NEW YORK — Serena Williams struck out at the U.S. Open on two counts — not only was she knocked out of the tournament by Jennifer Capriati, but retailers don’t expect her outfits to have much impact with tennis-playing consumers either.
Nike plans to bring the Serena pieces to retail this spring, offering a sharp departure from tennis looks of the past, which have traditionally focused on conservative designs and low-key styling. The problem is, low-key styling, albeit with fashion twists such as color and performance fabrics, appears to be exactly what tennis players want — and what many country clubs continue to require.
“I don’t see anyone wearing the Serena line,” was the blunt reaction from Mark Mason, owner of Mason’s Tennis Mart in Manhattan, one of the city’s largest tennis stores. “We often find that people come in wanting to buy what people wear on the court during the Open but that hasn’t happened with these looks.”
Mindy Grossman, vice president of global apparel at Nike, told WWD recently that the line is designed to appeal to younger customers who want more fashionable tennis looks. While some department stores sell a selection of tennis apparel, most of the sport’s attire is sold in pro shops and sports stores, many of whom shy away from anything too racy or tight-fitting.
“There are a lot of restrictions at courts as to what people can wear,” said Ilya Minkin, a manager at Princeton Ski Shops here, which has a large selection of tennis offerings. “That is why many looks tend to be on the conservative side.”
Nonetheless, some observers said the looks worn by Williams and other players are giving the sport a much-needed dose of energy.
“It’s great for tennis,” said designer Bumi Sirotka, who makes tennis apparel under her namesake label. “It’s giving the sport a lot of attention and making it more popular, which is good for all of us.”
While no one has gone quite as extreme as Williams, players at the Open this year have sported attention-grabbing hues, fitted dresses and fashion-forward looks. Maria Sharapova’s silver metallic dress as well as her bright red skirt and top solidified her fashionista status, while Capriati, Amelie Mauresmo, Elena Dementieva and Nadia Petrova have all worn bold colors on the court. Andy Roddick has also made a fashion statement with graphic printed T-shirts and trucker hats from Reebok, product that is already available at stores including Macy’s and Paragon.
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