By Tim Newcomb Photograph by Radka Leitmeritz
Despite the cancellation of this year’s Monte-Carlo Masters, Sergio Tacchini, the tournament’s apparel sponsor, went ahead with a drop of tournament gear that would have been worn by ball boys and girls, giving fans just a taste of what could have been, at least from a style perspective. The full collection, which was to be authorized merchandise at the event (scheduled to conclude last Sunday), features the logo and colorways of the venerable Monte-Carlo Country Club.
Like many apparel brands, Tacchini is going ahead with its drops despite the prolonged pause in the tennis season. This disruption of the typical cadence of tennis (and almost everything else) has given new Sergio Tacchini creative designer Dao-Yi Chow the chance to reflect on both design and strategy, as well as the brand’s priorities.
“For us, it is making sure we honor this moment in time, and taking the time to reflect on what people are going through and what it means for people to be going through this,” Chow tells Racquet. “That has affected our creative process inexplicably, as we are reexamining what really is important to us as a brand and letting all the other noise and waste fall through.”
This reexamination has led Chow and his design team to refocus on the core elements of authentic sports heritage, cultural awareness, and a rebel spirit embodied by the brand’s tennis history, all while editing down collections to the most essential pieces and introducing a drop model with one or two special items at a time.
Those new collections, though, will always have ties to the 50-plus years of archives from the Italian tennis brand. However, Chow, a founder of New York’s Public School brand, knows he can’t rely too much on nostalgia.
“We talk about that all the time,” Chow says, “making sure we balance out the new with the old and take this sort of fresh old-soul approach. It is tempting to have an archive like Tacchini has, to go in and pillage and rerelease all the OG styles and retro everything, but you have to pick and choose. You can’t just go and empty the tank.”
Founded in 1966 by the Italian tennis pro Sergio Tacchini, the brand became well-known, especially in the 1980s, for big-name sponsorships including John McEnroe, Martina Navratilova, Goran Ivanisevic, and Pete Sampras. Sergio Tacchini still has a presence on the court with player agreements and by outfitting officials and volunteers at the prestigious Monte-Carlo Masters. But as tennis continues its crossover appeal into streetwear and fashion, Chow believes that having a historic brand with a highly identifiable logo gives Sergio Tacchini a powerful position from which to execute fresh ideas.
“You always have a starting point,” he says. “You have filters to run new stuff through. It is important that you keep a line through all your collections through the past, present, and future. It does help to have a certain recognizable, dope logo when all else fails.”
Chow says that tennis is like basketball in that both sports have a style that translates easily to lifestyle collections off the court. And like basketball, many players want to project their own personality and style both on and off the court.
Tennis resides at the intersection of sport and culture, says Chow, and straddling that line is a goal for the brand. To Chow, tennis has a classic style that’s always being reinterpreted, so it feels fresh: “Some people don’t want to be super teched-out, some people do. Some people want to feel like they separate themselves. Tennis really allows you to mix and match what you wear off court and on the court. I think tennis is a dope sport that more and more people who get into it are realizing.”
As Sergio Tacchini looks to build on both footwear and apparel collections, it will expand its collection for women, all while embracing new lines such as White Label, a higher level of fabrication and construction that brings a more fashion-focused approach.
Building on his experience at the Public School brand, which he cofounded in 2008, Chow says he can help raise brand awareness and visibility for Tacchini and, crucially, carry over another Public School strategy: collaborations.
“They are super important,” he says. “The idea of being able to collaborate with different partners who can bring different areas of expertise to the brand. We have a whole bunch of collabs lined up that we are really excited for, who I think people will be super happy to hear we collaborated with.”
Helping capitalize on what feels like a high-water mark for tennis’ ties to the culture, streetwear, and the fashion world remains a top priority for Chow and Tacchini, though. “If we can do a good job, maybe we can help prolong that moment,” he says.