After winning his first-round match at Wimbledon, Novak Djokovic, the number one seed in the tournament, gave a post-game interview on Center Court. “It doesn’t get much better than Wimbledon really in terms of [the] history and tradition of our sport,” said the winner of ‘23 Grand Slam titles. “I’ve said it many times throughout my career [that] coming to Wimbledon, it was always the dream. To win it [was] a childhood dream come true in 2011.” Djokovic isn’t the only tennis player who wanted to hold up the trophy at the All England Club. As a kid, Wimbledon was the tournament Venus Williams dreamed about winning. (She did so in 2000, 2001, 2005, 2007, and 2008.) “It’s synonymous with the height of the sport,” she said in a recent interview. “It’s what you dream of as a child, to win Wimbledon.” At 146, Wimbledon is the oldest Grand Slam tournament, and in customary English behavior, it is also the one most devoted to tradition and theater.
So when perfumer Josh Meyer, founder of Imaginary Authors and tennis fan, was developing Soft Lawn, it makes sense that he looked toward Wimbledon. “The whole concept of Soft Lawn [began with the idea of] sitting at Wimbledon and eating cucumber sandwiches. What do you want to smell like?” he says. Soft Lawn is a part of an emerging fragrance trend: scents inspired by tennis. There’s the Lacoste Limited-Edition Roland-Garros fragrance, Snif’s fragrance collaboration with Prince Tennis, Vacation’s candle collaboration with Prince Tennis, and Carner Barcelona’s Tennis Club perfume, to name a few.
Soft Lawn was a part of Imaginary Author’s first product launch about a decade ago. A couple of years ago, Meyer updated the scent with some of the same notes and the same materials. The fragrance is still one of the brand’s most talked about scents. Meyer believes this is because fresh tennis balls are included in the perfume’s notes. “It’s just one of those smells people recognize.” Fresh tennis balls are also in the fragrance notes for Vacation’s candle collaboration with Prince. “Anyone who plays tennis usually has a love for the scent of freshly uncanned tennis balls and the fond memories they evoke. This was our starting point,” says Lach Hall, cofounder of Vacation. “But we didn’t stop there. We wanted to capture the scent of the entire courtside setting so we layered in notes of our sunscreen scent, Prince cotton sweatbands, as well as a hint of courtside cucumber sandwiches.”
“It doesn’t get much better than Wimbledon really in terms of [the] history and tradition of our sport.”
Tennis and fragrance have more in common than one may initially think. With its plot twists and surprise endings, the journey of a tennis match could be compared to the life span of a scent one wears. The fragrance and tennis worlds both benefited from a pandemic boom. According to the USTA, tennis participation in the U.S. increased by 33 percent since the start of 2020–it was one of the few sports you could play at a safe distance outside. During lockdown, fragrance offered a sense of escapism when we were all inside. People lean on fragrances to provide peace of mind in difficult times, acting as a comfort blanket for the senses.
One may assume, correctly, that the increase in the popularity of tennis and fragrance is tied to nostalgia. “Prince made their mark in the 70s and it still has that nostalgic feel,” says Snif’s cofounder Phil Riportella on the brand’s decision to collaborate with Prince. The 70s holds a special place in the cultural imagination thanks to the iconic tennis fits of John McEnroe, Arthur Ashe, and Björn Borg, to name a few. The 90s marked a tennis boom in America. In part, a renewed interest in tennis could be attributed to Y2K nostalgia, another time during which some of tennis’s biggest names—Andre Agassi, Venus and Serena Williams, Andy Roddick—proved that tennis players could push back against the sport’s uptight reputation and class politics and still be successful.
With its plot twists and surprise endings, the journey of a tennis match could be compared to the life-span of a scent one wears.
Riportella also looked toward Wimbledon when developing their scent, even if alluding to the tournament wasn’t intentional. “We wanted to evoke the experience of watching a tennis match on a grass court. If you look at the notes, we have fresh-cut grass in there,” he says. “Other than nostalgia, which I think we really nailed in terms of the campaign, we really wanted to evoke the fun vibes of attending a tennis match.”
Tennis is closely associated with leisure, wealth, and elegance. “At Vacation we’re all about leisure—the pursuit of it, the enhancement of it, and all the activities associated with it,” says Hall. “Tennis for us is a classic leisure sport. And Prince being a classic, iconic brand within the sport, was always at the top of our wish list for brands we might like to partner with in the space.” The same words—leisure, wealth, and elegance—are also tied to fragrance. Your attachment to a scent can be so deep that it becomes part of your identity—a specific olfactory indicator that’s associated with who you are and how you want to be seen. “It’s a daytime thing or something you may wear on a dinner date,” he says. “When you’re wearing perfume, in my perspective, it should be an elevated experience.” Perfume is the most effortless form of glamour; you can let your fragrance speak for you.
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