Asia Muhammad is among the most fashionable professional tennis players on the Hologic WTA Tour, both on and off the court. Her love of tennis and fashion intersected the day a 13-year-old girl saw Serena Williams wearing a short, pleated denim skirt, modified to meet the specifications of this strenuous game.
“Serena’s outfit — at the 2004 US Open — I loved that so much,” Muhammad said. “I made my parents go out and buy it for me immediately. It was in the Niketown store inside Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. That’s what drew me into the fashion side.”
Years later, Muhammad, 31, now has an outlet for her two passions. It’s a tennis apparel company, co-founded with good friend Kimberly Yee, called Lemonsnlaundry. There’s a nifty backstory.
Yee’s father, Adam, grew up in the back of a Detroit laundromat run by his parents.
“This was a unique way of honoring him — he taught me tennis,” said Yee, who played at Stanford University from 2015-19. “It goes along with the idea of turning lemons into lemonade, a play on that phrase. I also like the alliteration.
“We just decided to make women’s tennis apparel that people would actually like to wear.”
Certainly, Muhammad likes the clothes, which she wears as she and doubles partner Ena Shibahara aim to position themselves for a spot at the year-end WTA Finals in Fort Worth. Sitting in a small interview room at the media center at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center at the US Open earlier this month, she explained how it all came together.
“Kimmy and I met at the No Quit Academy, a youth foundation in Vegas, where her dad worked,” Muhammad said. “We had talked about it over the years, and finally did it a year and a half ago. She’s from Vegas, too, and we wanted it to be a female-run, design-created thing, which was really fun. The clothes aren’t cool in a lot of other female sports, except for maybe volleyball; like in basketball you get the really long shorts. That wasn’t really my vibe.”
We mean business
“My part is being the designer, and doing social media. I obviously wear it and I help pick out the stuff. She’s kind of more behind the scenes, logistics and such.”
Muhammad knew what she liked, got her visions down on paper and Yee helped them come into being. Yee lives in Los Angeles, a fashion and design hub, since she graduated and lined up the sourcing, the fabric and manufacturing details. Some of the apparel is made in California, the rest overseas.
The timeline began in early 2021 and about four months later, Lemonsnlaundry had their first dress — which, instructively, bore no logo. In a business where the swoosh and the crocodile are the corner of the realm, this was an important if difficult decision. Muhammad and Yee — who are the sole investors in this enterprise — say that logos are expensive, both to produce and attach to the clothing.
“This way, people are paying just for the actual item,” Muhammad said. “When you look at some outfits, they’re ruined by the logo. For us, right now, affordability is the most important thing.”
Said Yee, “We like the clean look, and I think we’re the only athletic clothing brand that does logo-less. It’s a double-edged sword, but my hope, my goal, is for people to realize it’s high quality and, at the end of the day, that people like the stuff.”
Danielle Collins, who broke into the Top 10 following her appearance in this year’s Australian Open final, wore their bear tank top (in black) when she defeated two-time US Open champion Naomi Osaka in the first round and in subsequent victories, too. Muhammad wore the same top playing doubles.
Muhammad’s favorite is the distinctive blue Lolo dress, named after her first niece London. Elohim, a popular Los Angeles DJ, called to ask for one to wear at this year’s Coachella Festival — but it was sold out.
“I just couldn’t get the material in time,” Yee said. “That reminds me, I need to send her a note when the new ones come in.”
The two proprietors are thrilled to join Venus and Serena Williams, as well as Jelena Ostapenko and others in the sporting apparel business. They’ve already launched the first store, in the Sterling Club in Las Vegas. The goal is to tap into the emerging pickleball market, bring in on-line retailers and add more store locations. Muhammad, who has 37,000 followers on social media, is helping to spread the word. Lemonsnlaundry is also giving a portion of the clothes they create to young female athletes and also to homeless shelters.
“I feel like clothes in general — you buy a new outfit and you feel amazing,” Muhammad said. “We want to help younger girls with nice clothes. Getting nice-looking clothes, it makes me feel good. I’m happy I can help the girls out with that.”
An attractive product — and an appealing socially inclusive approach to match — it sounds like a winning combination. Oh, and owners report that they’ve already doubled their initial investment. Going forward, Yee would like to see the apparel giants embrace all the players.
“The very top players are sponsored,” she said, “but then there’s a weird gap between the players below them. There are some amazing players out there without clothing sponsorships, and we’d love to fill that void.”
For now, Muhammad is focusing on tennis. She and Shibahara were seeded No.9 at the US Open but lost in the third round to Gabriela Dabrowski and Giuliana Olmos, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 [10-8]. The plan is to play Chennai, India, Seoul, South Korea, San Diego, Guadalajara and some ITF events in California with the goal of reaching the year-end tournament.
“It’s totally doable,” Muhammad said. “It just takes a week or two and there’s a lot of big tournaments left. That’s the great thing about tennis.”
And when the time comes to step away from the court for good, tennis will have been a dress rehearsal for Muhammad’s next phase: fashionable fashion entrepreneur.