Jasmine Maietta is a longtime athlete, which led her to work in marketing for world-known brands like Reebok, Under Armour and Peloton. She had an idea to merge sports and art, though, and that’s why she founded round21.

Founder Jasmine Maietta

Jasmine’s brand, which she launched in 2018, merges sports recreation with artistic expression for today’s passionate generation. round21 serves the community by elevating and celebrating the diversity within culture, sports and arts. Its products are created to give identity to the athlete through designs that reflect their values. Jasmine and the brand intentionally partner with multicultural creatives and artists who are committed to spreading positive, unifying ideas.

If you’re wondering why start with ping pong paddles, the former professional basketball player saw how ping pong was typically found in locker rooms and clubhouses of the NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB, bringing those spaces to life in between games. Over the years, she noticed how most of the athletes’ self-expression could only be found on their uniforms and footwear, with their gear remaining blank, much like the paddles being used for those games of table tennis. By changing this, athletes could begin creating a sense of originality and creativity on the court and off. round21’s goal is to “inspire more people playing, creating, and connecting in the world,” and since ping pong is one of the most inclusive and diverse activities around, it’s the perfect place for the brand to start in.

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round21 products are designed in Japan, a place where minimalist, functional design is the norm, giving players everything they need without any excess. Over the span of 20 months, their design process included research, sketches, modeling and consumer testing, along with more than 100 prototypes to get the design right. Part of the process led round21 to Hida, Japan, where woodworking craftsmen guided them in finding the perfect wood blend to give their paddles strength, sustainability, durability and weight. The handles are made of beech wood making them durable with a high shock resistance, and the blades are made with poplar wood, which is lightweight and strong. For the foam, they worked with leading footwear engineers to create a new foam layer that “absorbs the ball’s impact, and returns that energy back with every play.” The exterior rubber layer had to be engineered so that it was soft, elastic, durable, tacky and water-clear, resulting in a high-performance, lightweight rubber that also protects the round21 art.

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We asked Jasmine how she goes about choosing the artists she collaborates with, and she said “Each round21 artist must embody our brand values – inclusive, optimistic, empowering, explorative, uplifting. Our multi-cultural and multi-media roster of independent creatives use their art as a vehicle to convey what makes them different, to break down barriers, and to spark engagement between people.” And, besides the imaginative, eye-catching designs, it’s this ethos that really makes us love and support round21.

Since its inception, round21 has partnered with the LA Lakers and Detroit Pistons to create customized ping pong paddles for their players while quarantined during COVID-19. In terms of the artists it works with, the brand recently had a highly anticipated collaboration with artist and sneaker customizer, Sierato, to design a ping pong paddle and a basketball backboard. Other artists round21 is collaborating with are Berlin-based visual artist Ju Schnee, Los Angeles-based design director Adhemas Batista, Alabama-based graphic designer/illustrator/art director Hank Washington, New York-based designer Kelli Adams, and New York-based designer Sabine Dowek.

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>>> Check out the Design Milk Shop here to see more round21 ping pong paddles and mini basketball hoops! <<<

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