Asia Muhammad is one of the hottest pro tennis players on the Hologic WTA Tour, both on and off the court. Her love of tennis and fashion crossed the day a 13-year-old girl saw Serena Williams in a short, pleated denim skirt tailored to the demands of that grueling game.
“Serena’s outfit – at the US Open 2004 – I liked that so much,” said Muhammad. “I got my parents to go out and buy it right away. It was at the Niketown store at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. That drew me to the fashion side.”
Years later, Muhammad, 31, now has an outlet for both of their passions. It’s a tennis apparel company called Lemonsnlaundry that was founded with good friend Kimberly Yee. There is a nifty backstory.
Yee’s father, Adam, grew up behind a laundromat in Detroit run by his parents.
“It 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 like the alliteration too.
“We just decided to make women’s tennis apparel that people would really want to wear.”
Certainly Muhammad likes the clothes she’s wearing as she and doubles partner Ena Shibahara are looking to position themselves for a spot at the year-end WTA Finals in Fort Worth. She sat in a small interview room in the media center at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center at the US Open earlier this month and explained how it all came together.
“Kimmy and I met at No Quit Academy, a youth foundation in Vegas where her father worked,” Muhammad said. “We had talked about it over the years and finally did it a year and a half ago. She’s also from Vegas, and we wanted it to be a female-led, design-created thing, which is really fun. Dress isn’t cool in a lot of other women’s sports, except maybe volleyball; like in basketball you get the really long shorts. That wasn’t really my vibe.”
We mean business
“My job is to be a designer and run social media. I wear it, of course, and help to choose things. She’s more behind the scenes, logistics and stuff.”
Muhammad knew what she liked, put her visions on paper and Yee helped them to realize them. Yee has lived in Los Angeles, a fashion and design hub, since she graduated and lined up the sourcing, fabric and manufacturing details. Some of the clothing is made in California, the rest abroad.
The timeline started in early 2021 and about four months later, Lemonsnlaundry had her first dress – which, instructively, sported no logo. In a business where the swoosh and crocodile are the coin of the kingdom, this was an important, albeit difficult, decision. Muhammad and Yee — the sole investors in the company — say logos are expensive, both to produce and to attach to clothing.
“That way, people only pay for the actual article,” Muhammad said. “Some outfits are ruined by the logo. For us, affordability is the most important thing right now.”
Yee said, “We like the clean look and I think we’re the only sportswear brand that doesn’t have a logo. It’s a double-edged sword, but my hope, my goal is that people realize that it’s high quality and that people end up liking the stuff.”
Danielle Collins, who broke into the top 10 after her performance in this year’s Australian Open final, wore her bear tank top (in black) as she defeated two-time US Open champion Naomi Osaka in the first round and in subsequent victories as well . Muhammad wore the same top when 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 about one to wear to this year’s Coachella festival – but it sold out.
“I just couldn’t get the material in time,” Yee said. “It occurs to me that I have to text her when the newcomers come in.”
The two owners are excited to join Venus and Serena Williams, as well as Jelena Ostapenko and others in the sportswear business. They have already opened the first store at the Sterling Club in Las Vegas. The goal is to tap into the burgeoning pickleball market, attract online retailers and add more store locations. Muhammad, who has 37,000 followers on social media, is helping spread the word. Lemonsnlaundry also gives some of the clothes they make to young female athletes and also to homeless shelters.
“I feel like clothes in general — you buy a new outfit and you feel great,” Muhammad said. “We want to help younger girls with beautiful clothes. When I get good-looking clothes, I feel good. I am happy that I can help the girls with this.”
An attractive product – and an appealing socially inclusive approach – sounds like a winning combination. Oh, and owners report they’ve already doubled their initial investment. In the future, Yee would like to see the apparel giants embrace Everyone the players.
“The very best players get sponsored,” she said, “but then there’s a weird gap between the players below them. There are some great players out there with no apparel sponsorship and we’d love to fill that gap.”
At the moment, Muhammad is concentrating on tennis. She and Shibahara were seeded 9th at the US Open but lost in the third round to Gabriela Dabrowski and Giuliana Olmos 6-3 3-6 7-6 [10-8]. It plans to compete in Chennai, India, Seoul, South Korea, San Diego, Guadalajara and some ITF events in California to reach the year-end tournament.
“It’s absolutely doable,” said Muhammad. “It’s only a week or two away and there are still a lot of big tournaments left. That’s the great thing about tennis.”
And when it’s time to retire for good, tennis will have been a dress rehearsal for Mohammed’s next phase: fashionable fashion entrepreneur.