From Chanel To Loewe: The Fashion In Challengers Goes Beyond Tenniscore

Photos: Courtesy of MGM Studios.
Mild spoilers for Challengers ahead. The logos in the opening scenes of Challengers come flying as fast as the serves between the protagonists of Luca Guadagnino’s new film about a tennis player love triangle.
There is the crisp-white Uniqlo uniform and On trainers worn by pro player Art (Mike Faist). Then there are the Cartier watch and Chanel espadrille flats that his wife and coach, Tashi (Zendaya), flashes as she watches the match. While the couple oozes success with their carefully crafted exterior and undeniable wealth signifiers, on the other end of the net, down-on-his-luck (and last buck) player Patrick (Josh O’Connor) screams anti-establishment with his mismatched plaid shorts and “Impatto” muscle tee. Before the viewers get a sense of the trio’s history, the characters are defined instantly by the costumes, created by Loewe and JW Anderson designer Jonathan Anderson.
As a costume designer, Anderson used clothes to tell the part love, part coming-of-age, part competition story. When Tashi’s backstory is built out, 13 years prior to the opening scenes, she is already a presence and a famous face with a promising career ahead of her. This is reflected in her meticulously put-together clothing choices as the then 18-year-old seamlessly goes from sporting a spotless white Adidas tennis dress for a junior championship match to a jacquard blue evening dress with black tulle detailing to celebrate her win.
While Tashi has a carefully curated image and a strong sense of self from the moment the viewers meet her, Art, and Patrick, who have no qualms about pursuing the same woman, are the epitome of carefree boyishness, sporting ill-fitting polo shirts, khakis, and jeans when they are not in sports brands ranging from Nike and New Balance.
The clothing evolves, as do the characters. As Tashi finds confidence and a new sense of power following an injury that ends her tennis career, she trades her preppy tennis skirts and dresses and Stanford Athletics for a new uniform — one made of quiet luxury-esque knits, tailored trousers and jeans, and stilettos. In pursuit of a similar picture-perfect image, Art, too, trades his mismatched sports separates for matching sets and a put-together off-duty look fitting of a champion in the making (and worthy of Tashi’s approval). Meanwhile, Patrick, who remains steadfast in his pursuit to play tennis for the joy of it, continues to wear the “I Told Ya” shirt — a nod to a shirt worn by John F. Kennedy Jr., who inspired O’Connor's character, according to Anderson — he once shared with Tashi.
Anderson’s touches are all over the film, from the can’t-miss-if-you-tried placement of Uniqlo (even the wristbands boast the logo), which his label JW Anderson has an ongoing collaboration with, to the appearance of the Loewe Flamenco bag and On trainers that the Spanish luxury label has partnered with. When it comes to his designs, Anderson is a master of subversion (see: the custom Loewe tennis ball-adorned heels and grass green-coloured gown featuring tennis motifs that Zendaya has been wearing as part of the press tour). Rather than leaning into the boring, albeit trendy, tenniscore trend (which is bound to reach a fever pitch following the film’s release), this cheekiness translates into pieces like the aforementioned “I Told Ya” shirt — which, in a brilliant publicity move, will be sold at Loewe starting April 26 — a pink Juicy Couture zip-up jacket that Tashi wears when away from the public eye, and the type of cork-heel platforms that were only acceptable in the late ’00s.
As the tension builds and the clothes are no longer able to mask appearances and hide the true desires of the trio, Tashi breaks her carefully curated image one last time, trading the exquisite silky nightgown she wears with Art for a simple T-shirt that looks borrowed from her junior pro days to meet Patrick in the equivalent of a break point of the film. 
When it comes to the fashion in Challengers, it’s a game, set, match.
Challengers is in theatres now.
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