Melbourne textile designer Cassie Byrnes designed a NikeCourt collection for the Australian Open

Photographer – Jackson Grant
Stylist – Jade Leung at Vivien’s Creative
Hair and Makeup – Justin Henry
Words by Maeve Kerr-Crowley
Talent – Elina Svitolina and Cassie Byrnes

As worn by Elina Svitolina on the Grand Slam court.

Nike’s new court collection is bright, cheerful and a little bit different to what you might have seen elite athletes rocking in the past. If it’s managed to catch your eye, you’ve got local textile designer, Cassie Byrnes, to thank.

Cassie is known for her use of colour and fluid shapes, with her designs appearing across her clothing range ‘Variety Hour’, adorning walls around Melbourne, and even popping up on ice cream packaging. 

For the 2020 NikeCourt Melbourne Collection, the brand engaged Cassie to design a series of exclusive prints that could be used across the line of men’s and women’s tennis apparel.

This opportunity is obviously huge for the Melbourne-based artist, particularly as the collection will be worn by athletes playing in the Australian Open this week.

One of those athletes is Elina Svitolina. The young Ukrainian star currently sits at number five in the world ranking for women’s single players and will be hitting the court this Tuesday to play the UK’s Katie Boulter.

Cassie and Elina got together recently at the Nike Athletes Lounge – an AO player’s hub in Melbourne’s CBD that’s been decorated with Cassie’s Melbourne Collection prints.

Both women have earned huge success in their respective fields, thanks to years of hard work that will be on display at the Grand Slam this year. And despite their very different skills, it turns out they have a lot more in common than just their love of tennis.

Cassie Byrnes: Tell me a bit about yourself and what you do.

Elina Svitolina: I’m from the Ukraine. I’ve played tennis for many years, since I was four years old. Pretty much all my life. What about you?

I’m a textile designer so I design prints, and a lot of what I do is in fashion. I worked with the US team to design your kit this year. Ta da! I’ve always been very creative but this, specifically, I’ve been doing for eight years now. So, not as long as you.

Well, we’re both here. So, we’ve succeeded!

I’ve never met anyone as successful in their field as you. How does it feel, when you’re part of such a crazy international event?

It’s very special to play any Grand Slam, and this Australian Open is particularly special because it’s the first Grand Slam of the year. Everyone is very excited to show their strength.

Like, “Look, I’ve been working out over the holidays”?

[Laughs] Yeah, I’ve been working out, getting ready for the start of the year. I’m always excited to come to Australia. It’s very special, and the fans make it really great.

We’re very loud.

You love the sport. I’m so surprised every time, coming and seeing everyone here loves tennis.

We do love tennis. Especially in Melbourne.

How do you feel about being part of this event? And everyone is wearing your print!

I know, right? It’s pretty exciting. I grew up playing tennis and my dad just loves the game. I think to me, being able to be associated with a sport I love and that my family recognises – it’s nice that my family can understand what I do a bit more. Because they know Nike, obviously, and they know the Australian Open, so they’re like “Oh, this is what you do? That’s really cool!”

They must be very proud.

Oh, they’re even prouder than I am of myself. I’m just seizing the moment. What are some things that we, the public, don’t understand about your job?

I think all the work we do behind the scenes. People don’t know or get a chance to see how many hours we put in, off the court and on the court as well. When you have to train maybe a thousand times on your forehand or on your backhand or serve.

And you make it look so easy! Sometimes we don’t understand how hard it is to be in the top 10. That’s huge. It must feel pretty incredible. There are so many good tennis players, but you’re beyond that, and people forget that sometimes.

Every time I step on the court in front of so many people… that gives me extra motivation to work hard. When the time comes where you have to really show your performance in the big match in front of so many people and thousands of people watching on TV as well, you have to step up your game.

I don’t even know how you do that.

I guess our work is a little bit different [laughs].

Well, I’m behind the scenes with everything I do in my job. I dress other people. I do package design. So I love being behind the curtain. To me, going out on that court and staying calm, I don’t know how you guys do it.

At some point you just don’t think about it anymore. You just focus on this yellow fluffy ball.

That’s true, and with design it’s the same thing. I remember when I started this Nike project, I was overthinking everything. But I had to go into it and forget about all the pressure and just do something really fluid and natural. And that’s when shapes like this come out. 

I know, you want to have a perfect result and be the best.

What do you think of the collection? I know it’s really crazy, and maybe I designed this more for the spectator. I wanted tennis to be a part of people’s everyday wardrobe, and I want them to see the NikeCourt collection and think, “I could wear that down the street”. I wasn’t really thinking about the player too much, so I hope that you like it [laughs]. How do you feel when you wear it?

For me, the most important thing is that when I put it on, I feel that I’m ready for the match. It puts me in the zone for the match. So, to have something powerful definitely brings my mood up.

Really? Oh, that’s awesome.

It’s true, because yellow is the colour of positivity. In tennis there’s ups and downs. You can’t win all the points, so there will be some tough moments. When you wear something bright, the colours put your mood up high.

I just think you’re an absolute champion. It’s an honour to meet someone who’s worked their whole life to get where they are. I’ve worked eight years, doing hundred-hour weeks just push, push, push, and that’s just eight years. You’ve worked for twenty. What you’ve done is incredible, and you should be really proud.

Thank you very much, and I want to say thank you on behalf of all the players. Thank you!

The NikeCourt Melbourne Collection is centered around a bright yellow women’s bodysuit that uses Atlas body-mapping to increase the garment’s breathability. Athletes can then layer their choice of printed skirts, crop tops and dresses (pictured, worn by Elina) over the top for a winning combo of comfort and individuality.

For men, there’s a range of shorts (pictured, worn by Cassie), shirts and jackets printed with equally cheerful designs.

The collection is available in store and online now. You can also customise a T-shirt with one of Cassie’s prints at Melbourne Central’s ‘Nike by You’ personalisation station.   


Styling credits

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