Marguerite Wade is a woman of many talents. I discovered her as the creative director of the tennis activewear line, Full Court, but quickly learned she has another area of expertise – a production designer developing sets for esteemed photographers such as Mark Seliger and Annie Leibovitz. Splitting her time between two careers is surely demanding, but when you see Wade’s work, she makes it look seamless. Like most successful fashion lines, the idea for Full Court came when Wade, a tennis player herself, wanted a pair of leggings with a specific ball holding pocket. If you play tennis, as I do, you will know that women’s tennis clothes are pretty limited to skirts and itty bitty shorts with a variety of tops. We wear leggings for everything else, why not tennis too?
Are you from New York?
I was born and raised in Boston. I went to college in upstate New York, Bard College and then I stayed in NYC during the summers and after I graduated.
How did you fall into set design?
It’s funny because that’s the perfect way to describe it. I had some background in art and had always been interested in fashion. When I was looking for a job in my mid twenties, a friend thought I might be interested in working for Mary Howard. She was doing the set and production design for all the big fashion editorial and advertising shoots and needed an assistant.
How do you start to conceptualize the set for a new project?
A set project, like many projects, starts with a moodboard of visual references. That’s something that I really enjoy putting together for any creative endeavor. I do one for Full Court as well.
What do you love about this part of putting a shoot together?
It’s the like a dream board. I pull old fashion photographs from the 90’s, wild interiors, color stories. That’s how I start to generate the visual foundation for the set, collection, event ~ whatever it is, and then I build from there.
What are your most memorable sets you’ve created?
The most memorable sets or design work I have done are always the ones in which I have been free to really get creative. But that creativity can be as general as coming up with a smart and interesting way to showcase something on a limited budget, or creating a huge, wild fantastical world. I recently did a flower installation for a fashion week event that had thousands of flowers hanging from the ceiling. On a limited budget for a jewelry company, I came up with an idea for an installation of the jewelry frozen in large, stunning blocks of ice. (Hey, frozen water is cheap!)
How has your career in set design informed your fashion design life?
Working as a set designer you have to be very resourceful. I am asked to find or fabricate some pretty obscure things so when it comes to designing for Full Court, the ability to problem solve or find ways around or through something comes from my experience as a set designer.
Can you tell us about the idea to develop Full Court?
The whole project started because I wanted a pair of legging with a ball pocket for tennis! I wasn’t seeing any tennis clothes that I wanted to play in, so I set out to make a city tennis kit, one that would transition more seamlessly into life on and off the court.
What do you love about the sport?
Tennis is an incredible sport. As a spectator it’s about watching such extreme mental toughness mixed with a wide variety of athleticism and finesse. As a player its a sport you can play for life. I’m often playing next to old timers on the city courts. They may not be running down every ball, but they are out there playing. I wish I could play more. It’s definitely something I would love to start my day with more regularly. It the clears the mind and gets the heart pumping…
Who are your favorite players?
I will always love the Williams sisters. They are about my age and I grew up being incredibly invested and inspired by them not only as players, but black players and sisters! And their longevity in the sport is unbelievable. The fabulous 4 on the Men’s side Federer, Nadal, Murray and Djokovic along with a bunch the new comers… and then there’s Stan the Man.
Do you see yourself expanding the line to include other sports?
I think for the time being I will stay rooted in tennis. The line functions equally well for any sport, or even for the streetwear/ activewear buff, but it will always have a ball pocket! I would like to do unisex styles. I think the line is streamlined and fairly androgynous, but that’s something I’m interested in exploring.