Clijsters discovered Full Court Sport while searching for independent athletic apparel labels online and she immediately felt connected to the brand and drawn to its sleek, sharp style. Clijsters also wanted to use her return to the court as a vehicle to promote and empower an independent label, rather than a well-known athletic brand. As she explains, “At this stage in my career and life, I understand the power of action an athlete can have so I try to use my platform to give others the opportunity to tell their story.” Wade was thrilled when Clijsters reached out, despite worries that a collaboration would be tricky due to the circumstances surrounding the global pandemic. Still, “I couldn’t think of a more worthwhile challenge,” Wade says of the initial discussions for the project. “It was tough—fabricators were closed or backed up, physical contact was limited. But it was with the help of so many people that I was able to work on this collaboration and I’m very grateful. As Arthur Ashe said: ‘Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.’”
Clijsters and Wade did the first fitting a month or so ago in the kitchen of Clijsters’s home in New Jersey; right off the bat, the two felt like kindred spirits, both as professionals and as women. “I really admire women who dare to be different and follow their own path, who do what’s true to them,” Clijsters says. “I admire Marguerite’s entrepreneurial spirit and I think passion is important in everything one does. In fact, it’s the most important ingredient to success.” Wade echoes the tennis champion’s sentiments about working together and says that she is “inspired by Kim’s comeback” because it shows “such an enduring love of tennis and a drive and hustle.” Wade adds, “I recognize a similar determination in myself when I first started Full Court Sport.” Their partnership is a true testament to the power of women coming together to support and uplift one another, and it is also perhaps a hopeful sign of the changing tides of consumerism and sports endorsements and collaborations overall.
At the very least, Wade and Clijsters’s collaboration should serve as an example of a progressive new way of approaching dressing for pro sports. Serena Williams has led the way by collaborating with high fashion labels like Off-White and launching her own eponymous brand, but there’s room for others to think in more conscious, out-of-the-box ways when it comes to bridging fashion and athleisure labels with sports stars. As Wade says, “I think with social media and a greater accessibility the consciousness around consumerism and independent businesses has expanded. This greater awareness has been a rewarding moment for a lot of small businesses and certainly those run by women and people of color.”
“I think bigger brands and tournaments should use their reach and collaborate with more independent designers. And not just one-offs, but longer, more invested partnerships. Women and people of color are lacking in the corporate offices and design studios of these larger companies. This has been a long-time problem in the entire industry, including the athletic apparel market as well.” Hopefully, others will follow Wade and Clijsters’s lead and begin to cultivate partnerships outside of Nike, Adidas, Fila, and so on. Both women are optimistic, especially Wade, who says that, thankfully, “the good news is that people are starting to look around the table and see who is represented and who isn’t.”