TSF recently caught wind of a tennis fashion line named DTL Down the Line Sportwear (not to be confused with the Down the Line! blog). It was founded by Carla Hilbig, a former nationally ranked junior who has turned her buying experience into a tennis apparel line that’s “affordable, high fashion, high quality, and high performance.” Folks can even host their own Tupperware-style Courtside Party, which cuts down on the company’s overhead and helps spread word about their line.
Our take: To be honest, we were ready to write off DTL apparel at first glance (at least from looks; we’ll do a gear test later), but a closer look at their catalog led to a few jewels. I’m especially in love with the Scoop Neck Racerback Tank ($37.95), the simple Collared Fit Top ($35.95), and the ruffled Sarong Wrap Skort ($39.95) — you know about our love for ruffles.
Edit: DTL has given readers of Tennis Served Fresh a special discount; enter “AUC08″ at checkout and you’ll get 20% off until February 29, 2008. That’s the whole month of February. With an extra day, even. Go crazy.
Over e-mail, we talked to Carla about how she started the company, her tennis background, and — if she had a chance — which top pro she’d ask to endorse her line. See the Q & A after the cut…
TSF: Do you follow pro tennis? Who are your favorite players?
DTL: I follow it as much as I can. My favorite players on the women’s side are Ana Ivanovic, Lisa Raymond, and Daniela Hantuchova.
TSF: In your own game, what is your favorite shot to play?
DTL: I am such a baseliner. I was that kid in the juniors who used to lob for four hours! However, I love my running backhand crosscourt. [It's] by far my best shot.
TSF: DTL launched a month ago. How long was it “in the making”?
DTL: About two years. The story of how I got here is long, but I will try to condense it. My son, Michael, was born deaf and needed a cochlear implant. The type of implant he uses has a small external battery pack that needs to be stored somewhere on his body. Even though I hadn’t sewn since I was a young girl, I decided to make pockets for all his shirts to hold the battery pack.
So armed with a sewing machine as a gift from my mom, I started modifying all of his shirts. With everything else going on in my life at that time, I wasn’t able to play much tennis, but I still wanted to have a connection with the sport I loved so much, so I started making tennis skirts.
At first I made them just for myself, then I began sending them to my mom and sister in San Diego. Their friends loved them and wanted one as well as shirts to go with them, so I had to expand. I hired an amazingly talented fashion designer in Los Angeles who collaborated with me on our first line that was manufactured in a state-of-the-art facility in Los Angeles.
TSF: What was your inspiration for Down The Line’s designs?
DTL: I love working out. I will usually go from the gym to the tennis court, so I wanted something that could easily translate back and forth. It needed to be young and sporty as well as something that women of different ages could wear comfortably.
TSF: Do you have a background in fashion?
DTL: I do not have a background in fashion; however, I have lived in tennis clothes my entire life! In addition, when I was the Director of Tennis at a club in San Diego, I was responsible for buying the tennis clothes for the pro shop. I have a good feel not only for what looks good, but for what will perform well on the court.
TSF: Any plans to expand to a men’s line?
DTL: Absolutely. I would love to offer men’s clothing, but at this point we are focusing on our women and juniors line.
TSF: Tennis fashion has definitely stepped up in the last few years, with the likes of Sharapova, Federe, and Serena pushing the envelope at Nike, Venus collaborating with Steve & Barry’s for her EleVen line, Ana Ivanovic at adidas… What’s your take?
DTL: It is so wonderful to see the combination of tennis and fashion. I think it has inspired tennis players of all ages and levels to look their best on and off the court. This is what we hope to bring to the tennis community — a clothing line that combines high fashion and high performance.
TSF: What is DTL’s place in the grander scheme of the tennis apparel industry?
DTL: We really believe there is a niche we can fill in the marketplace [for women's and junior apparel]. There are many players out there who don’t want to pay over $100 for a tennis outfit at a pro shop. Likewise, there are those who purchase their clothing at sporting good stores and discounters. They may find a better price than the pro shop, but they often sacrifice style and quality. At DTL, because we offer our products direct to consumers through our website, and our network of Courtside Representatives, we are able to provide a stylish, top quality product at great prices.
TSF: If you could sponsor one pro to wear DTL, who would it be?
DTL: That is a tough one. There are so many talented young players out there. Probably Ivanovic.
See DTL’s goods for yourself by visiting their website.
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