Sergio Tacchini wants to get reacquainted.
The Italian sportswear brand has changed hands and named Dao-Yi Chow of Public School as its global creative director.
Tacchini, which was founded by the Italian tennis star of the same name in 1966, is now owned by Stefano Maroni, an entrepreneur and chief executive officer of licensing firm GMI USA, along with private equity firm Twin Lakes Capital and B. Riley Principal Investments. Terms of the deal, which closed today after some seven months of negotiations, were not disclosed.
After filing for bankruptcy in 2007, the brand was sold to Hong Kong financier Billy Ngok in 2008. In 2013, Ngok formed a partnership for the brand with Wintex Hong Kong, through Wintex Italia, and sold the U.S. license to Maroni and GMI USA in December 2018.
Earlier this year, Maroni opened a pop-up with record producer and executive Chris Ivery to relaunch Sergio Tacchini in the U.S. and Canada under the name STLA. In addition to a core collection of tracksuits, polos and sweatshirts, which Maroni said had a “very positive” reaction, the brand also created capsule collections with Stampd and Barbie, the latter of which is still available online. There were also collaborations with Band of Outsiders and Chinatown Market. Right now, the collection is carried on the brand’s web site, Farfetch and at specialty tennis stores.
Maroni, who has developed and grown multiple-owned and licensed apparel and footwear brands, will now serve as Sergio Tacchini’s chief executive officer. Ivery remains chief marketing officer, Lee Feldman of Twin Lakes Capital will be chairman, and Dan Shribman of B. Riley and Howard Cohen of Twin Lakes Capital will serve with them on the company’s board of directors.
“We see this brand going forward as a modern lifestyle, functional brand,” Maroni said. “We want to stay true to the brand’s roots, innovation mind-set and digital culture. We’re looking at a more elevated tennis line — performance-related, technical — but one that totally represents Italian craftsmanship and DNA.”
Maroni believes the brand’s strength is in polos and tracksuits and he is seeking the “right partners” to expand the brand organically. He said the plan is to “reestablish the brand, polish it and make it relevant again.”
Enter Chow to bring the vision to life. “Since I met him, we clicked,” said Maroni. “We’re on the same page of what the brand will become. We want to build a strong culture. He has all of the characteristics for the future path of this brand.”
Both Chow and Maroni believe tennis lifestyle apparel is a “white space” and “a big opportunity.” The brand will relaunch for spring 2020 as a “luxury level, high-end” label produced in New York City, Los Angeles and Italy that will be targeted to global “trendsetter retailers,” Maroni said. The collection will include cut-and-sewn polos, machine-knit sweaters, and tracksuits in fabrics such as poly tricot, inner wash nylon and wool twill, ranging in price from $300 to $800.
Chow described the silhouettes as “something more tailored and more elevated, but still give that bit of performance that you need.”
A second label at a more affordable price point will launch this fall. “Everything in the marketplace is super technical and you feel weird wearing that off court,” Chow said. “I think a lot of people and friends who played tennis, whether it’s seriously or for fun, have a hard time.””
Chow grew up playing tennis and said his exposure to the brand was through tennis stars such as Pete Sampras, Jimmy Connors and Goran Ivanišević, who wore the brand on the court, as well as through the hip-hop community with rapper Notorious B.I.G., and the Nineties Fox sitcom “Martin.”
“My experience with Tacchini is more through the lens of culture than tennis,” said Chow. “My intro to the brand was after its dominance on court and how it made its way through pop culture, especially hip-hop.”
Chow’s designs will seek to integrate sport, lifestyle and hip-hop influences into the label without losing sight of its Italian craftsmanship and history.
“Established in 1966, there’s authentic tennis heritage,” Chow said. “There will be nods to the craftsmanship and that real, authentic tennis point-of-view that will be referenced in all of the work. We aren’t just trying to make it a retro brand. We’re just now touching the tip of the iceberg — there’s so much history there and so many memories. It would be silly not to reference it.”
Chow started his fashion career helping his friend and mentor Robert “Bobbito” Garcia open East Village boutique Footwork, and later worked at streetwear brands Mecca and Ecko and wrote for music publications Vibe, The Source, Blaze and Ego Trip. He joined Sean John to lead marketing and was promoted to creative director. He opened fashion boutique Arrive in Miami Beach, selling streetwear brands like Supreme and luxury labels such as Maison Margiela, Comme des Garçons and Visvim.
He is best known, however, for Public School, the New York City-based fashion label he cofounded with Maxwell Osborne. Together they won the CFDA Swarovski Menswear Award and CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award in 2013, the CFDA Menswear Award in 2014, became the first American designers to win the International Woolmark Prize, and recently took home the CFDA + Lexus Fashion Initiative prize. The duo is using the prize money to fund its line of sustainable basics called V-to.
Chow said that despite his role at Sergio Tacchini, “Public School still lives on. We changed our model to direct-to-consumer and our supply chain to a circular model. [Sergio Tacchini] is just a project. Again, I have a deep, deep love for tennis so this is something that made sense to me and not us as a duo.”
In 2018, Sergio Tacchini had sales of 50 million euros, according to published reports, up 10 percent from the prior year. Plans call for increasing sales to 100 million euros within the next five years.