Blake & Fila Go Where No Brand Has Gone Before

When James Blake takes the court at the US Open in a couple weeks, he’ll be wearing his new Fila line. But unlike any athlete before him, the logo doesn’t spell out his initials or show a symbolic silhouette.

Instead, Blake’s logo is “TR,” and the line is called Thomas Reynolds, the first and middle name of his late father.

“I wanted to be part of something that wouldn’t necessarily have to always be tied to me and be more about the spirit that father embodied,” Blake said.

Fila will help capture the lessons instilled in James by Blake’s father, who died in 2004, through print ads and through hang tags on the line.

Thomas Reynolds Ad
Thomas Reynolds Ad
Thomas Reynolds Ad

While some might think that having a brand modeled after a player's family member is a risk, Blake's agent Carlos Fleming views it from a different perspective.

“It's a risk to have the collection tied specifically to his tennis career and our goal is to develop a much broader story that will live long after he's done playing professional tennis," Fleming said.

Another reason why it makes sense not to have James’ name attached to the brand is that there are big dreams for the line. Golf, fitness and leisurewear are the next up for the Thomas Reynolds brand if everything proceeds as planned.

For Fila, originally an Italian brand but now owned by South Korean interests, Blake’s unique idea allowed them to differentiate from everything else that was out there.

“The market is extremely tough right now,” said Jennifer Estabrook, vice president of business operations for Fila USA. “But that means it’s time to be bold and think out of the box and we’re a nimble organization that can do something like this.”

Estabrook said that the launch collection of Thomas Reynolds sold out to retailers after they saw drawings of the designs.

“It has exceeded our expectations and this was at a time when the retail environment is challenged,” Estabrook said.

In the coming weeks, the line –- described as “urban country club” attire – will hit stores including Lord & Taylor and Dick’s Sporting Goods . Polos, pants and shorts sell in the $45 to $55 range.

Although James’ name isn’t on the brand, he’ll likely have to play great tennis as Thomas Reynolds’ only spokesman. The 29-year-old American is currently ranked No. 24 in the world, 20 spots down from his career-high in Nov. 2006.

“Obviously the best way to drive interest and see the collection is for him to win big matches on an international level,” Fleming said. "But what is going to sustain the brand is what happens after consumers engage with the product. We have to have appropriate quality, fabric, technology and style to sustain and grow the interest level."

As for Blake, who was with Nikefor nearly a decade before signing with Fila, he is excited for the opportunity of developing a retail brand that stretches beyond the tennis market and beyond his tennis career.

“As a tennis player, the biggest moments come in small windows of opportunity,” Blake said. “They come on break points and on match points. I feel like this is a big opportunity for me and to tell the story of the man who taught me and inspired me.”

Player logo's
Player logo's

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