A surprising and unlikely partnership was forged at the start of the 2012 French Open when, a few days before he strode into Roland Garros for his first match, top-ranked Novak Djokovic walked a short runway in a press conference to announce his endorsement of the Japanese clothing brand Uniqlo.
The Serb signed a five-year deal to become the spokesperson of Asia’s No. 1 clothing chain. The deal is expected to boost Uniqlo’s global exposure as it gears for massive expansion in all markets, including Europe.
Uniqlo arrives in Manila next week, in partnership with SM.
Djokovic, who was outfitted by the Italian label Sergio Tacchini, is the reigning champion of Wimbledon, US Open and Australian Open. The 25-year-old, who has never won the French Open, moved onto the semifinals on Tuesday after beating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Djokovic can be seen on center court clothed in tennis whites with simple red and blue stripes running on his right sleeve, a zipped round collar, with the brand logo on his left chest and right sleeve. A matching jacket has the same simple stripes on both sleeves and red inner collar. His white shorts also bear the Uniqlo logo.
The Serbian flag inspired the blue and red stripes. Djokovic will have an input in the design of the tennis collection.
Though noted for its high-tech fabrics, Uniqlo is better known for basic apparel than athletic wear. It, however, unveiled a new tennis collection on April 2, in line with the opening of its Tokyo flagship store in Ginza.
The collection was modeled on a kit created for pro male tennis player Kei Nishikori, who is ranked No. 1 in Japan and No. 18 in the world.
According to Tadashi Yanai, CEO of Fast Retailing Inc.: “We will use the most innovative fabrics and technologies to develop match wear that can contribute to the performance of a globally recognized and respected sports person like Novak. At the same time, Uniqlo will incorporate latest fabrics and technologies to develop with him the ultimate functional apparel that can be worn, and enjoyed, by people all over the world.” Fast Retailing is the owner of Uniqlo.
“I feel a natural connection with Uniqlo,” Djokovic said in a statement. “To me, Uniqlo is not fast fashion, and it’s not sportswear. Uniqlo is the ultimate functional wear, which is exactly what I need as both a sports person and an individual who leads a very active life. I look forward to collaborating with Uniqlo in the development of new products.”
The Djokovic tennis collection will not initially be available in the Philippines, where Uniqlo will open its first store at the SM Mall of Asia on June 15.