Posted on August 27th, by HeatherZeller in BLOG, INTERVIEWS.


The relationship between tennis and fashion evolves with each season, widening the game’s fashion landscape. The sport puts clothing on full display, prompting athletic wear brands to serve up fresh new styles at every tournament. Center court now doubles as a catwalk, with designs that range from conservative and classic to edgy and eccentric. While the apparel is performance-driven, runway trends continue to weave their way into competitive designs. Tennis’ lack of uniform restrictions also affords players more fashionable freedom, allowing their personal style to shine.

For the final Grand Slam of the season, Fila’s athletes will be styled in fashions that fuse elements of the brand’s iconic heritage with current trends. The new women’s Heritage line boasts a mix of blue tones, ombre stripes and modern silhouettes, to evoke an old school vibe with a contemporary twist. Each of Fila’s female players will sport different pieces (Jelena Jankovic prefers to wear dresses while Nadia Petrova opts for sleeves), but all US Open styles are part of a cohesive collection. Fans can shop Fila’s US Open Heritage gear here.

A Glam Slam spoke with Fila designer, Francine Candiotti, about the inspiration behind the US Open Heritage line, merging style and performance in design, and how the brand’s fashions have evolved over the years. Check it out:

(Fila Women’s US Open Heritage Line)

How did you get involved in designing for Fila?

My background is athletic wear. I’ve gone from Russell Everlast to Victoria’s Secret, where I did the VSX Collection. Then I got an opportunity to come to Fila and I was thrilled because I love the world of fashion and fitness together. I design all the women’s and children’s and I usually take one to two men’s groups. My background is in menswear as well.

What was the inspiration behind this year’s US Open Heritage collection?

I knew that ombre was trending, but how could I make it look fresh? So I took these retro 80’s stripes and I paired them together and I loved it. It gave off a really good vibe. That stripe comes from our heritage look, so it’s a little something from yesteryear and something that’s trending today. I love the shades of blue, I thought that was beautiful, from blue to mist, that tone on tone. And then just pairing it with really lightweight fabrics and silhouettes that are trending in fashion and fitness for today’s athletes.

As you mentioned, the Heritage line pulls from Fila’s archives in Italy, while integrating ombre into the design for an updated twist. Is it difficult to find that balance between old school yet modern designs?

That’s actually one of my favorite things to do. I had the opportunity to go to Italy and look at our archives. It’s fun to take a look back and challenging to figure out how I can make this fresh and let the next generation understand Fila. Not many companies can do that. Not many companies are 102 years old. Fabric is a really big thing for us too, and I think that’s what’s making it current. It’s the lightweight fabric and the silhouette.

The collection features predominately blue hues, a color that is popular for the upcoming Fall/Winter seasons. Ombre patterns have also been on trend. Do you often pull from current runway trends when creating the sportswear?

I really do. I know practically every catwalk and what goes on with every designer. We have a service called WGSN and at a glance, I can look at everything in a collection and with that information and with what Fila has done, I make it my own.

Do you have a favorite piece from the Heritage line?

I love the racerback tank dress. It came out so beautiful, the print. The ombre fades perfectly, the stripes look beautiful, the back is fabulous. And what I did with that specific piece is something called body illusion. The sides are darker so it makes you look thinner. I really dress to a women’s body and how to make her feel good.

(Heritage Printed Racerback Dress: $75)

How far in advance to you begin developing designs, for example this US Open collection?

Around nine months ago or so. A lot of times I just design something and I keep it in my back pocket until I have to take it out and present. Ideas come to me all the time. If I feel it and I own it, I design it and I save it for when I have to present for the Fall or Spring.

Do you ever choose colors for Grand Slam apparel to match/complement the court color (red/blue clay, grass)?

We sit down, a group of us, and we brainstorm what would look good on the grass court or depending what the event is, absolutely. And we figure out what collection works best for the athlete and for what event they’re playing at. 

Both fashion and performance are taken into account for players’ competitive gear. Do you focus on one before the other when designing?

It goes hand in hand. I consider our athletes, I consider the woman at the country club, I consider somebody walking around wearing Fila. In our mini collections, I always have a nice balance. For somebody who maybe does not want to show their arms, I do a short sleeve top. For somebody who wants a little bit of a sexier appeal, maybe someone younger, I do the racerback. With the template I come up with, I have a little bit for everybody.

In an individual sport like tennis, players really showcase their own sense of style through their on-court fashions. How much input do you receive from the Fila athletes, when it comes to their competitive gear?

They’re extremely vocal. They’re really happy to give me information and talk to me and I think that’s really important for them to tell me what they’re doing and thinking. Hearing from them directly, it really puts me in tune. For example, they’re playing for eight hours on the court, I can’t have heavy fabrics weighing them down, I have to consider that these are world class athletes on TV. It’s really important and they weigh in heavily.

For this Heritage collection, it was also important to have those layering pieces to make them feel good. That’s one of the things they kept saying to me. They want to feel good walking on court, so they have the warm-up, they have the sweater, they have the bag, and they have the accessories. 

How have the aesthetics of Fila’s fashions changed/evolved in recent years?

I think the biggest change in the direction of tennis is it’s lightweight. A lot of the brands used to be heavier, do a lot of the binding and putting cut lines just because it looks pretty. It has to be wearable also. And that’s one thing that I’ve really embraced this season. Nobody wants to be weighed down.

We have a tennis collection but we also have a personal performance collection. And when they’re off the court, the athletes want to look good and feel good if they’re going to a press conference or they’re just hitting a couple balls at practice. So our purpose with performance collection colors is to tie back with our tennis collection, so everything is merchandised properly. Including our accessories and headbands and bags, everything ties back.

During the other Grand Slams this season, we saw a lot of neon and color blocking. What are some of the trends we might see on-court during the US Open?

I think the asymmetrical, body-conscious trend that I mentioned is definitely going to be out there. You’re going to see a lot of 80’s influences as well as probably textured whites. The new color that’s coming down the pipeline is mint, I call it sorbet neon. Neons are trending but then there’s a certain palette that’s coming out, with that fashionable mint.
(Jelena Jankovic wearing the Fila Heritage Ruffle Bottom Dress: $75)
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