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From tennis star to fashion designer


Originally published on: 26/02/10 16:38

The Thomas Reynolds Collection is inspired by American No.2 James Blake and his life and interests. The collection will incorporate the heritage of the Fila brand with a contemporary twist inspired by Blakes signature style.

The new line which will feature mens tennis, golf, fitness and lifestyle clothing and footwear will be the basis for the development of a long-term licensing business for the American star.

I have always had an affinity for the Fila brand, said Blake. Ever since Bjorn Borg graced the courts of Wimbledon in Fila, I have always been attracted to the Italian style, grace and sophistication of the Fila brand.

My collaboration with Fila is much more than an endorsement arrangement. It will serve as the foundation of a business venture that I will continue to build for years to come.

The collection will debut prior to the 2009 US Open in New York with a limited range of tennis clothes. The full collection will officially launch for the 2010 Spring/Summer season. Pricing is yet to be confirmed.

Thomas Reynolds is the first and middle name of James father, Thomas Reynolds Blake, who died in 2004.

Blake has named the range in recognition and respect for a dad who he says taught him values that he feels have been the key to his success both on and off court.

tennishead spoke exclusively with Blake about the collection. Heres what he had to say

How did the Thomas Reynolds line come into being?
Once you go through a change in your contract for me it was the best for me in the future and what was best for the company that Im representing. Fila came up with this idea of my own line and that was the most interesting thing that anyone could have put in front of me.
Ive always wanted to do something like that but never really thought of it as a possibility. But then to be given this opportunity was something that really excited me.
Ive been through 10 years on tour and Ive not really had that kind of input on the design, but Ive seen the good and the bad of tennis fashion throughout those 10 years. A decent amount of it has been bad, and I wanted to be sure to keep that out of my line!

Have you enjoyed it?
Ive really enjoyed it, even more than I had expected. Seeing how the design process works, how long it takes, and what little things make such a big difference. Whether its the fabric, the colour, the stitching, the detail of the collar, the length and cut all those things make such a difference.
Being an athlete, when you start on tour you just get sent a shipment of stuff, your shirt should fit, your shorts should fit and you go out there you dont think about the work that has gone into it. Its been a lot of fun, and enlightening.

What sort of things did you do with Fila? Sketches, consultancy, modelling prototypes?
I wasnt the one producing the sketches, because my artistic talents leave a lot to be desired! I was looking at a lot of them and giving my opinions on what I hoped would go on, what I thought worked and what wouldnt.
I was trying on prototypes, dealing with the logo and helping with the design of that. So Ive been pretty involved, and its been something that Ive really enjoyed.

What are you most proud of from the collection?
I did enjoy coming up with the logo a lot, because its going to be a tribute to my father. Thats something that makes me feel very proud.
In terms of the line, Im proud that its going to be somewhat of a classic look, something that can translate from the tennis court to a casual lifestyle type clothing, and also with that its going to be very comfortable.
I think sometimes collections can sacrifice look for functionality or functionality for look and I hope mines going to combine the two.

Was it a no-brainer using your fathers name on the clothing line?
It was a no-brainer that his name or his initials were going to be involved. It was just a matter of narrowing it down to exactly how, going through a whole lot of different ideas.
But it just came down to the old saying, keep it simple, stupid we got back to the essence of keeping it simple.
Instead of trying to incorporate initials and a lot of other things, just go with the simplest solution and it ends up being, hopefully, timeless and something that can be easily remembered and easily recognised just his name.

The product will be available to buy just before the US Open and will be exclusively available at Wigmore Sports.


Tim Farthing, Tennishead Editorial Director & Owner, has been a huge tennis fan his whole life. He's a tennis journalist and entrepreneur as well as playing tennis to a national standard. He also helps manage his local club and volunteers for his local tennis organisation. He's a specialist in content about the administration of professional tennis and tennis coaching for all levels.