About three years ago, in 2017, Liz Beecroft started posting pictures of herself sporting her favorite sneakers — Balenciaga knit high tops, Adidas Yeezy Boost 700s, and Nike Air Jordans on Instagram.
She curated her feed around the “hypebae” persona in order fit in with other female sneakerheads like San Poeze (@girlonkicks) and Wendy Lam (@nitro_licious), who post about the sneaker drops and project a luxe, idealistic-looking lifestyle. "I felt like in order to be accepted into this community you had to play the part," explained Beecroft.
But 29-year-old Beecroft, a social worker who provides psychotherapy to children and families in the foster care system, felt like she was leading a double life. Keeping up with sneakerheads while hiding her other passion from the feed began to take a toll on her mental health. After a visit to her therapist, who told her not to “stay in one lane,” Beecroft decided to show her followers her mental health expertise while continuing to post sneaker content.
Her feed today includes a mix of colorful graphics about expressing our feelings along with photos of her rocking streetwear and cool, unique sneakers in every color of the rainbow. With 18k followers, Beecroft has successfully carved her own distinct lane as a female in the sneaker world. But don’t call her an “influencer” — the last thing she wants to do is create a “perfect” feed or promote a product or company she doesn’t believe in.
“My love of streetwear kind of stems from my love of basketball.”
Beecroft’s main focus is to create a conversation around mental health in an industry that doesn’t usually acknowledge it. She’s done product collaborations, consulting, and marketing campaigns for brands like Nike and The Hundreds that have merged streetwear and mental health, and is very particular about each project she takes on. Her latest venture is a collaboration with UNKNWN, the Miami-based streetwear brand and retailer founded by Lebron James.
The collaboration, which dropped on November 9 as a limited-edition project, came about after UNKNWN reached out to Beecroft via email in late 2019. Working with UNKWN was a fitting partnership for Beecroft, who loves to play basketball in her free time and spends her days rocking colorful streetwear and sneakers. “My love of streetwear kind of stems from my love of basketball,” Beecroft said.
Titled “The Sport of Self Care,” the five-piece collection was created to spread awareness around the concept of “mental fitness,” which centers on keeping your mind at its best so you can perform well, whether you’re going into a basketball game or giving an important speech. According to Athletes for Hope, about 35 percent of pro athletes experience mental illness that may result in stress, eating disorders, burnout, depression, and anxiety. “I wanted to give a nod to those who recognize the importance of the mental hustle and starting from within,” Beecroft said in a press release.
The Florida-based UNKNWN team and NYC-based Beecroft worked together almost entirely remotely, experiencing production delays and other curveballs due to the pandemic. Ultimately, the team persevered and created a successful outcome: colorful, comfortable pieces that make a meaningful statement.
“It’s kind of like a journey for your mind.”
The collection includes key elements true to the UNKNWN aesthetic, such as streetwear touches, consistent logos, and versatile designs. There’s a pair of sweat shorts and an oversized hoodie similar to styles in the UNKNWN Sport collection, made in the same comfy materials like French Terry and cotton-brushed fleece. There’s also a blue tie-dye tee that closely resembles UNKNWN’s recent drop of tie-dye apparel. Like UKNWN’s pieces, the garments are designed to transition seamlessly from the courts to the streets.
For the messaging, Beecroft was heavily inspired by LeBron James’ recent series with the Calm app, which features guided talks from James about managing emotions and sleep and maintaining balance to become mentally fit. Comprised of a hoodie, two T-shirts, a pair of sweat shorts, and a basketball, the five-piece collection features quotes like “Commit to yourself,” “Preparation matters more than competition,” and “Be kind to your mind.”
To infuse her aesthetic into the collection, Beecroft worked closely with friend and graphic designer, Chris (@badboypapi). Each garment is decorated with green, blue, and pink details such as oversized squiggle designs and some iteration of the collection logo — a picture of a brain surrounded with Beecroft’s Instagram handle, @lizbcroft and UKNWN on either side. The biggest standout piece is perhaps the basketball, complete with a blue, pink, and orange swirl print that resembles the brain’s complex folds. The theme of color is no surprise if you’ve glanced at Beecroft’s vibrant Instagram.
“I tend to gravitate toward brighter colors on the days I feel more upbeat, more positive, more focused,” Beecroft said.
Select proceeds from the collaboration will be donated to the JED Foundation, a non-profit that helps protect emotional health and prevent suicide in teens. The JED Foundation hits close to home for Beecroft, who works with children in foster care and has dealt with anxiety and depression since she was a teen. “I felt it made the most sense to focus on the emotional health of teens and young adults as they’re the future generation fighting to make positive change in the world,” she said.
Though Beecroft previously designed sneakers for Nike dubbed “In My Feels” and a mental health-themed T-shirt for The Hundreds earlier this year, collaborating with UNKNWN was her first time developing a full collection.UNKNWN has partnered with a variety of streetwear brands (like Chinatown Market) and artists (like Corey Damon Black) for past collections, but UNKNWN x Liz Beecroft might be the retailer’s most colorful, text-driven collaboration yet.
“It’s kind of like a journey for your mind,” Beecroft said. “You’re always going to see something new when you look at it.”
With its strong messaging, impactful cause, and standout designs, this collection is sure to create a lasting effect on streetwear aficionados and mental health advocates alike. Hopefully the streetwear community (along with the general public) will continue advocating to remove the stigma around mental health and recognize the importance of keeping mentally fit.
Beecroft aims to continue the mental health conversation by teaming up with companies who share her vision. “My hope is to continue to work with brands either through collaborations or even behind the scenes to continue to create impactful mental health initiatives with the help of licensed professionals,” she said. “I think it’s just showing that we can have these impactful conversations in streetwear and it doesn’t just have to be about us flexing for the 'gram.”