Since her debut in 1998, Serena Williams has easily remained one of the best dressed players on the tennis circuit. But this year, the 23-time Grand Slam champion is really upping her game with a special U.S. Open ensemble designed by Virgil Abloh for Nike. The look consists of a black one-shoulder dress with Nike’s logo, accompanied by Abloh’s signature quotation graphic—this one reads Logo—with a full tulle skirt. Williams will play in a pair of customized NikeCourt Flare sneakers and sport an Abloh-designed jacket while off court. If this is good news for Williams, Abloh, and tennis on the whole—it’s even better for fans. A limited edition of Williams’s dress, jacket, and two Nike The Ten sneaker styles inspired by her look will be available at select Nike locations in the United States beginning in late August.
“When I was thinking about outfits for Serena, I was thinking about her playing the game and her aesthetic while she is. Also about the confidence that’s needed while playing at the top level of tennis,” Abloh told Vogue via email. “This is very far from a design-by-numbers project. As you can tell by her personality in her play, she’s very much involved in her aesthetic. She has a level of creativity with how she expresses herself in terms of clothing in any event, so I made everything with her logic in mind. We traded images and there was a lot of back-and-forth to get this done in short order.”
“When I first tried on the dress, I felt very strong and feminine at the same time. It has all the really strong elements, from the leather to that really cool stretchy material,” said Williams. “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.”
Abloh said his process included revisiting Williams’s iconic on-court looks over the years—her 2002 U.S. Open catsuit and her 2018 French Open look come to mind—and honing in on the design elements and signatures that she enjoys most. “I was trying to do something that I think could live up to those inspirations and move her forward,” he explains.
Williams agrees. “I was thinking that this is so different for tennis,” she noted of when she first saw the ensemble. “Virgil always does the logo thing and the quotations, and he has a particular style, so I was just excited about what he has done for both his brand and with Nike and bringing it to the U.S. Open.” Her favorite part of the look, however, is the skirt: “I have never worn a tutu. Every girl loves a tutu, or at least I do! It’s always been my dream to wear a tutu, and I can’t wait to wear it on court.”
As for Abloh, this is far from his first athleticwear collection. In 2017, he designed uniforms for the West African immigrant players on the Melting Passes team in Paris, and he followed up that Nike collaboration with another timed to the 2018 World Cup. The Ten, his sneaker range with the company, has been going since 2017. “I bring the nuance of what I do in fashion, but the Nike stuff is almost a completely different side of the brain, because I’m thinking about activity and about competition,” Abloh said. “That’s what’s beautiful about clothing in 2018. We now understand the importance of an active lifestyle and taste in fashion.”
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