New companies, historic brands offering new bag designs
The desire to innovate in tennis accessories has led two relatively new companies to focus on tennis bags and two long-standing brands to push towards new bag designs. With technological improvements across the industry, whether in racquets or sneakers, the new focus on bag features, materials and styles highlights a growing consumer base.
London based Epirus used a lifestyle-focused tennis bag collection in 2019 to help launch a new push into space. Brands such as Wilson and Dunlop created approaches that deviated from old designs, giving clients new options for the street and in styles not too adorned with brightness and logos. And Geau Sport launched in December 2020 with a technical approach to the bag.
“Although some tennis equipment made huge strides during my break (from 20 years of tennis), I noticed that the design of the tennis bags had remained relatively unchanged,” says Chris Pageau, founder of Geau Sport. “I saw an opportunity to change that and make the bag a coveted piece of equipment.”
The top-ranked former junior player who professionally designed hundreds of products in an outdoor industry driven by a flow of new models of bags and packs, says not only does the typical tennis bag offer an unappealing style that prominently displays a large logo, but this may lack quality materials. “I selected materials that you would normally see on a high-end hiking backpack or travel bag,” he says. “These materials must achieve the rare combination of being both lightweight and durable.” Using 420D ripstop polyester and 500D Cordura, the Geau Sport bag brings a technical touch to the space, but in a tennis-specific design and modern silhouette.
Alan Kelly, co-founder of Epirus, created for customers who want a functional tennis bag without it looking like it. “We’re doing something completely different from other brands,” he says. “We don’t focus on the mass market, but we make lifestyle bags for professionals who play tennis. It’s a big shift in mindset in the way traditional tennis brands think about their products. ”
The Epirus brand aims to “create timeless bags that never go out of style”, keeping the same collections as they started out, just adding customer-focused improvements as they go. “Some Epirus customers use their bags exclusively for tennis, but most use them for a combination of tennis, work, gym, fitness classes and travel,” says Kelly. “We even have customers who don’t play tennis at all, they just love the aesthetics.”
But it’s not just the small brands that make the difference. Credit Wilson with the New Aesthetic Approach for Big Brands and Dunlop with Pioneering New Styles. Dunlop’s long backpack style – a backpack where the entire racquet, not just the head, fits fully inside the bag – originally launched in 2019 and has now grown into several styles. And more are on the way.
“The bag was originally designed to make getting around town more convenient with all your gear,” says Kimberly Pettit, spokesperson for Dunlop. “The bag itself is not bulky and provides full racket coverage to keep all of your gear safe on a train or in all weather conditions.”
Having something in the market that no one is offering not only helps differentiate Dunlop from the competition, but lets consumers know the brand is putting them front and center when designing, Pettit says. “Before launching new bags, we make sure that each region has their opinion on what their market sees in regards to color, styles and trends to ensure that the upcoming line meets the needs of our base. growing number of consumers. ”
Pettit says consumers have been open to trying new things, especially if they perceive innovation and functionality to suit their lifestyle. “The long backpack is a great example when it comes to functionality, especially with travel, and the innovation has been successful,” she says.
Having options has led Wilson to new places in tennis bags, with a women-specific line, lifestyle-focused designs, and even a unique roll-top option that transforms from a Traditional size one-bag backpack that can cover an entire racket. “We aspire to be the go-to brand in tennis,” says Michael Schaeffer, head of Wilson’s racket sports product line. “This means it’s critical that players can find Wilson products that represent a lifestyle aesthetic.”
Drawing on focus groups with players from across the country, Wilson also enlists the brand’s top clothing designers to help them select colors and fabrics when creating bags. With a goal, says Schaeffer, of wanting to have versatility with their line of bags and to maximize the use of space, designers like to get into the mindset of their players to create something for every type. of consumer. To find this next innovation, Schaeffer says Wilson is taking inspiration from industries other than tennis, such as the outdoors and camping and even motorcycles to see how they can adapt new technology and functionality to tennis bags.
“Consumers demand more from their products today,” he says. “Demand more options to better meet their unique needs. This has led to an expansion of more unique offerings and silhouettes. We now have a range of bags that can suit any player depending on their product needs, style preferences, and preferred method of travel on the court. ”
Expect the push from the tennis bags to stay. Wilson continues to roll out new styles and focus on sustainability with pattern design, material selection and waste reduction, while Dunlop will continue to add new pricing across the lines while introducing new colors. and patterns. Epirus continues to produce its popular Everyday collection and after the first batch of Axiom backpacks and bags from Geau Sport sold four times faster than expected, the replenished inventory is set to sell out again, this which led Pageau to plan a spring 2022 line launch with a new color option and design for women.
“We’ve seen a number of new brands launching over the past few years, each doing something a little different and attracting a different audience,” Kelly says. “It’s great to see more innovation in tennis accessories and apparel. We believe that a rising tide lifts all ships. “