At the beginning of every season, you might run through a list of things you might want to buy—for summer, that may include a swimsuit, sandals, and… a tennis skirt?
As of early June, one of the frontrunners for the trend of the summer appears to be tennis-inspired: prim polo shirts, A-line skirts, monochromatic halter mini dresses, and other pieces you might normally spot on the courts at Wimbledon or the U.S. Open—except, now, they’re on Instagram.
It’s not completely out of left field: Athleisure has been dominating the industry for years, though it’s moved beyond the leggings-and-sports bra mentality. Now, brands are moving into the next phase of this trend, tailoring their collections to specific activities and sports, infusing performance fabrics and silhouettes with a design sensibility. And tennis is proving to be the early favorite from this wave.
Outdoor Voices just debuted its first-ever tennis collection—a project that founder and CEO Tyler Haney says has been in the works for about 14 months; Tory Burch has incorporated tennis-specific pieces into her sportswear label, Tory Sport, since it launched in 2015; brands like Lilly Pulitzer and Lacoste are bringing back archival tennis silhouettes for a 2018 shopper. The sport’s relationship to fashion isn’t exactly new: The Williams sisters have both been involved with the industry for years (and Serena just launched her first-ever solo clothing label, which has sporty undertones, but isn’t overtly tennis-related). But it seems to be particularly omnipresent for the summer shopper.
Haney says the brand’s tennis collection originated from customer insight: It has a team dedicated to scouring all platforms to figure out what the shopper wants (the requests “run the gamut of ‘I want a specific sports bra style’ or ‘I want things for stretching,’” per Haney), which then takes its findings to the creative and design specialists—and “tennis was definitely an activity that popped for us.”
“When we first started thinking about Sport ten years ago, I knew that tennis would be an integral part of the collection,” Burch tells Glamour. In the summer, she’ll hit the courts several times a week—and “for people who love tennis,” she says, “it is really part of their lives. They want designs that work on and off the court, delivering on the things that matter—comfort, fit and durability—with great style.”
According to Haney, seasonality definitely came into play when thinking about the collection, since it “drives why people want to wear the product”—the piqué material used throughout the pieces, for instance, isn’t only reminiscent of the fabrics we see on the court during tournaments, but it’s also developed to be extra-breathable in the face of heat, which makes it ideal for summer wear.
Outdoor Voices’ foray into tennis apparel comes hot off the heels another tennis-adjacent milestone for the brand: the introduction of the Exercise dress. At the core of both this garment and its tennis collection is a fascination with the A-line silhouette—which Haney believes is at the root of sport’s recent come-up in summer fashion trends: There’s “an ease” to that style that translates “on all different body types,” she says, which makes it an appealing canvas for a designer.
“That A-line silhouette you traditionally find in tennis has definitely been an inspiration for us across all of Outdoor Voices,” Haney continues. “As we started thinking about dresses, a lot of [the references] came from older on the court [imagery] from the ‘70s and ‘80s… In a very cool, not-super-sexy way, it emphasizes curves—it makes you look powerful and strong… We’re really focused on leaning into feminine design while also making you feel strong, and the dress totally does that for us.”
In recent months, too, we’ve seen how brands that have been in this space for some time have capitalized on the resurgence of these silhouettes by digging through their archives and bringing back old collections and pieces, updated for a modern consumer. Lilly Pulitzer is one, reviving its fan-favorite capsule after a 10-year hiatus; Lacoste, meanwhile, announced its 85th Anniversary collection, which reimagines some of its most well-known pieces from its vault.
“Tennis is a life-long, social sport and such a natural fit into our year-round resort lifestyle,” Mira Fain, the brand’s EVP of Design, explains to Glamour. Plus, summer’s the season to go outside and either play or spectate, so it felt like a good time to re-introduce this line. (From this capsule, Fain says the “Perfect Match” tennis toile has proven to be an early favorite.)
With designers like Christophe Lemaire and Felipe Oliveira Baptista, Lacoste has long been building on tennis legacy with a distinctly more “lifestyle” approach. Still, the resurgence of these more traditional pieces suggests there’s an interest from the customer.
“Our designs for tennis are resonating with customers who love the performance aspect as well as the quality and fit,” says Burch. “I love a modern take on classic tennis whites, and, with Sport, the idea of marrying fashion and function is always an interesting challenge. We have crisp whites, of course, but we also incorporate color, feminine details and technically innovative materials.”
“There’s such power behind women feeling powerful and empowered—if you think of sports and [what you wear to play], tennis is where you wear the dress,” Haney adds of this trend. “The fact that it’s a dress that you’re strong and active in—for me, that’s probably it.”
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