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Style Points: Deciphering the code behind Adidas’ confusing clay-court collection
Ahead of Roland Garros, Adidas unveiled their new Paris collection—and it left many fans scratching their heads in confusion.
Published May 06, 2022
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With Roland Garros right around the corner, tennis fashion is taking center stage once again as apparel companies debut their new collections at the Mutua Madrid Open. But among the various patterns and cool blues that dominate the rest of the clay-court looks, one collection stands out as a discordant note: Adidas recently unveiled their new Paris outfits—and it left many fans scratching their heads in confusion.
What’s going on with the Three Stripes lately? After years of dictating on-court cool and putting together game-changing collabs with the likes of Pharrell Williams, Y-3 and streetwear label Palace, these days Adidas’ tennis line seems to stand out for the wrong reasons.
According to Adidas, these symbols are “bold graphics inspired by the botanical gardens surrounding Paris' premier tennis destination”. According to Twitter users, they are anything from illegible hieroglyphics to occult symbols or signs of the apocalypse. There are wavy lines, droplets, a flower, a sun, some petals (?) and clovers—there’s a lot going on here, and it requires some deciphering to figure out how things got to this point.
The Paris collection is primarily black and white, with some players getting an additional light green or aqua blue color option. But in action worn by the likes of Stefanos Tsitsipas (below) or Sebastian Korda, it ends up looking more like a training outfit than something that’s going to turn heads on Court Philippe-Chatrier.
The graphic print is featured just on the front of the men’s tee and abruptly stops at the shoulder, leaving the back side blank and seeming unfinished. The shorts are relatively plain in black—but after the Melbourne collection’s very unfortunate print job, that might be for the best.
The women’s line, as seen on the likes of Garbine Muguruza and Jessica Pegula (below), looks slightly more put together with the print restricted to the back of the Y-tank and sides of the skirt. The skirt might just be the most interesting item in the collection: the lightly flared cut is almost universally flattering, and the clovers and rose pattern on the skirt are actually prints—not cut-outs—which is a neat visual trick.
Although Adidas’ sustainability mission is admirable—and it’s more than just talk, as all the items are made either fully or in part with recycled ocean plastics—no visual trick can distract from how disjointed and unfinished the Paris collection feels going into the most stylish major of the year in the fashion capital of the world.
But tennis collections are designed and produced months, sometimes even a year, in advance. That means that Adidas’ streak of underwhelming looks could perhaps just be a side effect of the larger shuffle that’s been rocking the brand since the departure of its longtime global creative director Paul Gaudio in September 2020.
Gaudio has been credited with exponentially growing the German sportswear giant’s profile in North America, embracing sneaker culture and streetwear, and generally making Adidas cool again. But he stepped down from his position days after posting comments in support of Kenosha shooter Kyle Rittenhouse on social media, leaving the overall creative identity of Adidas suddenly in limbo.
(It was Adidas’ second high-profile departure that year. In June, the global head of HR resigned after a number Black employees in the North America office complained of discrimination and racism in the company’s culture and hiring practices.)
This March—nearly two years after Gaudio’s departure—Adidas named Alasdhair Willis as its new chief creative officer, putting him at the creative helm of all three of their labels, including Performance. Willis rose to prominence within Adidas for his role in securing the partnership with English designer Stella McCartney (the pair have been married since 2003). Back in 2005, that move signaled the brand’s larger push into the luxury fashion industry, and resulted in many memorable Adidas by Stella McCartney pieces worn by players like Muguruza, Caroline Wozniacki, Ana Ivanovic and more over the years.
With the lines between sports apparel and luxury fashion more blurred than ever, let’s hope Willis can help Adidas craft a cohesive vision and find its way back to the tennis fashion winners' circle.