Looking at the Tucson streetwear scene is kinda like looking at the downtown's retail scene.
VII Grand Premium Streetwear and Sneakers, located at 178 E. Broadway, looks to change that—and with the backing of one of UA's favorite sons, current player for the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves Derrick Williams, they've got a good shot.
The shop was the brainchild of Mario Escalante, a Tucson native, Air Force veteran and Pima Community College grad who had originally planned to get into graphic design.
But when he had trouble finding work during the summer of 2012, his attention started to shift.
"I wasn’t getting a fast enough response, I was getting nervous — I always wanted to do the boutique, and I thought, 'why not try?'," he said. "You ask anyone who knows me, I've always been into fashion, sneakers. It’s always been something that I've wanted to do."
Enter Derrick Williams.
Escalante and Williams rolled in the same friend circles during Williams's time with Arizona, and bonded over a shared passion for sneakers and streetwear.
“The whole Arizona basketball team was really known for wearing the best sneakers on the basketball court, so I'd encourage them to outdo everyone,” Escalante said. “Him being from California, these type of stores are everywhere. It’s not uncommon to go down the street and see a sneaker shop or streetwear shop in L.A.”
“In Tucson, it’s something that he noticed and that I noticed, we really don't have anything. We really need it here.”
So, he decided to float the idea to Williams via text.
"I told Derrick, 'out of all the people you know, who would you say would be successful at opening a streetwear and sneaker store?' and he got back to me and said 'Paul George (current player for the NBA's Indiana Pacers), or you,' and I was like 'wow, to be mentioned as one out of all the people he knows...I figured if he said so, I’d be successful at it."