At 6’2”, sinewy, with a summery brown sugar complexion and a smile that is sure to make you melt, Serbia’s Novak Djokovic cuts a fine figure. The U.S. Open men’s singles champion has arrived in New York City to defend his title, but before he takes to the court, the tennis star ventured to Uniqlo’s massive Fifth Avenue flagship to greet fans and unveil his new uniform. Mr. Djokovic was named global brand ambassador of the Japanese company before Roland Garros in May.
By the time The Observer arrived on the scene this morning, a queue of giddy Djokovic diehards was already snaking around Fifth Avenue and 53rd Street.
Inside at a press conference, Mr. Djokovic emerged from a waiting area, wearing the navy version of his special edition U.S. Open Uniqlo uniform. He was flanked by Uniqlo U.S. CEO Shin Odake and creative director Naoki Takizawa.
The store-level also displayed Mr. Djokovic’s previously worn French Open, Wimbledon Championships and London Olympics outfits, in addition to looks from the Djokovic Performance Wear Collection that will be available for the public at a later date.
“I’m feeling very excited. Coming into to this beautiful store for the first time!” proclaimed Mr. Djokovic.
“[I’m] obviously looking forward to perform[ing] in this new Uniqlo collection and at the U.S. Open, the biggest tournament in our sport this time of the year.”
Subsequently, Mr. Takizawa highlighted the innovative technology and advanced design aspects of the tennis suit: Cooling fabrics for warm weather play and sweat-absorbent, quick-dry materials too keep the world’s No. 2 tennis player comfortable. The color scheme of navy, white and touches of red, Mr. Takizawa said, was inspired by the national flag of Serbia. On and on it went, but how could The Observer focus on all that design banter with Mr. Djokovic, a smoldering Adonis of a man, just inches away, elevated on a stool? It was nearly impossible.
“It’s very important from the perspective of a professional tennis player to have the most advanced and finest possible materials and fabrics used in the clothes,” Mr. Djokovic said about the uniform, getting serious. “They don’t feel heavy underneath. So I feel light, I feel comfortable in my movements on the court, which is very important.”
Mr. Djokovic then demonstrated the “quick-action” component of his designer duds. Mr. Takizawa had designed a unique zipper feature, making it a cinch to take it all off. Mr. Djokovic modeled his warm-up jacket’s quick-action by tearing off his top in one swift movement. It’s not often that you get to have a tennis star shed off layers with such ferocity.
Mr. Djokovic told the crowd that he was involved with the design process of the collection as much as possible. Considering how busy his tour schedule is, Mr. Djokovic’s specific involvement is debatable. Still, he voiced contentment with his collaboration foray alongside Mr. Takizawa, saying, “I was very impressed with the professionalism and the people. We try to get together as much as we can—every couple of months we sit down and talk about the upcoming collections.”
Women’s Wear Daily editor Rosemary Feitelberg, seated near The Observer in the front row, asked Mr. Djokovic if he thought all this fuss about determining what outfits players would wear subtracts from the athleticism of the sport.
“I don’t think so, I actually think that it’s good for tennis players to always seek for improvement with their sponsors and the clothes that they where,” Mr. Djokovic replied. “It’s in the common interest of both tennis players and the brands representing them to look good on the court.”
That was all the intimate time we were allowed before the floodgates were opened and screaming tennis fans poured into the store for their moment up-close and personal. Mr. Djokovic descended suavely down the three-story escalator like a dreamy movie star, ready to address his sea of devotees.
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