The new Arthur Ashe brand celebrates the legacy of a tennis icon
AS THE US OPEN unfolding over the next few weeks, there’s one name in tennis that you’ll be hearing more about than any other. Arthur Ashe: the first black and first amateur ever to win the US Open and other historic titles at Wimbledon, the Australian Open and the French Open, and of course – whose name has hung on the stadium itself for almost three decades.
Arthur Ashe’s legacy is now further solidified with the launch of the tennis and lifestyle brand named in his honour. The brand’s latest collection highlights activewear and ready-to-wear, including tennis shirts, knitwear, shorts, jackets and accessories, all celebrating Ashe’s timeless aesthetic. The brand is a partnership between Ashe’s widow, photographer and activist Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe; Arthur Ashe’s estate; Jack Carlson, founder of iconic lifestyle brand Rowing Blazers and innovator of Princess Diana’s favorite knitwear brands Warm & Wonderful and Gyles & George; and Kith Design alum Karl-Raphael Blanchard.
Jack Carlson told Men’s Health that he’s been building the brand for almost two years after being approached by Arthur’s former agent and longtime friend Donald Dell and the property. “We started sharing ideas about what this brand could look like. I envisioned it as the 21st century American version of Lacoste or Fred Perry, infused with Ashe’s unique style and sense of color,” Carlson told Men’s Health. The brand’s collection often references Ashe’s own wardrobe – including the US Davis Cup team warm-up shoes he wore to the iconic 1975 Wimbledon awards.
“With a ’60s and ’70s edge, with a social justice and philanthropic component, and with some influences from the streetwear world,” explained Carlson. “This is how I approach everything I do: It’s research, nostalgia, colour, fun and a timeless aesthetic.” There’s a modern refresh of classic white tennis shoes: rich cable knits with contrasting colorful detailing, court jackets with chain-embroidered signatures and archive-inspired polos from defining moments in ’68 and ’75. Male tennis players around the world have their namesakes stamped on the sleeves of sports and style fans alike. While the Brits have Fred Perry, the French have René Lacoste and the Swedes have Bjorn Borg, the Americans are left with a void and an opportunity that could only be filled by the game changer that was Ashe. Ashe was a court winner and championed civil rights and health awareness around the world. He served as an activist for racial justice and people living with HIV and AIDS, founded the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Throughout, Ashe has also been recognized for his unmatched athleticism and style that has been brought onto the pitch and beyond. “Arthur Ashe has long been a hero of mine.” Carlson told Men’s Health, who, as a three-time member of the US rowing team, was an athlete long before he designed any collections, “Ashe’s temper, his leadership, the way he appreciated the opportunity to represent the USA, his sense of etiquette and sportsmanship and the way he used his platform has always inspired me.
“The brand has long-term partnerships that benefit the Arthur Ashe Legacy Fund at UCLA, his alma mater, as well as the Social Change Fund United, founded by Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Dwayne Wade to support issues affecting the affect the Black community.” Arthur Ashe should be representative of both the community and the legacy,” Blanchard told Men’s Health. “This brand is here to commemorate one of our Black heroes, the style and grace on and off the Platz embodied. This is the beginning of something very special.”
The first collection — ranging from $25 to $265 — is available online at Arthur Ashe and Rowing Blazers, as well as two pop-up locations: 2 Rivington Street in New York City and on the US Open grounds at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
SHOP THE ENTIRE COLLECTION HERE
Sara Klausing is a contributing style editor with over ten years of experience. The following roles Fashion and Google Klausing specializes in future-oriented reporting at the intersection of fashion, culture and technology.