Free People’s evolution from a fashion label to sponsoring a major tennis tournament winner Sofia Kenin has been a natural every step of the way.
The 7-year-old Free People Movement, the sportswear arm of the Free People fashion label, began focusing on tennis in 2021 as sports engagement grew. At the time, the brand also started a conversation with Kenin, the 2020 Australian Open champion, a fan of the brand who has been wearing Free People for years.
“We are still a growing brand, so for us to partner with someone at this level, having a player at the top of the rating gives us the opportunity to take the brand much further and test the product in a different way while enhancing credibility,” says Jack Reynolds, Senior Brand Marketing Managers at Free People. “We have a rich legacy and history in fashion and the FP movement is focused on integrating fashion and function.”
Whether it’s creating a quinine look on the court, a tennis-specific product available in retail stores or good sportswear for a variety of activities, Reynolds says the goal is to stand out without sacrificing performance. “We think we can do that with the history we have,” he says. “It goes back to this focus on individual style and having fun while standing up and continuing to perform.”
The sponsorship with Kenin, who is now back from an injury that kept her off the Tour for much of 2022, aims to raise awareness of the FP movement for sports fans and legitimize the brand with its product on the court. “Looking at the trend in racquet sports, we knew we wanted to meet her needs there,” Reynolds says. “Definitely, we want to reach and meet new audiences where the trend is up and sports fans are attracted, and to capitalize on Sophia’s fame for that.”
Kenin’s absence from the Tour in 2022 delayed Free People’s entry into the worldwide tennis arena, but it helped the brand focus on the relationship with its ambassador. “I think, frankly, one of the main silver linings[of her injury]was getting to it,” Reynolds says. She visited Free People’s Philadelphia offices and used the brand as a pose in a local herbal court for content marketing. She has taken part in multiple photo shoots and helped open stores in the Miami area, where she lives and focuses on the brand’s prime location.
Now that Kenin is back on the tour, she’s wearing her FP movement gear on the court, with her training look and competition uniform. Reynolds says they are working closely with her and are excited to see her compete. Expect to see it in products you’ve already started wearing during the US Open.
While the FP Movement has conquered tennis, it won’t take the entire brand in that direction. “The brand has a lot of versatility in its uses, and we want to make sure that we’re not just a brand of professional athletes,” says Reynolds. “The main pillar of what we do is that we are here for professionals as well as amateurs.”
With this focus – and a motto of fitness, wellness and happiness – the tennis product is a combination of general sportswear and tennis-specific pieces. Kenin’s favorite pieces include Pleats and Thank You Skort, Drop Shot Skortie, and Happiness Runs Sweetheart Tank. Other popular pieces include Get Your Flirt On Pants, Good Karma Tennis Short, See You on the Court Skorts, Check My Topspin Skorts, and Good Karma Dress.
“For us, the end goal is happiness and making sure people are enjoying themselves, looking good, and feeling confident,” says Reynolds. “As we develop more of the product in the following years, it will be more playful with color blocking, prints and patterns, and integrating with technology to stand out without sacrificing performance, whether for a tennis match on the weekend or something more professional.”
The brand believes that the goal of wellness and happiness can come from correcting the fitness component of a product. “These are things that aren’t just fluff,” Reynolds says. “This is a fashion job. She will work with you all the way.”
Kenin’s involvement in the FP movement should broaden the brand’s reach in specific tennis performance. The brand plans to develop more sweat-wicking materials and use Kenin’s vision to make sure products not only stand out, but are professional, which can help give fans confidence when considering a purchase.
“We’re really excited about where this is headed,” Reynolds says. “We have a tremendous amount of momentum.”