What’s it like designing the uniform of a world-class athlete? Just ask Naoki Takizawa, Uniqlo’s creative director and mastermind behind the gear for brand ambassadors Novak Djokovic and Adam Scott. See how the two pros faced-off in our questionnaire here, and read on below to find out what it takes to dress the best.
What makes an athlete the right spokesperson for the brand?
Uniqlo does a lot of research to look for the right “values match” with the particular athletes. When it came to Djokovic, of course he’s the number-one player in the world, but he also does a lot of corporate social responsibility working with children, and that’s something we care about. Adam was very well known in the golf world for being personable and upbeat. He’s constantly aiming to be number one, just like Uniqlo is.
How did Djokovic’s Serbian background influence your designs?
When I met him I knew being Serbian was a really important part of his identity, and that he was expressing himself through sports, so for the first uniform I designed for him, I worked with the colors of the Serbian flag.
In what ways are the fabrics and aesthetic different for golf versus tennis?
It’s really about the actual performance. Tennis can easily last five hours. It can be played under 100-degree heat. It’s such an active sport, so we needed to maximize comfort using technology. We invented a new fabric that would always keep Djokovics’ skin dry. Compared to tennis, golf has more of a traditional legacy in terms of the outfitting. It’s not as grueling, so I design based on those certain circumstances.
How do your designs differ based on the venues and stadiums? Would you design something different for a match played in London versus one played in the U.S.?
At Wimbledon, you have to be dressed in white, but you’re allowed a certain percentage of the color, and so the color for Djokovics’ uniform there was one with green and purple to express respect for the venue. In France, it’s the French colors to show respect, and that’s really important. And at the U.S. Open, he’s very much the showman, and he wants to please the U.S. audience, so the colors are more showy.
How would you describe his personality?
He’s made of up two equally powerful parts. One is almost an Asian-like dedication to never giving up, persevering to the bitter end. And the other is kind of a super aggressive explosive energy when he’s on the court, almost like an animal hunting.
Is Adam Scott similar in that way?
Adam is a completely different character than Djokovic. He’s very easy going when it comes to the clothes. I just bring samples from the store to fit him, and he always says, “This is good!” He wore the samples when he won the Masters, and that was amazing.
Do you play golf or tennis yourself?
I play golf, but I’d never played tennis until recently. I design for one of our ambassadors, the Japanese tennis player Kei Nishikori, and when I told him that I didn’t play he said I needed to in order to understand the design. So he tried to teach me, but I’m a bad student. As for golf, I met Adam Scott at a hotel in New York to do a fitting for his trousers and I asked him to show me his swing—it was so beautiful. Even just seeing his swing for five seconds, I had the memory in my mind of his swing and I tried to do the same thing as him. It was something psychological about the visual. The next week I played golf in Tokyo and had my best score ever.