One of the most fashion-forward women in tennis is Wimbledon Champion
Marion Bartoli. After coveting her gorgeous jewelry line last year, I was thrilled to hear she would finally branch out into tennis fashion this spring.The limited edition LOVE FILA by Marion Bartoli is making its world debut this clay court season. With nods to Marion’s home in Paris, her championship city of London, and Fila’s origination in Italy, this collection embodies her personal story of success.
I was fortunate to have a sneak peek at Marion’s collaboration with Fila last November during Necker Cup. Marion was as darling and enthusiastic as you could imagine, and kindly took the time to introduce me to each of the pieces being released this year. I could think of no more fitting name for the line than “Love”, because it was glaringly obvious how much passion and devotion went into its design. From hand sourced materials to custom artwork, it is clear that this collection really does come straight from Marion’s heart.
I caught up with Marion again in May just as the product was about to roll out for the clay court season. Here is what she had to say:
Kelsey Anderson (KA): First of all, it is so good to speak with you again. I can’t even tell you how excited I am for your new collection coming out next week! I know it has been a long journey and that you have worked incredibly hard to make this happen. Just how long have you been working to make this collaboration a reality?
Marion Bartoli (MB): It was 7 months from the time of the first sketch until the final piece was approved. After that, we had to wait 100 more days for full production to take place.
KA: The collections are really fashion forward and I love them. We have always known about your love for off-court fashion, what inspired you to bring this passion to tennis apparel?
MB: I think now tennis is getting a lot of the inspiration from the runway, which is something quite incredible when you think about it. It was something quite crazy to even think about maybe 10 years ago.
My goal with the LOVE FILA BY MARION BARTOLI collection was to bring fashion to the tennis court and vice versa. I always felt a lot more could be done and FILA was just the perfect match for that. It was all about bringing back the coolness of the brand with a new view. We bring the best out of each other. We bring our passion out.
KA: I am not sure if people are aware, but after your tennis success you actually studied fashion design at the prestigious Central Saint Martins in London. Did this have a pretty big impact on your approach to the design of this collection?
MB: I don’t think people were really aware, but hopefully now they will learn as it has been mentioned more and more in the press. It was crucial for me to have a proper “fashion degree education” and assessment of my skill level. I cannot recommend enough the school I attended. I had the best experience and time ever! I could not have done this collection without all the fashion, fabric, cut and proportion knowledge that I learned at Central.
Now I still go back there often to take extra Bespoke courses, to acquire even more specific knowledge and to learn new embroidery or cut techniques. Fashion is just like in tennis, you must try to get better. When it came to the design of the Fila collections, first I focused on the aesthetic and the shapes. It was so crucial to get the full line right in terms of cuts, so I focused on that.
After came the print ideas. I asked my teacher at my fashion school in London, Central Saint Martins, to give me extra classes in print, so I could really perfect my skills and know what was possible and not possible to do. For example, I incorporated FILA heritage via a water painting of the Italian coast I did myself; I painted it during a trip to Capri. We then put that painting into a print and created the Italian dress.
KA: Yes, that dress might be my favorite piece! I love knowing that the print was handmade by you personally. Really the whole collection speaks to your experiences and your life story this far. Tell me a little bit about what you tried to embody with these designs.
MB: The story behind the line is a very strong aesthetic with something unique. I want every woman who wears this collection to feel strong and beautiful, to feel glamorous, to be and feel unique.
It’s all about the boldness of the prints with different themes. I wanted the collection to go around three well identified themes: Paris, London, and Italy. Of course the two first cities because I am French and because I won in London, and the third city because I wanted to go back to FILA’s roots and to bring Italy back, this dolce vita feeling of the Amalfi Coast, the sunset. All of that I had the chance to experience myself which is pretty incredible.
Paris is reflected by a very soft, romantic print, like a spring day in Paris, when you sit in a cafe having a croissant and enjoying life. London is all about the boldness and fun of the city, all the different cultures mixing and something very vibrant. There is a common thing to this whole collection though: my heart and my soul.
KA: I know these pieces were not formed by you sitting at a desk just conceptualizing the ideas, you did a lot of legwork to bring these products to fruition. Tell me about some of the experiences you had in order to make this dream come true.
MB: To promote the collections and try to get retailers on board, I actually went for 10 days in a row to all these different hotel rooms in different European cities, all by myself with my little carryon suitcase containing my samples. I will never forget those 10 days, that is for sure! I was waking up in a city around 5 am, and then finishing at midnight somewhere completely different, having taken 2 flights during the day.
I did my first sale speech at Yoox in Milan and I think I was more nervous than I was for my second Wimbledon final! But now, when I see my clothes in those stores, it is just an incredible feeling! I am so proud.
KA: I know it is impossible for people to tell from the online imagery, but as someone who places a lot of value on quality, I cannot believe how incredible the materials you used in the collection are; they are gorgeous! Was finding the right materials a difficult part of the process?
MB: The fabric quality is really something I learned at Central. I actually went myself to Italian factories in order to source the fabrics for the collection. The lace is from Calais in France.
The critical element was to take a high luxury fabric and then incorporate the specifications of a sport fabric. It was a challenge, but we did it.
KA: The biggest question I and everyone else want to know: when and where can we get our hands on this collection?
MB: Ah ok, are you ready? The LOVE FILA BY MARION BARTOLI line was made available beginning April 15, in the U.S. at FILA.com, Bandier, Mason’s Tennis Mart, Pete Carlson’s Golf & Tennis, and the International Tennis Hall of Fame. You will be able to find it internationally at Harrods, Yoox Group, Wigmore Sports, Galeries Lafayette, Queens Club Pro Shop, Tennis Pro, Space 23, KaDeWe, FILA Brazil, FILA Argentina, FILA Korea, FILA Hong Kong, FILA China, FILA EU, and FILA UK, with even more retailers to be added!