Luxury brands and retailers are responding to the increased participation and strong influx of younger players in both sports with collections of trend-inspired “cool” pieces. Some are even opening sports clubs that seek to build community around their brands. While more well-known brands are “all about white guys at the professional level,” the co-founder of the Manors golf-inspired collection said, his is more about style and less about technical performance. “If I dress like Rory McIlroy, it’s not going to take five shots off my game,” he said.
While team sports suffered during the global pandemic, other sports such as tennis and golf gained new followers, Vogue Business reported—and that has led luxury brands and retailers in the fashion industry to launch youthful tennis- or golf-inspired collections for a new generation of players, for wearing both on and off the court or course.
Luxury’s associations with golf and tennis wear have a long history, Vogue Business noted. Lacoste was launched back in the 1930s by French tennis star René Lacoste, evolving into a luxury brand over the years. Ralph Lauren is an official partner to tennis tournaments such as Wimbledon, the US Open and the Australian Open, as well as The Professional Golfers’ Association.
Now a new wave of brands, such as Casablanca, Alex Eagle Sporting Club and Manors (pictured above, are emerging, Vogue Business reported. And the focus is on lifestyle rather than technical performance, with these brands’ collections full of trend-inspired pieces for a younger demographic. In short, they’re cool.
The United States Tennis Association has reported participation up 22 percent in 2020 to 22 million Americans, Vogue Business noted, and Gen Z role models like tennis players Naomi Osaka, aged 23, and Coco Gauff, just 17, are inspiring young audiences. Osaka has been a cover star for American Vogue and will co-chair 2021’s Met Gala, a fundraising benefit for New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art that is considered the Oscars of the fashion industry. And Gauff is the face of the Casablanca Tennis Club brand’s latest tennis shoe collaboration with New Balance that was launched at the end of May.
Golf saw a similar pandemic-inspired surge, Vogue Business noted, with three million Americans playing the sport for the first time in 2020, and a growing number of young people in the mix, according to the National Golf Foundation.
In the United Kingdom, under 35s now dominate the pay-and-play market, Vogue Business noted, Some 15 percent of all UK green-fee purchases in June 2020 were from 18-24 year olds — an age range that had “not even registered historically”, the Revenue Club told The Golf Business.
Even Gen Z and millennial heartthrob Niall Horan, of One Direction fame, has launched a golf talent agency for young players, Vogue Business reported, and rapper Macklemore launched “cool” golf wear line Bogey Boys earlier in 2021 (https://clubandresortbusiness.com/99257-2/).
Net-a-Porter’s tennis edition caters for the growing interest in outdoor and specialized sports, Senior Fashion Market Editor Libby Page told Vogue Business. “Our tennis ready-to-wear offering has been resonating well with our customers over the past few years,” said Page. “Traditional head-to-toe white looks and mix-and-match tops and skirts from brands including L’Etoile Sport, Nike and Tory Sport are particularly sought after.”
Mr Porter’s own-brand label, Mr P, launched a golf collection in May for the younger golfer or non-golfer who is inspired by the preppy trend, Vogue Business reported, and that marks a shift in attitude towards these sports among the young. “There has been an element of elitism in golf and some not-great periods from a style perspective,” said Style Director Olie Arnold, who oversees the collection.
Golfwear has even had an aesthetic impact on menswear, Arnold added. “It doesn’t have to be full technical Lycra or performance wear—there can be a real elegance to it,” he said. And the Mr P customer, he added, spans a broad range of ages, from 25 to 55, who will wear the collection differently on and off course.
Buzzy luxury brand Casablanca Tennis Club is heavily inspired by tennis, Vogue Business reported. Launched in 2018, it has 250 luxury retail “stockists” worldwide, including Mr Porter, MatchesFashion and Browns, according founder Charaf Tajer. The brand, a joint winner of the LVMH Prize for young fashion designers in 2020, also launched womenswear this January.
“I grew up in a mix between luxury clothes and sportswear,” Tajer told Vogue Business. “Tennis has always fascinated me. It’s a sport, but it’s also super-elegant.”
Besides tennis, Vogue Business noted, the Casablanca brand also riffs around other sports once considered elitist, ranging from skiing to Formula 1, giving the collection a range of sports influences to play with in design terms.
Manors, a new golf-inspired brand, has identified a gap in the market for “cool” golf wear for Gen Z, Vogue Business reported. “The bigger brands were trying to lean towards the market trends and technical performance,” said co-founder Jojo Regan. “It was all about white guys at the professional level swinging golf clubs, hard and fast and trying to shoot low scores.
“Unfortunately for 99 percent of the golfers out there, we’re hacking around trying to break 90,” Regan added. “If I dress like Rory McIlroy, it’s not going to take five shots off my game.” Launched in 2019, Manors is about to embark on a third funding round on the back of strong revenue growth, Regan says.
Both Manors and Mr P have made adjustments to pieces to allow for a swing, ranging from a slightly elongated collar area to a slight stretch in the chinos, Vogue Business reported. One of the founders of Manors doesn’t even play golf, which stops the assortment getting too technical, Regan noted.
Stylist and designer Alex Eagle launched the Alex Eagle Sporting Club in 2020, Vogue Business reported. It’s a physical club in London’s Soho district with an accompanying clothing collection. Eagle acknowledges that tennis is “having a huge, huge moment,” and her sporting club collection combine a tennis aesthetic with a range of sports and athleisure inspirations.
“I’m always looking at how to make luxury accessible,” Eagle said. “I want to make sports that haven’t felt that open to people become accessible.”
Before the launch of the Sporting Club, Eagle’s customer base was 80 percent women over 30, she told Vogue Business. Now it’s closer to a 50/50 split between men and women, with the new lines attracting teenagers and older shoppers alike.
Eagle seeks to balance technical performance wear with off-duty athleisure, all with a luxury spin, Vogue Business reported. “We’ll probably continue doing [limited-release] drops because it’s fun,” she said, “but eventually we’re going to have all the classics always available.” Those classics are likely to include white joggers, a hoodie, brushed back cotton separates, and cashmere sets for pre- and post-sports activity.
Tajer has ambitions one day to create a physical sports club for Casablanca Tennis Club customers, too, with the aim of building community around the brand, Vogue Business reported. “I like the idea of having [consumers] in an imaginary place that might take place one day in the real world—a local tennis club,” he said.
Manors also intends to produce classics, recognizing an appetite for consistency among its customer base, Vogue Business reported. “If you ever wanted to go and get a polo from Ralph Lauren, you know you could go and buy a navy polo at any point in time,” says Regan. “We offer that same experience.”
Lifestyle is the way to go, insists Net-a-Porter’s Page. “True performance pieces are complemented with everyday layering options, to offer style and function, both on and off the court,” she says. “What sets our [collection] apart is that it has a fashion standpoint. It offers practical and performance-led tennis pieces while incorporating a retro touch that feels current, relevant and on-trend.”
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