Launching Summer 2021, EXEAT, founded by British entrepreneur and tennis enthusiast, Laura Ward, is a luxurious new sustainably conscious performance grade athleisure brand inspired by the chic idyll of England’s quintessential grass-court tennis.
EXEAT aims to shake up the tennis apparel industry that lags behind other sporting sectors and is dominated by pure play performance sports brands who appear to design with the elite athletes they sponsor in mind, not the stylish modern woman. After three years in research and development, EXEAT serves up haute grass-court tennis dresses to the sector by applying the considered aesthetic principles of the great fashion houses to a traditionally somewhat uninspiring division of sportswear. Integrating tailoring principles more associated to a Savile Row suit, EXEAT is fit-first focused with scientifically engineered fabric that is breaking new ground for its sustainability credentials.
This summer, some one million new female players are expected to step out onto British courts for the first time, an aftereffect of the lockdown. The LTA reported an unprecedented 372% surge in tennis participation over the past year, bringing the total number of British players in advance of six million. These figures are mirrored across the Atlantic wherein the USA tennis has experienced the highest growth rate of any ‘traditional sport’, with an unprecedented 6.78 million new or returning players, taking total participation to 21.64 million people.
Reflecting the meteoric rise in popularity of tennis is the number of fashion and sustainability-conscious consumers taking to platforms such as Depop to search for their new sporting attire. In 2020 Depop recorded an 175% increase in the number of people searching for a “white tennis dress”. Moreover, #tennisskirt racked up over 13.2 million views on social media platform TikTok, a platform which incidentally saw the average age of its user increase during the pandemic as it was adopted by multiple generations.
Heralding a new era for British tennis apparel,EXEAT, which will be realised this summer in the release of five signature tennis dresses & various separates in sizes S through to XXL, is an ode to the female form, and more importantly, how women want to feel when playing tennis.
EXEAT has been founded by serial entrepreneur and digital marketing CEO Laura Ward who comments: ‘I started to play tennis on a regular basis aged 11 inspired by the style and charisma of 90’s Wimbledon, mesmerised by the chic polish of the dress code thrown together with exuberant full throttle play courtesy ofAgassi, Sampras and Graf. I never did compete on centre court, but today I find great joy in the opportunity to play with friends whilst getting an exhilarating work out. I am hugely proud to be launching EXEAT, I know from first-hand experience that brands within this space, who are largely global sports corporations with elite athletes in mind, neglect how a stylish modern woman wants to feel when playing.’
EXEAT aligns with the macro trend for athleisure wear across the luxury brands sector with three hero tailoring principles to aid superlative fit and flattery. These have been developed and coined by EXEAT with each dress featuring “Sculptress Seams”, “Leggy Hems” and “Power Pleats”, the last of which is a true signature of the brand. These bespoke pleats were six months in development alone, with a thermo rendered fold that holds formation during play and is carefully configured to visibly streamline the silhouette, versus the boxy flounce of less superior pleating. As with all EXEAT’s pieces, despite the couture appearance, they are fully machine washable.
EXEAT has been born out of a deep-rooted passion and belief that tennis is a unifying sport and that female players should be empowered with suitably fitting attire that reflects personal style. Laura has worked in the luxury sector for her entire career, of which a period was spent in Paris observing atelier tailoring in Le Marais in preparation of the realisation of EXEAT. The brand will not only cater to those seeking truly flattering and form-fitting tennis apparel for on and off the court, but also those who make conscious decisions in the way they shop.
Apparent in every stage of the development of this new athleisure brand is the founder’s drive that the materials used not only meet the attributes of being sustainable, but that they exceed all current standards, developing an approach that sets a new benchmark for the sector. EXEAT achieves this based on the three principles of sustainability: economy, society and environment by using world-leading ecological fabrics across the entire collection. EXEAT is a progressive brand at the forefront of sustainability; its R&D programme has been guided by the work of award-winning environmental scientists and Europe’s most accredited sustainable factories.
Laura commented: ‘We want the principles applied in existing fashion attire to crossover into our tennis apparel. There has been an exponential increase in the number of players in the last decade and the impact COVID-19 has had on gyms and traditional indoor sports has led to more people taking up the racket. Having been a dedicated follower of fashion from a young age, and in my career working with leading global brands, I knew it was fundamental for EXEAT to be sustainable, but I wanted it to exceed expectations and to really challenge the industry in this area.’