This Northeastern basketball player dreams of a career in fashion

Quirin Emanga, a guard on the men’s basketball team, hems a pair of pants in the Athletics offices. During the forced hiatus due to the global pandemic, Emanga has learned how to sew and hopes to pursue a career in fashion after basketball. Photo by Ruby Wallau/Northeastern University

Over the summer, back home in Germany, Quirin Emanga played pickup basketball in preparation for his upcoming season at Northeastern. Emanga is a 6 foot 5 inch sophomore guard for the Huskies, who reached the final round of the Colonial Athletic Association tournament last season.

During his six months away from campus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Emanga was developing another interest besides basketball. He asked his mother for lessons on sewing. When he came across a broken handheld sewing machine, which looks like a large stapler, he fixed it and went to work.

“I tried fixing my clothes,” Emanga says. “If the sleeves were too long, I liked to make a cuff and then sew it. For stuff like that, I would use the machine or hand-sew it.”

Emanga finds himself dreaming of a career in fashion. He would not be the first basketball player to make that move. Michael Jordan has his own clothing line, Nike’s Jordan Brand; Russell Westbrook and Rajon Rondo are among current NBA stars who are interested in fashion.

Emanga was drawn to the field by a YouTube fashion show, PAQ, created by four friends in London. Watching it became an obsession for him.

“I really like retro fashion, vintage—the way people were dressing in the 1990s and 2000s,” he says. “I think things like gender boundaries and sustainability are important. Fashion is obviously a big polluter of the planet. That’s why something like 70 percent of my closet is thrifted. I try to not buy new things. I like to go thrifting, reuse old clothes, and remake clothes out of old pieces.”

He has been experimenting with transforming sweaters into vests, and cutting T-shirts in half to sew the mismatched pieces together. 

Repurposed clothing can be essential for someone of Emanga’s height. Thrift shops and other clothing stores aren’t exactly brimming with his sizes.

“I like oversized clothing anyway,” he says. “Clothes don’t have to fit perfectly on my body. If the clothes are loose, I don’t have a problem with them.”

Emanga was born in France—French is his native language—but raised mainly in a town near Stuttgart, Germany where he excelled at basketball. At Northeastern he intended to study business, but quickly realized that it wasn’t for him. He switched his major to graphic design, and is now planning to add a minor in fashion.

“I think there is a good balance between the basketball and the art,” he says of his two creative interests. “The two are very different, but they are also similar. Creativity is a big part of basketball. Players that are creative are able to come up with new moves or know what moves to use in situations, because that is how a player expresses himself. And obviously in fashion you see competitiveness among the different designers and the different houses.”

Emanga is a defensive-minded guard who will be asked to defend multiple positions when the Huskies open their season on Thanksgiving Day at the DC Paradise Jam in Washington, where they will meet George Mason at 2 p.m. on ESPN3. 

Athletes like him used to be warned against “distractions” like fashion, in belief that they should focus entirely on their sport. But Emanga believes that his outside interests, including fashion and political activism—in issues of the environment and racial and gender justice—will help bring out the best in him as a player.

“I think it’s very important to have a balance between basketball and something else,” he says. “As athletes, we focus on our performances—how we perform is oftentimes how we view ourselves. If we have a bad game, we feel like, oh, I’m a terrible person, I’m not worth anything. But that’s not true because I feel like I can define my self-worth in a lot of ways. 

“I want to see how can I contribute to this planet being better in 10 years, 20 years, and 50 years. I’m seeing myself not just as a basketball player but also as a human being.”

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