For over two decades Serena Williams has been making headlines with her US Open outfits. Over the years we’ve seen her play at Flushing Meadows in a studded biker jacket (2004), a pink leopard print bodycon dress (2014) and a pleated denim skirt with knee-high sneakers (2004) but this year she upped the fashion factor further, debuting a special ensemble designed by Virgil Abloh for Nike.
Like Williams, the 37-year-old American designer is no stranger to making waves in the fashion industry. His own luxury streetwear label Off-White, has become millennial catnip, racking up over 2 million followers on Instagram and worn by everyone from Solange to Jay-Z. In March of this year he was appointed artistic director of menswear at Louis Vuitton replacing Kim Jones and laying out clearly what LVMH thinks luxury means in this Insta-age.
In a statement about the collaboration with Abloh and Williams, Nike described it as bringing “these influential forces in tennis and fashion together, uniting two transcendent figures who find common ground in pushing boundaries and inspiring youth.”
Dubbed “The Queen Collection,” Williams victory look yesterday against Poland’s Magda Linette consisted of a black and brown one-shoulder dress with a full tulle skirt. Featuring Nike’s iconic swoosh on her chest below it sat the word,“Logo” in purposeful quotation marks, a signature tool that Abloh uses to symbolise a sort of ironic detachment. “Serena” also featured on her left sleeve.
In addition to the dress, Williams also wore a pair of customised Nike Court Flare sneakers, featuring another one of Abloh’s signature designs – a zip tie tag, whilst off-the-court she sported a jacket and bag with the word “Queen” boldly emblazoned on them.
“With Serena, we have one of our generation’s most powerful, inspiring athletes as the muse,” said Abloh on Nike’s in-house newswire. “I was trying to embody her spirit and bring something compelling and fresh to tennis.”
Said to have worked closely with Williams, Nike explain that a body form designed specifically for Williams’ figure was sent to Abloh in Italy to explore material options before it was flown back to California for Williams to feedback on. “What I love about tennis is the gracefulness. It’s an aggressive and powerful game, but it takes touch and finesse,” Abloh said. “So the dress is feminine, but combines her aggression. It’s partially revealing. It’s asymmetrical. It has a sort of ballerina-esque silhouette to symbolize her grace. It’s not about bells and whistles and tricks. It’s just about it living on the body, and expressing Serena’s spirit with each swing of the racket.”
Speaking to US Vogue, Williams said: “I felt so feminine in the tutu, which is probably my favorite part of it. It really embodies what I always say: that you can be strong and beautiful at the same time.”
Fashion has a long and controversial relationship with tennis. From Gussie Moran’s lace trimmed knickers in 1949 to Andre Agassi stonewashed shorts in the 1990s, every tournament from Wimbledon to Australia has seen its fair share of memorable style moments but Williams has garnered somewhat of a reputation as a go-to rule breaker.
Just this month she came under fire again, this time from the French Tennis Federation president, Bernard Giudicelli who said in a magazine interview that he wanted to exercise more control over what players wore during the French Open citing William’s black catsuit which she wore at Roland Garros earlier this year, as something that would no longer be accepted. “You have to respect the game and the place.”
Unsurprisingly,there was a backlash to his comments but Williams has since downplayed the reaction, explaining that she was sure that they would “come to an understanding” and that “it wouldn’t be a big deal.” Still it would be interesting to see just what Giudicelli would make of her most recent look. As for fans, iterations of everything Williams wore for her seventh US Open win, will be available to purchase at select Nike stores worldwide from the end of August.