Made in Italy: ellesse

This article is part of our Italian Week on Tennis Buzz.

What do tennis stars Chris Evert and Guillermo Vilas, ski icon Marc Girardelli and F1 champion Alain Prost have in common? These sporting legends have all been sponsored by italian sports-lifestyle brand ellesse.

The ellesse name is based on the initials LS of its founder, Leonardo Servadio, an Italian tailor with an innovative approach to styling and manufacture.
In 1959, Servadio created a revolutionary stretch ski pant which established ellesse among the elite alpine social circles, making it the ultimate aspirational brand.

The famous half-ball ellesse logo combines the trips of a pair of skis with a cross section of a tennis ball, to symbolize the brand’s heritage in these sports. The ellesse brand is often cited as one of the first ever brands to feature their company logo on the outside of the clothes, a move copied by brands worldwide ever since.

Evert Ellesse Vilas


During the 70s and 80s, ellesse built a reputation for the successful combination of sportswear clothes and their functionality with fashion styling.

Guillermo Vilas rocked ellesse on and off the tennis court in the 80’s: he was sponsored by Fila from the mid to late 70s, then switched to ellesse beginning from 1 January 1980. With both companies, he had his own personalised player logo patch (GV). However, he wore it not that often, most of the time only the “F” or “Ellesse” patch could be observed on him.

Guillermo Vilas

Guillermo Vilas

ellesse officially made the international gossip pages when Vilas and Princess Caroline of Monaco ran off together in a flight of passion both wearing Ellesse clothing. The event was photographed and received wide media coverage. Though absolutely involuntary and unsought, the resonance of the event was such that it was considered one of the most effective advertising campaigns in the history of the brand.

Guillermo Vilas

An unknown tennis player at the time named Boris Becker signed with ellesse at the age of just 15. He was considered to have outstanding potential and this was true, Becker proceeded to go on to win Wimbledon in 1985 and 1986 sporting none other than ellesse.

Boris Becker

In the mid 80s, French fashion designer Jean-Charles de Castelbajac worked with ellesse, one of the earliest collaborations between a sportswear brand and a fashion designer.
In the early 90s ellesse continue to reinvent the concept of sportswear fashion with new and improved designs and new sponsorship deals see ellesse clothes launched even further into the forefront of fashion.

Today ellesse has returned with the Heritage collection, which celebrates its beginnings and finds inspiration in the vast and colourful history of the brand. ellesse offers replicas of key products of the last 50 years, in hundreds of colours and top performance. Additionally new seasonal looks and styles are integrated into the collection offering a contemporary interpretation of one of the most iconic brands worldwide.

ellesse commissioned a world renowned illustrator, Robert McInnis, to create four vintage inspired illustrations – one for each season of 2011.
The theme of the illustrations is Italian nostalgia and each painting is set in four different iconic locations around Italy. Each painting represents “La Vita ellesse” the ellesse dolce vita lifestyle of passion, freedom and romance. The Spring image is set in a Portofino Tennis Club overlooking the Portofino Harbour.

ellesse: sport della vita

You can buy all ellesse products on their newly launched ellesseheritage.com online store, or at the ellesse flagship store in Berlin.

ellesse flagship store Berlin

ellesse flagship store Berlin

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