Social media influencer, former athlete, and sneaker enthusiast Kayce Kirihara aka @infamouskayce, acknowledged to The Shadow League that the fashion and culture scene in her hometown of Seattle, Washington could use a boost in originality and individuality.
“I don’t want to disrespect my city in any way because I’m so proud of being from here, but I don’t really feel like Seattle has an identifiable style,” said Kayce.
So she’s kind of crafted her life around changing that perception, by forging a career path as a recognized authority on kicks.
“I don’t like referring to myself as a ‘go-to person on sneakers’ or an ‘OG female sneakerhead,” Infamous Kayce insisted. “But I’ve been on Instagram for a while, and I do feel like I kind of gained traction with my love of sneakers; especially at the beginning of Instagram’s whole takeoff.”
“You can look at New York, LA…Atlanta, and the people from those places and pinpoint a style, a recognizable vibe” she told The Shadow League.
“I don’t feel like you can do that with Seattle. I travel so much and I like to pay attention to the different styles in the different cities I go to and think of how I can take all these different styles and incorporate them into my own.
It’s hard to put my style into a box. Traveling and appreciating different cultures is what I use to be different.”
Infamous Kayce entered the IG matrix as a vibrant hustler with a cultural understanding and natural passion for hoops and kicks. Over the years, she’s evolved into a freelance brand ambassador, amassing nearly 300,000 followers on Instagram.
“Don’t get me wrong,” Kayce said. “The city does have a fashion sense.”
“Seattle is just known as a really-tech city so what I see here is a lot of business attire mixed with sneakers, which I do appreciate,” she says.”You see a bunch of people walking around in suits with a dope pair of sneakers or you see people going to work and you look down at their feet and they have some designer kicks on.
Seattle was known back in the day for a hipster, grungy kind of look, but Seattle does have culture. You just have to go to the right areas.”
Kayce’s Instagram and Twitter pages are one of those go-to places right now, and honestly, before she started pushing kicks, her brand and her congeniality like she pushes the pill on the hardwood, Seattle wasn’t known for making fashion statements.
As a former college hooper at the University of Hawai’i at Hilo, Kayce always used her social media to display her unique style which has resulted in her becoming a WNBA/NBA host, Bleacher Report talent, and fashion model.
From interviewing Kobe Bryant to sneaker takeovers through the NBA, building fashion brands with Marshawn Lynch and her unique Nike and Jordan kicks collection, Kayce’s brand excels while staying true and original.
All About The Kicks
Despite the rapid evolution of her brand, the centerpiece of Infamous Kayce’s marketing power is still her kicks.
How many pairs of kicks does Infamous Kayce own?
“I own over 200 pairs of sneakers, she told The Shadow League. “When I counted in high school I was over 100. I’m between 200-250 now. Nike or Jordan are my favorites brands. Most of my sneakers are Jordan’s. There are a couple of numbers that I don’t really care for because I personally don’t like the style of them. I like what I like. “
Respect The Kicks
“Growing up my Dad had a crazy sneaker collection… a bunch of OGs… and always kept me laced since I was little.” Kayce proudly recalls. “I look back at old pictures and I’m like in Retro 6’s and Aqua 8’s and things like that and I’m like ‘wow’. And obviously I didn’t know this then, but I look back and I realized he kept me laced and that’s kind of what it stems from.
And being in basketball and always being in sneakers that’s where my love started for it. While people were collecting barbies, I wanted a new pair of sneakers. A lot of my sneakers were worn once or not at all. That’s where I was able to gain my respect. Being able to pull out some deadstock OG sneakers or old school sneakers that people haven’t seen in years.”
What’s the secret to Kayce being able to produce all of these retro kicks and vintage, rare footwear?
“My feet haven’t grown since the 6th grade, the 20-something social media fashion plate revealed. “So I’ve had a bunch of sneakers since middle school or high school that I can still wear to this day/”
Some of Infamous Kayce’s Dopest Projects To Date
‘Locker Looks’ By Footlocker Women Episode
WNBA Kicks Host at NBA and WNBA All-Star Weekend /Miami Art Basel
Infamous Kayce: “During the All-Star Game, we did a segment where the camera panned to different sneakers and we talked about them and I was able to talk to different celebrities and NBA players that were there like Chris Paul and Jamal Crawford.”
Kayce shared her basketball skills, inspiring the next generation of ballers, while working at WNBA ‘Her Time to Play’ camp during NBA All-Star Weekend,
She’s also an Official Bleacher Report Team Member, appearing in brand collaborations such as the Bleacher Report NBA All-Star Ruffles Celebrity Game.
“It just varies,” Kayce said of her growing list of freelance jobs.”The WNBA and other brands have a bunch of opportunities that they are trying to build on social and any opportunities they get — anything kicks related — I’m always brought on for that…I’m not employed by the WNBA, but I get to work with them,” Kayce tells The Shadow League.
Born To Ball & Brand
Kayce Kirihara was born and raised in Seattle, Washington — the birthplace of former NBA stars Nate Robinson and Jamal Crawford. She started balling at age 6 and says she didn’t drop the rock until her college career was over.
“My dad was a three-sport athlete in high school and played college baseball at Central Washington. My mom played HS volleyball and basketball,” Kayce told The Shadow League. “Both were athletic so it was instilled in me early. It was non stop. There was not one summer or weekend that I didn’t play basketball.”
Her grind earned her high acclaim at Franklin High School. The educational institution on Mt. Baker Blvd has 1,315 students and produced former NBA stars, Aaron Brooks and Jason Terry. After high school, Kayce got a college basketball scholarship. The 5-foot-6 guard had WNBA goals but says the politics of college ball dampened her hoops dreams.
“It wasn’t what I expected,” says Kayce of her college career. “I had a tough time with my coach during my first three years. Once I got done with college I was kind of burnt out…ready to get out of there”
Kayce contemplated playing overseas, but once she graduated she was hired by the WNBA’s Seattle Storm — where she was a ball girl for years — as an equipment manager and video coordinator.
“It kind of happened so fast that I put my basketball career on hold,” Kayce said. “The next thing you know I was in that position for four years and it was kind of too late to get back into training.”
That’s where Kayce says she started making connections and meeting people throughout the world of basketball and entertainment.
Her experience as a ball girl laid the foundation for her social come up.
“As a ball girl for the Storm throughout high school and college, I pretty much grew up around Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson and legendary players like that. Of course, the teams we played against had GOATS like Diana Taurasi and Tina Thompson – all those players.
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in honor of tonight's #wnbafinals game – i had the pleasure of doing my first #wnbakicks interview w/ my girl @sbird10 on her reasoning behind her dope 👵🏽 custom sneakers. stay tuned for more! 🙂 • #Repost @wnba ・・・ 👵👟 @S10Bird tells @InfamousKayce about the must-see #WNBAKicks she wore for #WNBAFinals Game 2! What's on tap for Game 3 TONIGHT? 🏀 @[email protected] ⏰ 8 pm/et 📺 ESPN2
“I built relationships with them because I was pretty much on the coaching staff,” Infamous Kayce said. “I was at every practice and every home game. So I gained the players’ trust and from that, I gained the trust of the owners, PR, and everybody who worked in the offices.
I believe in networking and keeping very strong relationships, so I was building those relationships while I was actually a full-time employee of the WNBA, which has led to where I am now, working with the league as a freelance talent.”
Making Tomboy Fashion Fabulous
Infamous Kayce’s style is sellable and sexy but trends towards fit and hip rather than club dancer sh*t. She calls herself “Tomboyish,” which might be pushing it. She’s something out of a “Beautiful Baller’s” wet dream. Few would describe her ability to crush myriad looks as “Tomboyish.”
“Multi-faceted” and “Gifted” is more like it.
She puts the kicks together with the outfit and pastes them onto a well-sculptured backdrop of body tattoos, merging the plan, the pain and the pleasure of her journey. Her decorated nails, captivating smile and natural flair make her easily identifiable.
Infamous Kayce: “I usually pick my sneakers first and try to pick an outfit around it. I usually look in my collection and choose something that I haven’t worn or seen in a long time…Or a style people haven’t been rocking. I like loud, colorful sneakers because I like my sneakers to be the statement piece of my outfit.”
Infamous Kayce’s fashion presence attracted the eye of former Seattle Seahawks running back and entrepreneur Marshawn Lynch.
When Infamous Kayce Met Beast Mode
“We had met a few times like at kickbacks, playing cards and things like that,” Infamous Kayce remembers. “So we knew of each other and we were actually in a club in Seattle and he tapped me on the shoulder and said that he saw me on Instagram and rocks with my style. He asked if I ever thought of doing my own line and if I knew a designer. My sister graduated with a degree in product development, she handles all the technical stuff and I’m the visual person. So I brought her over and introduced her. We exchanged emails and the rest is history.”
That project is Kayce’s most satisfying brand collabo to date.
It affirmed her belief that she’s moving the right way, making life-lasting ties and influencing the culture — especially in Seattle.
“Doing the collab with Marshawn was a huge blessing. That’s a dope platform. I think he’s a dope person even outside of football,” Kayce insists. “The opportunity to do business with him has been great.”
Has fame changed Kacey?
“I feel like I’ve always been very true to myself since Day 1…I’ve always done my own thing. I really get my following and why they follow me essentially and most of it is for fashion and sneakers.”
Infamous Kayce’s dedication to her brand led her to an impromptu interview with Kobe Bryant at 2019 WNBA All-Star Weekend in Las Vegas. Kayce recalls the interview as brief. “I got to the arena. I had just run into GiGi in the bathroom…It was my call time and they were like ‘Hey Kobe’s here, we’re going to interview him. You literally have two questions you can ask him. You’re going to be in and out.”
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today couldn't get any worse. i'm at a loss for words. praying for their beautiful family and everyone else right now. my heart is completely shattered. i will forever cherish this memory, it was an honor to meet you both… rest in paradise Kobe and GiGi. MAMBA & MAMBACITA FOREVER 💔🕊
Kayce describes Black Mamba (RIP) as humble, nice, and welcoming…” and his energy… even though I didn’t get that much time with him,” she said, “was unmatched.”
COVID-19 Can’t Knock The Hustle
Before the COVID-19 pandemic shut the world down, Kacey’s career was rolling. She stayed booked and affiliated with several brand influencer programs that kept her busy and traveling. The effects of the pandemic forced Kacey to dig deep and think about how she could continue to secure the bag.
“In the beginning it was scary. I wondering where my next check was going to come from because a lot of brands informed me that they were putting a hold on influencer programs,” she told The Shadow League. “I depend on brands to provide sponsorships and promotional stuff, that’s where I make most of my money. Not being able to travel to other cities is the worst part because there aren’t a lot of those opportunities in Washington for what I do.”
FULL SPEED AHEAD: STEADY BRANDIN’
“I brainstormed with one of my really close friends in LA and we discussed creating a mask, which we did and it has been very successful during quarantine,” Kayce revealed. “We started a brand collection around her already established brand. It has kept us busy. I’m still using my platform to market and sell the item. I’ve learned a lot about myself.”
As Infamous Kacey continues to collaborate with brands, host, model, and expand her reach, she’s also blazing a trail and enhancing the credibility of her city when it comes to blending the culture of sports and fashion.
The end goal?
“My own sneaker collaboration with a major brand,” said Kacey, who told the Shadow League that she was using this interview to speak her dream into existence. “I would obviously love Nike or Jordan, but I’m not discounting anybody else. That’s the end goal to have a collaboration with a huge line…Yeah…That’s the goal .”