With New Collections for Spring, Wilson Moves Into Tenniswear
In a move that could be taken as yet another positive sign that tennis is continuing to gain in popularity, particularly in light of industry data that continues to show participation increases, Wilson Racket Sports has made a major commitment to the tennis apparel business.
Wilson, which for years had licensed out its apparel, has taken it in-house (the licensing deal ends in December), hiring a global apparel director and investing in staff and product.
“Five years ago, it became obvious that softgoods is a huge opportunity,” says Jon Muir, Wilson’s general manager. “We went out and found some heavyweight talent and are hiring to support them. We’ve been doing some serious investments and have been very active in searching out experts in the field.”
This past spring, Wilson hired apparel industry veteran Claire Ortiz (below) as its global apparel director for racquet sports. In addition to her experience as a designer and owner of a women’s specialty store, Ortiz spent six years with Nike, serving in various leadership positions including creative director for Brand Jordan apparel and accessories. She also headed Nike’s Asia headquarters in designing Nike’s Beijing Olympics 2008 product for international distribution. Her 18 years in the business also includes stints with Eddie Bauer in the youth sport and fashion areas and Under Armour as creative director for apparel in multiple sports categories.
“Wilson is repositioning the brand as a premium apparel line emphasizing quality, innovation, performance, style and design,” says Ortiz. “We’ve spared no expense on fabrication, and the technology will be a driving force. All of our products have to be simple to wear, simple to wash, and they have to last.”
The 2009 apparel collection, which was in production before Ortiz came on board, will ship in the spring. The collection contains seasonal fashion groups and a core performance group with pieces that are available year round. Key in Wilson’s apparel line is the use of “nano” technologies, offering sun protection, moisture management and anti-microbial odor protection, says Ortiz.
“NanoUV” provides UV-A and UV-B protection, blocking up to 97 percent of the sun’s rays, according to Wilson.
“NanoWIK” is a moisture-management and quick-dry technology that Wilson says also helps stains wash away more easily and reduces static cling.
“NanoBAN” provides anti-microbial protection that helps stop odor-causing bacteria from forming and being absorbed by the fabric.
In some apparel pieces, Wilson uses bamboo, an eco-friendly and sustainable material that provides natural moisture-management properties and helps to give a luxurious feel to the fabric, says Ortiz. For 2009, the men’s core line features bamboo pieces, and in 2010, the material will be used in pieces in all apparel groups.
“Body-mapping” technology allows for a mixed technical fabric construction without the traditional “cut and sew” approach. Body mapping produces a seamless construction for a clean look that aids in comfort, says Wilson.
Ortiz says she’s excited about the future of Wilson’s clothing line, noting the company’s strong commitment to juniors and the solid relationships it has with both professional and recreational players. “We plan on being the head-to-toe provider of all tennis equipment,” she says.
In both tennis apparel and footwear, Muir’s goal is for Wilson to become “an authentic tennis brand with the ability to compete with Nike and Adidas.”
“No other brand brings it all together,” he says of Wilson. “We have to overbuild and do a much better product at a better price point. We’re not trying to be a racquet brand that has apparel. We are about a softgoods brand that has a global approach.”
See all articles by Cynthia Sherman
About the Author
Cynthia Sherman is a contributing editor for RSI magazine.