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NYC's Jgame creates sustainable tennis apparel, made in The Bronx
Jgame is one of the newest players in the tennis apparel space, having launched in April 2022. But the brand has already made its Wimbledon debut this summer, and it's ready to hang with the big names.
Published Aug 08, 2022
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A label once reserved for only the most planet-conscious businesses, “sustainability” has now gone mainstream in the fashion industry—much in the same way that tennis apparel has been dominating our Instagram feeds as the classic-cool outfit of the summer.
Big-name brands with a presence in tennis have also followed suit in pledging sustainability. See: Adidas’ flashy Parley line, which is made up primarily of recycled ocean plastics, and Wilson Sporting Goods’ Naked racquets, which ship in zero-waste cardboard boxes and are unpainted to limit the number of carbon compounds released into the atmosphere during the creation process.
But while these initiatives are a great place to start, the reality is that the fashion industry is responsible for over 10% of global carbon emissions—one of the biggest polluters on the planet. And for the massive, multinational conglomerates, realistic sustainability target dates are still decades away.
While the big names are still figuring it out, Jgame, a small but ambitious American tennis apparel brand is showing how to turn sustainability from a promise into a practice—and how it can be done at home, in New York City.
“Sustainability is a moving target, and we’re always just trying to stay on the right path,” says Jackie Meretsky, the founder of Jgame, in a phone call with Baseline. “In fashion right now, it’s very easy for a brand to ‘greenwash’ their marketing and highlight a few small things they’re doing to reduce their impact, while concealing or diverting attention away from all sorts of stuff.
“With Jgame, I want to make sustainability something that sets us apart from all the other tennis brands out there.”
Based in Manhattan and manufactured in the Bronx, Jgame is one of the newest players in the tennis apparel space, having launched in April 2022. But the brand has already made its Wimbledon debut this summer, worn by Canadian doubles champion Gabriela Dabrowski on her way to the third round in women’s doubles and quarterfinals in mixed.
“It’s kind of amazing the way it all came together,” Meretsky recalls. About a month after launching her business, Meretsky read a New York Times article chronicling the financial struggles of professional tennis players outside the game’s upper echelons. Dabrowski, currently world No. 4 in doubles, was one of the players who was interviewed.
“I read the article and I loved her story. When I saw that she shops for tennis clothes from sustainable companies online, I decided to reach out to her on Instagram,” she recalled. “I got in touch with her agent and ended up sending her a bunch of outfits to try out.
“I’m also originally from Canada and Gaby is Canadian as well, so that was at least a part of it too. She got back to me right away and she was kind enough to give Jgame a shoutout during [the grass-court swing] and Wimbledon.”
Meretsky, who moved from Toronto to New York City in 2005 and spent much of her career as an NBC weather anchor, says she’s a lifelong tennis fan herself. After using the tennis court as “therapy” at times over the years, launching a tennis apparel brand felt like a natural next move for Meretsky.
And as a former meteorologist—and mother of two eco-conscious Gen-Z tweens, 10 and 13—sustainability became one of her company’s central pillars. Jgame uses fabrics that are made from 75-100% recycled polyester using clear plastic bottles. The manufacturing takes place in Mott Haven in the Bronx—not only is it a smart business decision, says Meretsky, but it allows her to drop by regularly and check in.
“Not only does it reduce your carbon footprint, because you’re not getting things shipped from overseas and coming in containers, it also cuts down on your lead times by a lot. You’re not waiting six months for your orders to arrive,” she explains.
“But for me, the best thing is this. I live in Chelsea and the factory is in Mott Haven. I visit the clothing factory all the time, and that means that I can be sure of what the working conditions are like in there.
“I can see the people who are sewing my garments taking breaks and having their lunches, I can be sure they’re working safely, in good humane conditions. When you’re working with a factory overseas, that’s not something you can always guarantee.
“So it’s super important to me and it’s part of the Jgame sustainability mission to remain in the city and in the U.S.”
Seeing her garments sharing a court with the likes of Nike, Adidas and Lacoste over the summer at the All England Club was a “humbling” experience. Since its inception in April, Jgame has already snagged mentions in publications like Glossy, Refinery29 and New York’s NY1—and Tennis.com’s Baseline, too.
But while outfitting the pros and getting name dropped is always a great marketing win, for Meretsky, it’s all secondary to building on Jgame’s ultimate mission.
“Even though everything has happened so fast, I don’t want to lose sight of our most important goals or to compromise the quality and sustainability,” she says.
“We always want to make sure we’re doing the most that we can, within the scope of the brand.”