Served with Style: The Perfect Match

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What happens when you combine three of the world’s top female tennis players, fabulous designer looks and a leading fashion artist? Laura Smith finds out for Style Birmingham. 

With the Aegon Classic Birmingham tennis tournament now one of the most prestigious stops on the WTA tour, its arrival at Edgbaston Priory Club back in June brought the best line-up in its 35 year history when 15 of the world’s top 30 women came to town. To celebrate we asked three of its big hitters to be styled by our very own Harvey Nichols, and esteemed Birmingham-born fashion artist Marc McGreevy was there to capture the stunning final looks.  

lombard-tennisSporting a new look 

Fashion has long been synonymous with sport and the changing face of women’s tennis has been particularly dramatic over the last century; from the lace up corsets and court-length dresses of the 1900s to the skin-tight neon spandex of today. Along the way the sport has seen some seminal fashion moments, such as actress Katharine Hepburn playing in shorts for the first time in the 40s, through to the mod minis of the 60s, the move from whites  to colour in the 80s by players like Chris Evert-Lloyd, and rise of players like Anna Kournikova and Maria Sharapova in the Noughties, famed almost as much for what they would wear on the court as they were for their top level performances. Most recently sister act Venus and Serena Williams pushed the fashion boundaries further, playing in red and black lace dresses and sparkly catsuits, and even finding a unique way to interpret Wimbledon whites by incorporating revealing cuts and embellishments. 

The right stance 

Of course the history of women’s tennis concerns much more than fashion. With the sport on the rise and the recent, and very public, debates around pay levels in comparison to their male counterparts it seems timely to highlight it as some of it’s top players hit Birmingham. Simona Halep, Angelique Kerber and Lucie Safarova demonstrate how you can be ambitious and successful; balancing power and athleticism on the court with a desire to be glamorous on the red carpet. Surely this message is more relevant than ever for young girls growing up who have their eye on a future Wimbledon trophy, or indeed success in any sport?

The Aegon Classic Birmingham has been closely followed by Wimbledon and its exclusive black tie champions’ dinner. Top ranked players Simona, Angelique and Lucie picked their favourite looks with a little bit of help from Harvey Nics, and the illustrative vision of artist Marc McGreevy. The end result? Three winning looks – game, set and match! 

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Simona Halep Simona Halep

Age: 25 

Nationality: Romanian 

Current ranking: 6 

Career high ranking: 2 

What has been your career highlight? 

“The best moment of my career so far has been when I played my first Grand Slam final at the French Open in 2014. Of course, every tournament that I’ve won during my career is very special to me, but reaching the final of a Grand Slam has been the most important moment so far.” 

What would you have liked to be if not a tennis pro? 

“It’s tough to say, because I started playing tennis at four-and-a-half years old. So really I have no idea, but perhaps something to do with mathematics, because I really liked that subject at school.” 

 What is your favourite fashion label? 

“On court, I wear Adidas. I love what they produce and I feel really good wearing their designs. For my tennis clothes, I prefer them to be classic and simple designs. Off court, I love shopping. One of my favourite brands is Dolce & Gabbana – I love the cut of their jeans. I love shoes, mainly sporty shoes. And of course handbags, Chanel is my favourite.” 

Tell us more about your off-court look for special events. What do you like to wear and why did you choose this outfit? 

“I like to be classy and elegant. I chose this outfit because I like that it’s short; longer dresses aren’t for me. It has longer sleeves, so it doesn’t show the muscles in my arms, ha! (smiling). And I like the black colour.”  

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Angelique Kerber Angelique Kerber

Age: 28 

Nationality: German 

Current ranking: 3 

Career high ranking: 2 

What has been your career highlight? 

“Australian Open champion 2016! (laughs). That’s my career highlight.” 

What would you have liked to be if not a tennis pro? 

“I think I’d like to be an actress and make movies, something like that.” 

What is your favourite fashion label? 

“On the court, it’s really important for me that the Adidas clothes I wear are really comfortable. I need everything to fit perfectly, but to also feel good when you’re sweating and running around. Off court, when I’m going out for dinner I like to wear something nice, like a nice dress. Hugo Boss makes some great clothes.” 

Tell us more about your off-court look for special events. What do you like to wear and why did you choose this outfit? 

“It depends which event it is, but usually when I’m going to a special event, I want to look completely different to when I’m on court. I like to have my make-up done properly, my hair done nicely, and I’ll usually wear a dress. And for special occasions, I definitely like to wear heels! I chose this outfit because I liked the shape of the dress design and the colours the designer has used.” 

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Lucie SafarovaLucie Safarova 

Age: 29 

Nationality: Czech Republic 

Current ranking: 13 

Career high ranking: 5 

What has been your career highlight? 

“I think it would have to be reaching the singles final of the French Open, also winning the Australian Open and French Open in doubles, and the four Fed Cup titles for Czech Republic.”  

What would you have liked to be if not a tennis pro? 

“I’m a very active person, so I think I’d still be doing something in sports. Anything that involves moving about or helping other people be active.”  

What is your favourite fashion label? 

“I’ve been a Nike girl for 15 years, so really my whole career has been with them. I love the brand, I think they have a lot of cool stuff both on and off the court. They have some great stuff for running and training, and I always enjoy playing in their outfits. Off the court, I kind of like to change it up. I like jeans, a nice leather jacket and t-shirt. Diesel and Zara are good for everyday casual wear. And then sometimes I also like to dress up nicely; I like all sorts of dresses and of course there are some high-end brands for parties.”  

Tell us more about your off-court look for special events. What do you like to wear and why did you choose this outfit? 

“If it is a fancy party, then I’m looking for something I feel comfortable and confident in, but at the same time, I like to wear something that’s a bit interesting and different as well. I chose this dress because even though it’s black, it is also colourful with the flowers on it and I love the shoes, they’re very different.” 

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About the artist…

Fashion illustrator Mark McGreevy discusses making the leap from Birmingham to Mayfair, what he thinks of our tennis players and why Jerry Hall is one of his biggest fans…

For a boy from Brum, Marc McGreevy has certainly come a long way from his Kings Heath roots to become the first ever artist in residence at The May Fair Hotel. So just how did this amazing career come about? “I grew up in a family that worked within fashion and art so I suppose I was very lucky in that respect,” explains Marc, whose father was a cartoonist and sister a fashion model. “I was also inspired by regular visits to see the Pre-Raphaelite paintings in Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery – the beautiful way they were developed and their accuracy.”  

Growing up Marc had always been fascinated by fashion and knew he wanted to work in within it. “I was probably one of the only teenage boys in Birmingham that had pages of fashion mags plastered over my bedroom walls,” he laughs. “I shared a room with my brother and he was very tolerant but he went for sports posters on his side!” At 15 he decided to study technical fashion at college in Birmingham where he learnt the basics of cutting, sewing and pattern-making, skills, which he thinks gave him a strong grounding when it came to translating fashion to art. After studying in Derby Marc moved to London. “My aunt worked in fashion so I would go with her to work and draw sketches and her colleagues would look over my shoulder and tell me that’s what I should do for a living, so I did!” he laughs. “It was a lot of hard work but I had a dream and I followed it”.

Charlie France PortraitInspired by the famous fashion illustrators of the 80s and artists like Antonio Lopez, Marc created his own personal style over his career. With work featuring in Elle magazine, Browns boutiques and London Fashion Week, he has collaborated with a number of designers including Vivienne Westwood and even designed his own jewellery. He’s also drawn portraits for a range of celebrity fans including Joan Collins (who he describes as a “jewel that lights up the room”), Germaine Greer and Jerry Hall. The latter he is particularly close to now: “I love Jerry Hall, she has my work in her house but often when she’s in London we’ll catch up and go to the theatre. I find her inspirational and her photography is amazing,” he says. Marc also loved drawing his collection of supermodel Alek Wek, and cites more recent inspiration from designers Corrie Nielsen and Zandra Rhodes, and top model (and fellow Brummie) Charlie France. 

So how did drawing tennis players differ from his more typical fashion fodder? “I love the girls, they are so talented and beautiful,” he says. “These women really have something so I’ve drawn them in a more classical fashion illustration style. I really enjoyed the process, I just hope they like the results!” Judging from our umpire seat at Style Birmingham we don’t think Marc needs to worry.

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