Brinson spent offseason embracing model life

February 3rd, 2021

MIAMI -- found himself walking the SoHo neighborhood on a cold mid-December New York City day, far from the outfield in climate-controlled Marlins Park. Instead of a uniform and cleats, Brinson bundled up in an Artistix sweater, a Lords & Fools Paris wool blend milor coat, Levi's jeans and Christian Louboutin sneakers. He swapped a glove and a bat for a crossbody pouch from the Prada Re-Nylon Spring '21 Collection.

Two months removed from the Major League Baseball postseason stage, the Marlins outfielder was dressed to impress en route to the Fashion District for his first editorial photoshoot. Brinson would feature heavily on Andy Hilfiger's website (Tommy's brother and a longtime presence in the fashion industry), where vintage pieces are sold and their stories are told. Items he modeled sold out within a week.

"Just something I've decided to get into, a little avenue besides baseball," Brinson said. "Obviously baseball is still my No. 1 priority, but it's just something I'm interested in and something I'm taking for a spin."

These days, it's not uncommon to witness the intersection of sports and fashion. Cameramen follow players from all leagues as they arrive at a stadium or an arena and head to the locker room, decked out in their best. But the movement hasn't quite made it fully to baseball, despite guys like Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts and Padres left-hander Blake Snell embodying high-fashion swagger. Brinson and his stylist Sandra Madjdi want to change that.

Until recently, all Brinson thought about was baseball. Clothes had always interested the 26-year-old, and he looked to former Miami Heat players Dwyane Wade and LeBron James from afar as inspiration. But Brinson didn't know he could pull it off until Madjdi pushed him out of his comfort zone.

Madjdi, who initially settled into the Washington D.C. metro area with her family when they left Persia, grew up a sports fan. She remembers attending a Washington football game with her late father and relishing the stadium atmosphere. It sparked her dream of styling athletes. Madjdi became friends with Brinson more than two years ago, but it wasn't until after the COVID-19-affected 2020 season that he approached her about embarking on this new path. The image crafter previously styled David Ortiz during his final two seasons, and she has also worked with David Justice, Clinton Portis and Chad Johnson.

Like those athletes, the 6-foot-5 Brinson provides a unique look to the fashion world.

"It's never expected. It's the unexpected," Madjdi said of the appeal. "You don't expect an athlete to know or wear or be a fashion-sense man or human, right? And also, the average model is not 6'5". He is tall as hell, so when you dress them a specific way, the eyes of the audience are going to be captivated in a different essence because of the unexpected, and then also the fact that, 'Damn, these people are tall as hell.' They stand out."

(Left) Tommy stars and stripes shirt. Represent jeans. Bally sneakers. (Right) Vintage Tommy cable knit American flag sweater.Photos by Yongqi Liu | Stylist: Sandra Madjdi | Assistant stylist: Cherie Pickett

When Brinson decided to go all-in on this endeavor, Madjdi emphasized that he was playing in her sandbox -- that of "Major League fashion." Much like the training routine Brinson follows to prepare for a baseball season, modeling also would take discipline and practice. There are steps along the way, a process that Madjdi affectionately calls the "Sandra Effect."

It started in the closet, where Madjdi redid Brinson's wardrobe based on his lifestyle and taste. Then the exercises began. She asks all her clients to look in their closets and decide what each piece is for. Next, they must stand naked in front of a mirror and pick out three positive things to affirm about themselves on a daily basis. Over a six-week process, Madjdi will question the client about it. All of this is to add confidence in one's skin -- what she calls the most important thing -- to complement the layers of clothes, hair and makeup a person puts on.

From there, it's about application. Brinson must be consistent with his look each week. At an appearance during The Players Alliance's Pull Up Neighbor Tour last month, Brinson wore the organization's black T-shirt with khaki shorts, calf-length socks and a backwards black cap. It's a conscious effort, one that involves hearing Madjdi's voice in his head, reminding him to purposely choose items like a watch, sunglasses and shoes for an outfit. As a public figure, Brinson needs to always be on his game -- pun intended -- when it comes to his appearance.

Lewis Brinson in Tommy Jeans red white and blue Snoop rugby shirt, with designer Andy Hilfiger and stylist Sandra Madjdi.Photo by Yongqi Liu

Brinson's style continues to evolve, but it can best be described as "Japanese-European street" per Madjdi. The fabrics -- from dress shirts to suits to track suits -- are from Japan. The cut and design are European, providing the fresh, chic look contrasted by the edginess of Japanese street wear. The "Sandra Effect" fuses Eastern and Western cultures to bring out the it factor in a person. Because of Brinson's height, Madjdi asked her mentor, fashion designer Carlos Campos, to custom-make some pieces that wouldn't be available in sample sizes.

"She's kind of put me in some stuff I normally wouldn't wear. Now I love it," Brinson said. "I think it's unique because I like to put my [mid] socks over my jeans, and we're trying to start that trend. Back in the day, I used to rock that. It's something that's trying to make a signature look for me or something like that."

Once Brinson built up that foundation in training, it was time to find the right fit for his first foray in the modeling world. The pioneering Tommy Hilfiger brand was a no-brainer, with its timeless message surrounding inclusivity. It is no stranger to the overlap of sports, music, arts and fashion that Brinson and Madjdi want to bring to baseball. Past collaborations include the R&B group TLC, the NFL's New York Giants and more. Madjdi had partnered with the Hilfigers to bring in some of her clients to model the vintage clothing collection. She, Andy Hilfiger and Campos discussed Brinson.

During his photoshoot, Brinson donned various one-of-a-kind vintage or resale pieces from the Andy Hilfiger archive. In one, he rocked a Tommy Jeans red white and blue rugby shirt -- a remake of a Snoop Dogg jersey from the 1990s. In another, he sported a vintage Tommy cable-knit American flag sweater paired with Represent distressed jeans and Bally sneakers.

"You fit right in now," Hilfiger said in a video posted on Brinson's Instagram. "Your whole look and swag and just the way you wear everything."

Since that initial photoshoot, Brinson has returned to New York City. Two weeks ago, he wore the Tommy Jeans 1997 stars and stripes shirt with pierced twill and applied stars to Louis Vuitton’s temporary residency in the Miami Art District. The multifaceted installation included an engaging outdoor environment with larger-than-life balloon figures and sculptures to debut the fashion house's Spring-Summer 2021 Men’s Collection in North America. Brinson is following a tenet of Madjdi's strategy: Seek synergy every month.

Brinson invited Hilfiger to throw out the first pitch at a game at Marlins Park, but he mentioned possibly dressing the team instead. Perhaps Brinson's teammates are keen, seeing as and joined him at the Louis Vuitton showcase. While Brinson considers his trademark wearing calf-length socks over his pants, Rojas' is undoubtedly his shoe collection.

"You're going to be the coach, you're going to be the captain of that and coach these men into thinking differently," Madjdi said. "Instead of coming on that field or going in with just regular clothes, why not be dressed up? Why not baseball be looked at in that way? That's what we're going to do this year."

The hope is to capitalize on the success of the Hilfiger photoshoot, drawing the attention of the corporate brand and others that would lead to fashion week or longevity campaigns. In the meantime, Brinson will be the face of Madjdi's clothing line to be released this spring. They may even partner on a separate fashion product.

Just as Brinson wants to become a World Series champion after experiencing a taste of the postseason in 2020, the same could be said for his place in the fashion industry. Both require countless hours of dedication and practice, just using different muscles.

"I've always told them, 'Listen, I need to make my name on the baseball field first, so we can blow this up even bigger,'" Brinson said. "That was a really cool experience. I've never been part of something like that. It was a very, very cool experience."