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Civile wants to remind you to be kind and pickle on

Discover North County's fashion-forward, modern pickleball apparel brand

Cody and Aubri Steele
Image Credits Portrait: Photo by Vincent Knakal; Group: Photo by Aubri Steele

If it seems like pickleball is everywhere these days, that’s because it is. Once thought of as a pastime only for people “of a certain age,” it’s now captured the attention of players young, old, and everywhere in-between, and its popularity soared so quickly in the past couple of years, it’s almost more of a movement than a sport (the USA Pickleball Association puts the estimated player numbers in 2021 just below 5 million). For Solana Beach resident Aubri Steele and her family, it was an ideal way to connect and be active during the isolation of the pandemic — and she knows she wasn’t alone. “I do think the pandemic was a catalyst for this sport,” says Steele, whose family played on a makeshift court they painted in their driveway in early 2020. “I think that the accessibility is what really shot it through the roof…and of course the inclusivity of an all-age sport. It was like the perfect storm, because we were all at home looking for something to do

For Steele, though, merely playing wasn’t enough. Her passion for the game led her to launch her own pickleball apparel company, Civile, in 2021. “This was definitely a ‘mid-life crisis’ of some sort,” she jokes, adding that the loss in 2020 of her father, himself an entrepreneur, was what ultimately spurred her to try her own hand at starting a company. Realizing that there was never going to be a perfect time to start, she remembers thinking, “‘I’m going to do it now because there’s something happening with this sport that doesn’t come along every day.’ My timing with recognizing that opportunity and what would continue to be the growth of pickleball was spot-on.” However, she adds, laughing, “My timing with supply chain issues to start an apparel company probably could have been better.” 

Cody and Aubri Steele
Cody and Aubri Steele

While her family and friends were united through a shared enjoyment of the sport, Steele was struck by the level of discord that was so prevalent in the height of the pandemic, so she resolved to make her company’s focus that of “playing nicely” and named it Civile (“civil,” in Italian). Despite significant and meaningful goals — the female-led company is mindful of its environmental footprint, designs and manufactures entirely in the U.S., and makes philanthropic causes a priority in its efforts in community engagement — there is an undeniable, playful spirit that permeates the brand’s designs. Steele’s earliest offering, a t-shirt that reads “Don’t be a dink,” a nod to a pickleball shot, remains a top seller for Civile. However, her focus lies far beyond just t-shirts with snappy slogans. “We’re really pushing to be a fashion-forward, modern pickleball brand, which didn’t exist in this space when we started,” she says. Now the product suite, designed, worn, revised, and loved by the company’s team of seven, includes skirts, hats, leggings, dresses, sweatshirts, and tees in lines for men and women. 

Though pickleball is now her work and her play, it doesn’t dominate her life. She’s still a multi-faceted working mom and wife, just like the people she created Civile for. “Part of the reason I designed the line the way that I did is because I love pickleball, but I’m squeezing it between picking up kids, or maybe cycling, or doing something later. It’s one version of me, and so designing clothing that honors all those versions of me was kind of the idea behind it,” she says. “We are such multi-faceted human beings that that’s the driving force behind it.” civileapparel.com


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