Fashion Geek’s Alonzo Jackson designs team jerseys for alma mater, Leo High School
In 2004 Jackson launched Fashion Geek, and today the brand operates out of three storefront locations in Chicago.
The Leo Lions varsity basketball team came roaring out of the side hallway entrance to the gym, splitting at half court into a pregame layup line in a synchronized fashion.
Leo High School’s gym is one of the most distinctive in the city of Chicago. Balcony seating overlooks the court, while two small sets of bleachers line the right side of the gym.
On this particular night in December, it was nearly packed, aside from some room in the balcony. The Lions were taking on rival De La Salle.
Under the team’s warm-ups fans could see a uniform that bore little resemblance to those of the past other than the lion and the name “Leo” lettered across the chest. In place of the traditional logo was an embroidered patch that read “geek.”
In the bleachers sat the man responsible for Leo’s new look, owner of the Fashion Geek brand and proud Leo alum Alonzo Jackson.
“I’m not kidding when I tell you pretty much every high school basketball coach has DM’d me saying ‘how can we get out of Nike, Adidas, Under Armour and get these same uniforms? These kids love your brand,’” Jackson said. “I told them, ‘not yet, but we’re working on it.’”
Jackson grew up on Chicago’s South Side, bouncing around from neighborhood to neighborhood.
During his four years at Leo High School, Jackson was known for two things: basketball and fashion. Playing basketball in the late ’90s in Chicago meant you either shared the court with some of the greatest to ever play the game in this city, or you were playing against them.
Quentin Richardson, Corey Maggette and Bobby Simmons were part of the star-studded class of 1998 that graduated a year after Jackson.
Despite his success on the court, Jackson had another plan to pursue a career in fashion design but the game has always influenced his work.
Jackson’s pursuits first led him to a brand called Custom Kings and eventually to Leaders 1354, owned and founded by streetwear legend Corey Gilkey. Gilkey became a mentor to Jackson, teaching him the business side of the fashion industry.
In 2004 Jackson launched his brand, Fashion Geek. Today the brand operates out of three storefront locations in Chicago, and all of the brand’s manufacturing is done here as well.
In 2014, Dave Ballin, director of merchandising and consumer insight for Puma approached Jackson to let him know that Puma was paying attention to what he was creating. In 2016 Jackson signed a contract with Puma, and in 2018 the two brands launched their first collection together.
“His authenticity is what drives the brand and what attracted us to him,” Ballin said.
From his very first conversations with Puma, Jackson was talking about including Leo in some capacity. He didn’t know what that would look like, but if Puma wanted to work with him, they would have to help make that happen.
It took some time, but Jackson eventually realized the best way he could give back to Leo was by combining his two passions, fashion and basketball. His idea was to design new uniforms for the team he once played for, and Puma was on board.
Jackson would design, cut and sew all of the uniforms, and Puma would provide the sneakers for the team.
“The Fashion Geek uniforms are handmade in Chicago, Illinois, strictly from Fashion Geek,” Jackson said. “I paid for it. I didn’t want it to be a tax write-off. I didn’t want it to be anything but me giving to my high school.”
In August, Jackson sat down with Leo’s coach and his former teammate on the Lions, Jamal Thompson, to discuss the IHSA uniform regulations; that’s all Jackson would discuss with Thompson, he kept his designs a secret.
Despite the coach’s persistent attempts to see a preview, Jackson didn’t show Thompson the design until he showed up at the high school — with the finished uniforms in hand — days before picture day. He designed 32 uniforms, 16 each for home and away games.
It was the first time he had been back to Leo since graduating in 1997.
“That moment was bigger than my collection dropping,” Jackson said. “Being at Leo, we struggled with tuition. Talking to my mom, that was the joke. We used to get sent home for not being able to pay the tuition, and now I’m doing the jerseys.”
Kevin Drumgoole, a senior guard at Leo, has been wearing Fashion Geek for as long as he can remember. Most of his peers at Leo can often be seen walking through Leo’s hallways with the classic geek logo scrawled across their chests.
Now, the logo represents something brand new to Drumgoole and his teammates. It’s no longer just a word; it’s a reminder that they all have greatness within them.
“Zo came from Leo himself,” Drumgoole said. “He became successful [in] a different way than everybody had him becoming successful. I feel like it should inspire us. It inspires me to play harder, better and faster every time I look down at the jersey.”