The Pickleball Fashionista, San Diego Metro Magazine
Aubri Steele competes and designs chic clothes
for Pickleball players with the rallying cry, “Be Civil, Play Well”
By Manny Cruz
It’s remarkable how the pandemic, the loss of a mentor, and a sport of paddleball with a funny name might have prompted a 43-year-old Solana Beach woman and mother of five teenagers to start a pad design business. smart clothes with the simple mantra, “be civil, play well.
That would be Aubri Steele, a former high school and college teacher who came up with the idea of designing attractive clothing for men, women and children who love to play pickleball – a growing sport that owes its popularity to party to COVID-19, which has forced individuals and families isolated by the disease to invent different ways to entertain themselves in safe and relaxing activities.
Some people have invested more time in reading. Others have taken up new hobbies. Camping and other outdoor activities were also favorite activities.
For Aubri, her husband Cody, a property manager, and their teenagers, pickleball was a welcome relief from isolation. Cody set up a net in their front yard, got some balls and paddles, and the game started.
“We quickly got comfortable with the game and started inviting neighbors and friends over to play, while maintaining social distancing and over-sanitizing equipment,” says Aubri. “It was the sport we could play with our parents and kids. Simply put, pickleball brought us together.
For the uninitiated, pickleball is a tennis-like game where players use paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. Two or four players can play.
The game has grown in popularity over the past couple of years. The Economist declared it “the fastest growing sport in America”. According to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, the sport attracted 4.2 million players in 2020, a 21% year-over-year increase.
Pickleball fans echo Aubri’s sense of family unity. “Pickleball is the only sport where my whole family — from my kids to my parents — can play together,” says Dave Fleming, 54, a senior pickleball professional.
Stu Upson, CEO of USA Pickleball, a 50,000-member organization, said the game had a “big bump” in 2020 due to the pandemic. “People looked forward to opportunities to get out in a safe environment and pickleball was perfect for that,” he says.
One of the reasons the game is so popular is its simplicity, Upton explains. “The game is quite easy to learn. You can go there and not embarrass yourself. It’s a social sport. Players see themselves as a community and they invite people to join the community. This is quite a positive thing in today’s divided society.
Aubri, a Tournament Pickleball player, says her apparel company, Civile Apparel, “was born out of the darkness of 2020 and the silver linings that brought unity and civility to our communities.” “I have seen with my own eyes how Pickleball has changed my family and I wanted to share that same feeling with others.”
Yet it was the death of her father, Paul Hacker – a beloved mentor to her – that sparked her entry into the clothing business. He died on August 28, 2020 from cancer.
Although he had no college degree or formal business training, Paul Hacker started a small manufacturing business in 1978 which over time employed his entire family, extended family and many others. families too.
“During his years in business, he lived by the ‘rising tide’ mentality and always put people first,” says Aubri. “He taught me that while it’s important to own your strengths, it’s just as important to identify and own your weaknesses. Hire people to do what you can’t and honor their craft.
“While I would have preferred to start (the company) with him here by my side, it was a little money that he gave me, at the end of his life, which allowed me to investing to make Civile Apparel grow,” Aubri explains. “Furthermore, I have the hard work and support of my team of female partners who believe in this brand and in me as my father would if he were here today. today. We have an additional partner who has invested capital, has a design background and brings a fresh perspective to our product development process.
Civile, pronounced “chi-vee-lay”, translates to “civil” in Italian. “It represents the fundamental pillars of unity and respect and a return to civility that we hope to inspire,” says Aubri. “Civil was born to remind us all, no matter which side of the line you play, be civil, play well.”
Never mind that Aubri has no formal training in clothing design. It’s kind of embedded in his psyche. “I’ve always had a unique sense of style and have a knack for putting together unexpected outfits,” she says. “Civile gave me the opportunity to flex my creative muscles through the design of our clothes. I wanted that to reflect in the designs, so pieces like the Generous Harem Pants and the Random Acts Dress are some of my favorites.
The Generous Harem Pants, which sell for $138 and only come in black, have a high, ribbed waist. Aubri’s website (civileapparel.com) describes them as pants “that let you take an authentic inseam style true to the harem name, while maintaining a comfortable, flattering fit.”
A classy little black dress, the Random Acts, is a “dress that allows the wearer to wrap an elastic strap around their sports bra, securing the dress for playing on the court.” It is priced at $148.
Most of the other apparel in the Civile Apparel collection – sweatshirts, tank tops, skirts, hoodies, pants, sweatpants, hats – is priced competitively with other major brands.
Aubri says the Civile product names reflect the fun and unique qualities of pickleball.
“Products like our classic ‘Don’t Be a Dink’ shirt and ‘One Lob’ tank top are named after pickleball terms and puns so Civile wearers feel specifically connected to the pickleball community. “
“As I became more grounded in the sport, I noticed a lack of clothes that married my active lifestyle who I was with as a woman,” says Aubri. “I wanted to be able to go from my office to the pickleball court, to the store, to play golf with my husband and maybe have a drink, all with a performance fabric fashion piece as a base.
“Although I have no formal training, I currently take the lead in designing our pieces based on diversity, inclusion so that they are as multi-faceted as the people who wear them. I tend to m inspire from everywhere, from the food I eat to the landscapes around me, but the most important inspiration comes from the people who will wear the clothes. I work hard to honor the beautiful elements of the human figure and the best ways to portray them. highlighting while keeping things like movement and sun protection in mind.
Clothes, she says, are designed to be as diverse as the people who wear them.
Women’s clothing is the most comprehensive line produced by the company, but the men’s line will be expanded and, in the future, pickleball clothing for children will be offered. The designs will not just come from CEO Aubri, but from his team members – his five partners: Kerby Capri, Kate Nowlan, Casey Ladd, Sheri Tieman and Emily Berliant.
“I rely on my amazing team to bring their expertise, personal taste and insight,” Aubri says. “And we love getting feedback from our customers.”
And then, of course, there is Aubri’s mother, his biggest fan. “She can often be found helping with inventory or helping with basic day-to-day office tasks,” says Aubri. “She gives me the same support and ‘everything you need’ mindset that she gave my dad.”
Civile Apparel works with local fashion houses to produce their clothing line. It allows the company to give back to the local economy.
While Civile’s first-year sales were strong, Aubri wants and plans to do more. “Having recently jumped on this entrepreneurial journey with Civile, I plan to nurture the growth of this company and take care of the people who helped bring it to life before moving on,” says Aubri. This is just the beginning. We plan to become a major player in the pickleball apparel market.
history of pickleball
Pickleball has nothing to do with pickles, and everything to do with family, togetherness and good sport.
It was established in 1965 by three men from Washington State – Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell and Barney McCallum. Pritchard and Bell came home from a round of golf to find their families sitting around doing nothing. After improvising a game on an old badminton court, they were joined by McCallum. They created pickleball rules, relying heavily on badminton.
According to USA Pickleball’s History of the Game, the first known pickleball tournament was held at the South Center Athletic Club in Tukwila, Washington in 1976.
Stu Upson, CEO of USA Pickleball, offers these comments on the sport:
Since 2013, USA Pickleball membership has grown 1,250% to over 57,000. There are over 1,800 USA Pickleball Ambassadors nationwide.
Why pickleball is so popular
There’s a unique energy in the room when people mention the sport of pickleball that you don’t seem to find in any other sport. The game is fun, social, easy to learn and a low barrier to entry with equipment to play the game very inexpensive and easy to pick up at a sporting goods store near you or PickleballCentral.com. Through places2play.org you can search for courts near you, bring your paddle and participate in free games to make new friends and play with people of your same level. Rarely does a sport know that if you go to the park alone, you’re sure to find a group of people to jump and play games with, and instantly form new friendships.
Pandemic – rise in popularity
During the pandemic, many Americans were looking for ways to stay healthy and active close to home. Since the pickleball court is 1/4 the size of a tennis court, it’s easy to create a court in your driveway, parking lot, or gym space. So many people were introduced to the sport for the first time and played with their family of four down the aisle, creating a new way to bond as a family and have fun. The game is cross-generational, so we were seeing grandparents playing with their grandchildren and young adults in their 20s and 30s who enjoyed playing with their parents.