Open Era has a unique origin story. How many other fashion brands can say they started off life as a tennis ball – and a white tennis ball at that?

Until 1972, most standard tennis balls were actually white; indeed, this style was still used at the Wimbledon Championships until 1986. Entrepreneurs Max Frey had a fascination with these historic tennis balls – and was keen to revive their use. In researching their heyday, he became fascinated with the Björn

Borg and John McEnroe era: “When we saw the beautiful fashion back then, we thought ‘Wow, the tennis balls are not the only thing worthy of preservation,’” he explains.

And so, with the help of cofounder Paul Blick, Open Era was launched with the aim of creating vintage tennis-inspired fashion for a new generation.

Model wearing Open Era clothes
Model wearing Open Era clothes

The term ‘open era’ refers to the period in tennis when the Grand Slam tournaments allowed professional players to compete.

“With this change, new athletic standards were set, media interest came up and tennis became sexy overnight,” says Frey.

Arguably tennis has never been as sexy as right now. Just watch Zendaya’s spring hit Challengers if you have any doubt. But undeniably there is a timeless appeal to the early years of the professional game. (McEnroe’s headband notwithstanding.)

Beyond this unique aesthetic code, Blick and Frey were adamant that the business would be sustainable. Easier said than done when it comes to balancing environmental factors with technical requirements.

Sustainability in fashion is not black and white; it’s a nuanced affair. As Frey explains: “At the beginning, we were not aware of the trade-offs regarding different decisions: synthetic fibres are not good [for the environment], but a jacquard – for example – needs synthetic fibres to be durable. What weighs more: longevity or the downsides of synthetic fibres? It all depends on the chemicals and energy sources used.”

Model wearing Open Era clothing
Model wearing Open Era clothing

But there are some undeniable elements of sustainable fashion that Open Era stand by: choosing partners that share the same values; researching ecological fibres; using FSC-certified packaging; and crucially focussing on quality.

One of Open Era’s tenets is that all the clothes are made in Europe. Not just to keep shipping miles down, but the regulations in the EU also restrict the use of very harmful chemicals and ensure better working conditions.

What’s undeniably clear is that the company is determined to make the right calls – not only in engaging in sustainable business practices, but helping raise awareness for them along the way.

Ultimately, Open Era is an antagonist to the fast-fashion industry. Its retro appeal is part of that: recreating historic charm is a way to commemorate the past.

“We want to create something enduring – just as the open era in tennis is perpetual,” says Frey. “We do not only want to preserve things but also make them contemporarily better regarding the impact on our surroundings, and more relevant for today’s fashion consumer.”

Model wearing Open Era clothing
Model wearing Open Era clothing

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