Los Angeles and got invited to Kanye West's post-Grammy party," says O'Brien. Élevée's tailors had the pants and shirt ready to deliver (along with shoes) to Davis at his hotel; they cut it close with the jacket and had to send it ahead to the party, where it awaited Davis as he stepped out of his limo.
Élevée dresses many pro jocks: Barry Bonds, Ben Roethlisberger, evening wear for Lisa Leslie. But its core customers are the stylish men of the NBA. Says Shaq, "There are two types of suits: The 'go meet Bill Gates' suit, and the 'show-off suit.' The 'go meet Bill Gates' suits I get from élevée."