Masha will be wearing McQueen for the Wimbledon Player Party
New ballgowns please
By Carola Long
Published: June 10 2011 22:02 | Last updated: June 10 2011 22:02
From Björn Borg’s headbands to Roger Federer’s monogrammed cardigans, fashion is as integral to Wimbledon as Murray Mount, or Henman Hill, as it used to be known. Whether through sports labels sponsoring players or designers revisiting traditional whites, clothing is a key part of the spectacle.
Stacey Allaster, chief executive of the Women’s Tennis Association, says: “Overall, we are in the entertainment business and tennis is one of the most theatrical sports stages. Players are on stage by themselves so their unique personality comes through and the costume is part of the show.”
Players are increasingly under scrutiny for what they wear off the court as well as on. Cue a new collaboration to celebrate Wimbledon’s 125th anniversary between the WTA and the British Fashion Council that will see British (or British-based) designers dressing tennis stars for the WTA Wimbledon party next week, which officially kicks off the tournament. The dresses will then be auctioned for charities.
In the tennis world, big fashion brands such as Ralph Lauren, the official Wimbledon outfitters, and sports labels such as Nike tend to dominate through sponsorship and partnerships. Indeed, well-known British brands Burberry and Stella McCartney are involved in the BFC/Wimbledon project, making dresses for Serena Williams and world number one Caroline Wozniacki (the latter is the face of Adidas by Stella McCartney) respectively. However, newer designers, such as Richard Nicoll and David Koma, are also taking part, not to mention those considered “daring” or “experimental”, such as Giles Deacon, Mary Katrantzou and Hussein Chalayan, hardly the usual red-carpet suspects for sports stars.
“It’s an opportunity for players to make introductions that will hopefully last, so that when they’re going to events they will think of new designers,” says Caroline Rush of the BFC. The red carpet is also a chance to dress up without prioritising practicality. Former world number one Ana Ivanovic, who will be wearing a Matthew Williamson dress for the party, says: “I love to dress up because I don’t get the opportunity very often. I spend most of the time in sports wear.”
It’s a view shared by other players taking part, who seem to regard red-carpet dressing as a pleasure rather than a pressure. Wozniacki says: “Fashion interests me so I like to take a bit of a risk and wear something different.” Allaster believes that the collaboration will showcase a traditional sport in a different way to what she calls its conventional “quiet, please” manner.
The benefits to designers are also clear. Just as sports stars are making money from moving into fashion – Maria Sharapova has brand extensions with Cole Haan and a line for Nike; Venus and Serena Williams have clothing lines, Björn Borg has a line of men’s underwear – smaller labels can gain global exposure by working with sports stars. Deacon has created a dress for Chinese player Li Na and he must have been thrilled when she won the French Open last week. Dressing a champion with a potential fanbase of 1.3bn is the marketing equivalent of an ace.
Vera Zvonareva - Hussein Chalayan
Andrea Petkovic - Richard Nicoll
Jelena Jankovic - Vivienne Westwood
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova - David Koma
Li Na - Giles Deacon
Maria Sharapova - Alexander McQueen
Serena Williams - Burberry
Caroline Wozniacki - Stella McCartney
Ana Ivanovic - Matthew Williamson
I would love to see Masha wear this dress from the Spring 2011 collection. I think she would look amazing in this dress. Although Kylie Minogue has already worn this dress. She wore it a few weeks ago to the Billboard Awards.