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Unbuttoned: Roger Federer Wants to Win a New Game

By way of teaming with Uniqlo, a logo concerned with fundamentals with mass enchantment, the tennis big name is gearing as much as play in a unique more or less public courtroom.

Roger Federer dressed in Uniqlo on the 2018 Wimbledon Garden Tennis Championships.Credit scoreClive Mason/Getty Photographs
Vanessa Friedman

It’s no longer steadily that any tennis participant can arrange to upstage Serena Williams in terms of trend, however at Wimbledon Roger Federer did simply that, frightening the type of social media meltdown this is typically reserved for a cat swimsuit at the courtroom.

The reverberations of his choice to industry his Nike swoosh for a Uniqlo purple sq. reached all of the strategy to the gilded rooms of the Paris couture, the place I used to be when it took place.

Ever since, as Mr. Federer has improved throughout the match together with his signature environment friendly grace, and eyes have adjusted to the brand new glance, a lot has been written in regards to the cash concerned ($300 million, reportedly); the period of the contract (10 years, ditto); and the opposite doable causes for the exchange after greater than twenty years. (Mr. Federer would be the handiest giant big name at the Uniqlo roster, while at Nike he used to be one amongst many, together with Ms. Williams and Rafael Nadal; Uniqlo wishes him to spice up its global growth efforts.)

However because the grass has settled on heart courtroom, I’ve no longer been in a position to prevent questioning about the true have an effect on of this choice at the sports activities/trend nexus — a synergistic dating rapid drawing near the standing and revenues of the Hollywood/trend nexus.

As a result of in opting for Uniqlo, Mr. Federer is successfully developing a brand new paradigm for a post-technical sports activities logo journey. May he turn out to be the Jessica Simpson of fellows’s put on? Don’t snort. Ms. Simpson is probably the most a success celebrity-with-an-accessible-fashion-line. It is not a foul style to observe.

No doubt, the period of the Uniqlo contract, which can take Mr. Federer neatly into his mid-40s, would counsel that he’s considering alongside such after-tennis traces. As would the truth that Uniqlo identifies itself in a quite other class than the standard manufacturers that sponsor athletes.

The inside track free up even laid it out: “Uniqlo enters the partnership impressed through the previous accomplishments of Mr. Federer and his earlier companions,” it learn. However then: “Whilst respectful of recent requirements they set in combination, Uniqlo isn’t a sports activities corporate. Uniqlo describes itself as a lifestyles corporate that creates LifeWear.”

Which might sound like a posh synonym for “garments” however displays ambitions that cross some distance past the informal — and, certainly, the standard branded sports activities big name collaboration.

Mr. Federer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Gala in 2017.CreditDia Dipasupil/Getty Images for Entertainment Weekly
Mr. Federer at the Chanel show during Paris Fashion Week in 2016.CreditCaroline Blumberg/European Pressphoto Agency

Who, in fact, has attended a healthy number of shows, including Marc Jacobs and Alexander McQueen, with his famous BFF, Anna Wintour. A man who wore a gray morning suit complete with vest to the 2017 wedding of Pippa Middleton. Who announced, in an Esquire interview: “I grew up enjoying Prada and Dolce & Gabbana. I love Dior and Louis Vuitton. I also have a lot of Tom Ford’s suits, so that’s kind of how I got into it.”

Who, in other words, has never made any secret of his affinity for the capital-F side of fashion. (Though in insisting he will get his RF logo back from Nike, he clearly has not entirely learned the lessons of the industry, which is littered with designers who lost their names to the big groups that owned them, most notably John Galliano, whose name still belongs to LVMH.)

Even Mr. Federer’s endorsements outside of Nike have always had a whiff of the haute: Mercedes-Benz, Rolex, Moët & Chandon, Lindt chocolates and NetJets (among others). So while it is easy to believe he may not see his future in fashion as solely sports related, it is more surprising — and interesting — to learn he sees it as mass.

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Mr. Federer and his wife, Mirka, arrive at St Mark’s Church in England for the wedding of Pippa Middleton and James Matthews in 2017.CreditKirsty Wigglesworth – Pool/Getty Images

Because a mass brand is exactly what Uniqlo is, despite its sideline in sports, via its former relationship with Novak Djokovic, who switched brands last year (he now works with Lacoste). Uniqlo’s current ambassadorial lineup includes the tennis player Kei Nishikori, the wheelchair tennis star Shingo Kunieda and the golfer Adam Scott.

And despite its flirtation with fashion via collaborations with runway names like Christophe Lemaire, formerly of Hermès, now designer of a namesake line and artistic director of Uniqlo U; Tomas Maier, the recently deposed Bottega Veneta designer who just did a limited-edition resort collection for Uniqlo; and Jonathan Anderson, the conceptual Briton who is also creative director of Loewe, and who has done two special collections for Uniqlo.

Like Jil Sander, the first prominent designer to engage with the brand, all those designers are notably talented but famous largely among fashion insiders and obsessives.

Uniqlo, which is owned by the Japanese giant Fast Retailing (a self-explanatory name if there ever was one), has not been a brand that brought bells and whistles to its partnerships, or that inflated the ego by creating noisy marketing campaigns. It is a brand whose mission has been perfecting the basics: the things people wear not because they fantasize about being elite athletes, or because they fantasize about having the lifestyles of elite athletes, but because they fantasize about having functional clothes to wear every day that don’t cost a huge amount or call attention to themselves, but still look good.

Traditionally, however, being associated with such clothes — which bridge age, size and sectors — has not been the fantasy of elite athletes. So while he won’t hoist the Wimbledon trophy on Sunday (after his upset loss to Kevin Anderson in the quarterfinals on Wednesday), Mr. Federer may be about to change the game once again.

Vanessa Friedman is The Times’s fashion director and chief fashion critic. She was previously the fashion editor of the Financial Times. @VVFriedman

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