Roger Federer, Fashion Designer

On Wednesday morning in New York, I watched as Roger Federer toured the Uniqlo flagship on Fifth Ave, a phalanx of videographers moving amoeba-like around him. Outside, a small crowd of admirers was growing larger by the minute. If there’s one thing Federer has heard approximately one billion times from fans, it’s that he is their favorite tennis player. I joked that he might be becoming their favorite fashion designer. “Up-and-coming fashion designer,” he replied, cracking his famously warm grin.

As he was there to announce, Federer has created a collection of clothing for Uniqlo with Loewe creative director Jonathan Anderson. Available August 28, the collaboration is the latest in a string of apparel and accessories projects the icon of sporting icons has launched in the last few years. In 2018, Federer signed an endorsement deal with Uniqlo, and began refining his on-court fits with the brand’s artistic director, Christoph Lemaire. In 2020, he released a sneaker he designed with On, the culty Swiss running brand. Following his retirement from tennis last year, Federer has been indulging in new hobbies like playing percussion with Coldplay and making pizzas with Scarr Pimentel in Dimes Square. And adding more fashion projects to his portfolio—this year, he inked a deal with Oliver Peoples to co-design sunglasses.

<cite class="credit">CLEMENT PASCAL</cite>

CLEMENT PASCAL

“I have been really busy,” he said, taking a seat in a private room in the back of the store. Federer had just arrived from the Hamptons with a grass court-season tan and a deep sense of ease about him, perhaps aided by his outfit. He was wearing a few favorites from the nine-piece unisex collection: a gray fleece zip-up jacket, a blue two-tone polo, and tapered, cropped track pants. “Jonathan really liked going back to the nineties track pants,” Federer said. “He thought that this would be a really cool touch. And when he showed me, I was like, ‘Okay, this brings me back to my teenage years. So let’s do that.’”

Has the most stylish man of the decade–as voted by GQ readers in 2019—entered a new, chiller era in retirement? “I’ve gotten a bit more casual for sure,” he said. “As you get older, you want to be younger again.”

Federer’s obsession with fashion began early in his career, long before the tour’s rising young guns graced runway show front rows and gunned for luxury endorsement deals. “I really enjoy it,” he said. “It’s like deep diving into a completely different world. It’s like the art world or the jewelry world or car world. The fashion world is the one I know a lot. And I’ve gotten to know so many of the beautiful and best designers, so I’ve been very fortunate.”

<cite class="credit">CLEMENT PASCAL</cite>

CLEMENT PASCAL

<cite class="credit">CLEMENT PASCAL</cite>

CLEMENT PASCAL

The tennis great clearly relished the opportunity to work with Anderson, who is on a creative tear at the helm of Loewe. “I saw Loewe really take flight. It’s been great to see what he’s done with it,” Federer said. “I love how professional he is, how quickly he moves, how great his team is, how nice he is to everyone. I always look especially to that. And if there’s really something that just doesn’t work out, he says, ‘Well, let’s change it, let’s move on and let’s make it better in the process.’ I feel like he finds great solutions.”

For his part, Anderson, who designed the costumes for the forthcoming Luca Guadagnino-directed tennis film Challengers, said in a press release that he was “so influenced by watching Roger play.” (Federer noted that he’s been invited to many Loewe shows, but has never been able to make it work for one reason or another. “I’m really hoping I can go to one!”)

Their design process, Federer explained, was more extensive than what might be typically expected of a celebrity-led partnership. When he and Anderson began discussing the project, Federer had not yet made the decision to retire, so they decided that the clothes had to work on the court and on the street.

<cite class="credit">CLEMENT PASCAL</cite>

CLEMENT PASCAL

As with all of Federer’s on-court outfits, the starting point was vintage tennis style. Federer is quick to cite the figures who loom large in the sport’s rich sartorial history. “Many people don’t know that Rene Lacoste was a wonderful tennis player. Same with Stan Smith. He was not just a sneaker!”

At their first meeting, the two agreed that the line should tweak Federer’s own style legacy with Anderson’s on-the-pulse ideas. “I wanted the collection to be something that I haven’t really done in the past, but yet it wouldn’t feel like, ‘What is he doing? He looks completely different,’” Federer said.

The two got together, Federer estimated, a half-dozen times, on top of countless Zoom consultations where they scrutinized colorway and zipper placements. “Sometimes we would look at it and talk about it and then we would be very happy, but then we still would make a lot of changes,” he recalled. “All these little details, in my mind, they all make a difference at the end.” It was, he said, a true partnership. “Jonathan has a wonderful feel with it. But he always wanted it to be my decision as well, and my input.”

<cite class="credit">CLEMENT PASCAL</cite>

CLEMENT PASCAL

Federer noted he was particularly proud of the lambswool sweaters, in a heather gray and one in a navy and rich blue. “I liked the color blocking, knowing that Jonathan does that better than anybody.” He also pushed for the inclusion of a fleecy hoodie with preppy ribbing details that one might wear on a practice court. “We haven’t seen that many hoodies in the past for on court stuff. And after going through Covid, with loungewear, keeping it easy and smooth—I thought that would be a nice touch.”

Now that Federer has designed sneakers, sunglasses, and a capsule collection with one of the hottest designers working today, what’s next? I asked if one of the great suit-wearers of our age would try his hand at tailoring. “No, not yet!” he said. For now, he hopes to keep working with Anderson. As Federer explained, there’s  more yet to be revealed from their many design sessions. “We would’ve liked the collection to be even bigger, because we had so many cool pieces. But at the end, at some point, you have to cut it down. But it could have been basically double in size,” he said. Enough for a second collection? I asked.

“Exactly,” he said. Federer, fashion designer, clearly has his next shot lined up. “We are ready to go.”

<cite class="credit">CLEMENT PASCAL</cite>

CLEMENT PASCAL

Originally Appeared on GQ

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