THE FOUNDING OF pickleball apparel line Civile (pronounced chih-VEE-lay, Italian for “civil”) came as a silver lining in the pandemic.
Aubri Steele, a newbie to the game who lives in Encinitas, California, painted a court on her driveway to bring several generations of her family—her parents, her in-laws, and her five teenagers—together for safe and fun outings. Soon enough she came to realize that there was a need for modern pickleball apparel that avoided the usual aesthetic clichés: neon, glitter, and pickleballs and paddles on everything.
An educator, a linguist, a commercial real estate broker, and now a designer and entrepreneur, Steele has worn many hats. “At the end of 2020, I was one of the millions of women who left the workforce,” she says. “I just said, ‘Now’s the time to take a break.’” Seeking a creative outlet, Steele founded Civile, a brand that represents who she is on and off the court: unifying and accessible, versatile and eclectic.
“I knew there were some non-negotiables for me: an all-female team, everything built in the US using sustainable materials,” Steele says. Her tanks and tees include pickleball puns (“Don’t be a dink”) and positive messages (“Play nicely”), which Steele chose to amplify and spread to counter the darkness of 2020. That sense of civility in the wake of an uncivil year helped her come up with the company’s name—and an Italian-speaking neighbor helped perfect it.
The line also includes day-to-night transitional looks to take players from the game to the office to a dinner date, all with a single piece: A classic tennis skirt has a peekaboo thigh that brings “sexy” onto the court; a black boatneck top has low sides that gently overlap and a ribbed band around the waist; a dress loops over and buttons around to show off your sports bra.
Featuring simple, clean lines and an urban edge, Civile “represents beautiful, comfortable clothing that you feel good in and are proud to wear,” Steele says. The brand uses recycled fabrics as well as recycled, compostable packaging materials and prioritizes ethical manufacturing, choosing US-based production companies that treat their employees well.
Most important, Civile stands for sportsmanship. “If you look at some of the famed athletes in history, some are remembered for the notorious side of things,” Steele says. “But those who became greats found that balance. There was always respect.” And that’s Civile.