In tennis apparel, new fabrics and designs will captivate your customers.
By Mitch Rustad
Geometric silhouettes? Sci-fi prints? Vitamin-infused fabrics? What may sound like snippets of a Hollywood script are actually buzz words retailers may be using to sell apparel lines in the months to come.
According to Freya Tamayo, design director for Fila apparel, retailers on the lookout for the hottest trends in 2004 and beyond should expect “futuristic” designs and fabrics, not to mention a few out-of-this-world surprises.
“One trend is definitely technology fabrics,” says Tamayo, referring to lightweight, water-repellent, UV protection and special textures that she believes are all the wave of the future in fabrics. “I’ve heard about one fabric that actually has vitamins in it.”
But it’s not just fabrics that are going futuristic — expect new geometric designs, styles and bold colors to reflect this trend as well. “I think you’ll see more prints,” says Tamayo, “but instead of silly, conversational prints, you’ll see more geometric, sci-fi-looking prints — very modern and engineered so it would be featured on one side of the body. The look will be very pared down, with geometric silhouettes — no excess, no collars — and very clean, modern lines.”
As the bar is continually being raised to reflect such advances, apparel companies expecting to compete for major market share must keep up with ever-increasing consumer expectations, says Katie Curry, vice president of marketing and merchandising for The LBH Group, which has the LBH, Lily’s of Beverly Hills and Wimbledon lines.
“Everything has to have some kind of performance quality to it,” says Curry. “Fabrics have to not only look good and stand up to repeated washings, but they also have to perform well during play, dry quickly, not smell, and be done with a really nice yarn.”
Curry says another trend to watch is a “return of the classics,” with improved pleated skirts, more cotton, whites (with accents) and traditional colors. “The classic color combinations are catching people’s eye,” she says. “They’re the things that never go out of style.”
Marcia Apparel is finding that white still is a big seller at retail, and Patrice Brayer, the company’s national sales manager, says white components are incorporated into each group. “The amount of business we do in all-white is phenomenal in the spring,” she says. “We’ve made sure that all our fabrics are available in white mini-collections.”
Marcia also is using technical specialty fabrics and fabrics that are textured, says Brayer, along with incorporating some screen printing and adding fashion touches such as ties at the neckline and back. Also, they’re introducing a unique yarn dying to achieve some special effects.
But when it comes to tennis apparel, there also is a taste for nostalgia in the air, given the re-emergence of classic designs from companies such as Fila, Ellesse, Fred Perry and Adidas — to name a few — that have been strongly embraced by celebrities and the general public alike.
“It’s almost come full circle,” says Desiree Collazo-Soto, marketing manager for Ellesse. “I think just looking at retail in general, there was already a lot of retro going on, so many of the old classic brands are making strong comebacks.”
And expect to see a certain pair of sisters continue to put their stamp on fashion in 2004.
“I think a lot of big players have really influenced fashion,” says Trish Levin, vice president of merchandising at Lejay. “The Williams sisters, for example, bring the idea that tennis can be really fashionable, edgy and more inline with all kinds of fashion.”
And what will the year bring for the men?
Tamayo is rooting for the “sleeveless phenomenon” to really take off, along with more crew necks and V-necks. “That needs to be blown up, and radically change men’s fashion in tennis. I think that’s next,” says Tamayo.
According to Levin, the days of making a personal statement through your tennis retailer have arrived.
“Tennis apparel is becoming much more fashionable,” says Levin. “Whether it’s today’s funky prints or animal skins, people are definitely expressing themselves a little bit more through their tenniswear.”
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About the Author
Mitch Rustad has been a long-time freelance writer based in New York City.