If you’ve ever had trouble finding clothes to wear for tennis, don’t take it personally. Even Martina Hingis has had trouble finding something that has both the functionality to let her play her best and still had her fashion sensibility to provide the look she wants. And she’s won five Grand Slam singles titles.
“I’ve worked with a few companies in the past,” Hingis says, “but a lot of times, things like colors have already been decided. It was frustrating to have those decisions made for you.”
While Hingis was in England preparing for a show called Strictly Come Dancing, a BBC reality show/dancing competition, she went shopping for comfortable clothes to wear while practicing for the show. At a shop on Kings Road, she discovered Tonic, a line of yoga clothing created by the Canada-based company. The clothes were soft to the touch, but designed fashionably for athletic women. She instantly had a revelation. “I was so excited, I was dancing in the clothes and then I would wear them all day. I never really got out of them. I knew they could make clothes that would be perfect for tennis as well.”
After Hingis’ representation contacted Tonic to let them know they had a former world No. 1 tennis player as a fan of their work, they found out that Leopoldo Gutierrez, the founder of the company, was a fan of Hingis as well. Soon, a collaboration on a tennis line of clothing was in the works. “It was probably the first time an athlete approached a company to endorse clothing and not the other way around,” Hingis says laughing. “But I loved the clothing. I knew it would work well
The relationship is much more of a partnership than an endorsement. Hingis has been active in helping to choose fabric, design and to help test the performance of the clothing. “The clothes were already very functional,” Hingis continues. “In tennis, it’s important that you’re able to move your shoulder blades freely. They had already done a wonderful job with it. Since the clothes were made for athletic people, the clothes were already flattering to a woman’s body. It’s like anything else in fashion. You want to bring out the good parts of your body.”
Hingis has also taken into consideration the balance between the white clothing that is required at more conservative tennis clubs versus more colorful options for younger players who want to stand out. “You want to make clothes that young girls can love, but that the country club players will love as well. I think our line is classic, but still has a touch of feminism and being different to it.”
While Hingis has enjoyed her new work in fashion, she still remains connected to the game. She has been consulting with several junior players, including 18-year-old Yulia Putintseva who has cracked the WTA top 100 players, and 19-year-old Daria Gavrilova who earned her first Grand Slam singles draw at the 2013 Australian Open. Having won the Wimbledon doubles title herself at age 15, Hingis has enjoyed sharing her experience of the mental demands professional tennis can place on a player at such an early age. “It’s been nice to see their improvement,” Hingis says. “At the Australian Open, Daria beat Lauren Davis, who trains with Chris Evert in Boca Raton, FL. When I saw Chris, she was like ‘Your girl beat my girl!’ I’m really proud of how far they’ve come.”