NEW YORK, NY, USA - Naomi Osaka is back to where it all began in New York City, gearing up for her first Grand Slam title defense at the US Open - and she’s set to do it in fashionable style.
Last year, she arrived in Flushing Meadows ranked No.19 in the world, flying in under the radar with just one WTA title on her resume (Indian Wells). Now, the Japanese-Haitian player returns at the top of the game, and as an international superstar: Osaka went on to claim the Australian Open crown in Melbourne this year in January, and became the first Asian player to claim the WTA World No.1 ranking.
Her off-court starpower has skyrocketed, too, with brands looking to capitalize on the player’s multinational appeal: earlier in the week, Osaka was named as the most marketable athlete in the world, becoming just the first woman to top SportsPro’s annual list since 2015.
Ahead of the US Open sportswear giant Nike, who signed Osaka in April, unveiled a collaboration with Japanese brand Sacai to design an 11-piece collection fit for the streets - and the courts - of New York City.
“This collaboration was a special one because it was the perfect marriage of elevated Japanese fashion with the practical needs of my life as an athlete,” Osaka told Vogue in an interview. “It makes me feel edgy and confident, but in an understated way.
“The collection is just really cool and different from anything else you see in sportswear right now... Kind of futuristic, but also really wearable streetwear.”
Osaka, who described her personal style as a mix of ‘badass and feminine’, also told Vogue that the collection brings to life her own fashion sensibility off the court.
“When I'm not on the court, I tend to gravitate towards pieces that are super unique and funky—it’s too tame for Japan, but too wild for America,” she explained.
While she’s learning to balance the growing pressure on the courts - and her massive fame off of them - Osaka has looked to her personal heroes as inspiration. She’s inspired by pop megastars and entrepreneurs Beyonce and Rihanna, as well great athletes like Serena Williams.
“In life, I look up to my family—sister, mum and dad; and some other trailblazers like Beyoncé and Rihanna,” Osaka told Vogue. “I went to her Fenty pop-up store in Paris and may have splurged—oops!
“In sport, I have tremendous respect for those athletes that have managed not just to reach the top, but stay there for a long time… Serena [Williams], Kobe [Bryant], LeBron [James], come to mind.
“But being a role model is something that I take very seriously. I hope to inspire young athletes everywhere, but especially young girls from Japan and Haiti. Follow your dreams and anything is possible.”