Venus Williams Courts A Fashion Business Of Her Own
Venus Williams has logged in multiple front-row cameos at New York fashion week over the years, often on the arm of André Leon Talley, and the 32-year-old’s journey from fashion voyeur to designer was complete when yesterday evening the tennis star unveiled her own sportswear line EleVen. “I wanted to show movement and style,” explained Williams, who eschewed a typical runway presentation for a stage dressed as a tennis court and hired athletes, including former middleweight champion Michael Olajide, former New York City Ballet dancer Albert Evans, and trainers from SoulCycle and Tracy Anderson Method, to “perform” in her Spring 2013 collection. “Whether they’re going to the gym or the grocery store, people wear activewear throughout the day, and I wanted to show that you can still feel comfortable and look good.” To that end, the clothes, which included women’s and men’s athletic apparel, featured classic workout gear (moisture-wicking shorts and sports bras in bright hues like peach and aqua) along with style-savvy pieces (A-line racer-back tennis dresses splashed in a watercolor print inspired by Monet’s Giverny). Style.com caught up with Williams backstage to discuss the new line, her design philosophy, and what article of clothing she prefers to wear at home. Hint: You’ve seen it a few times before.
Why the name EleVen?
It’s better than a ten. I want to encourage people to take it to the next level in whatever they do and push past their limits. There have been times in my own life, whether it’s because of society or other people, when constraints and rules have limited me. But when I pushed past those limits, I realized I could do more than I ever thought possible.
You’ve been a front-row fixture at NYFW for years. Were you inspired by other designers?
Absolutely. One of my favorites is Mara Hoffman. She does gorgeous patterns and prints. Part of designing is finding trends you’re inspired by and making them your own. Ultimately, it’s about creating simple, flattering pieces—it’s all about the lines.
Said like a pro. Did your friend ALT give you any tips when first starting out?
André is such an amazing guy. He’s an icon. I didn’t want to bother him because he’s so busy but he did give some advice. There was this floral print in my capsule collection and he’s like, “Oh that’s a winner. Make it into a dress!” So we did and I wore it at the U.S. Open—everyone loved it.
Are you more nervous before a match or a fashion show?
A match is definitely worse. When I’m on the court, I’m all by myself and there’s no one to help me out. With fashion, it’s a collaboration. It’s important for me to hear other people’s opinions. You’re trying to get the best idea out there, not just the one I like the most. In the beginning I tried to do everything myself, and then I realized that there are people who know what they’re doing, so I can rely on them as a team—that brought my stress level down a lot.
What’s your style like off the court?
Everybody laughs because I usually I walk around the house in a tennis skirt. I know, I have issues. Maybe because it’s easy to put on and has built-in shorts. I’m never out of character.
After such a busy summer, are you treating yourself to a vacation?
Vacation to me is chilling at home. I’m on the road a lot so I don’t want to even see any luggage. I love to read books and sing karaoke—just no shopping. I had a major a shopping addiction.
Don’t we all. Anything specific?
Diamonds. No seriously, it was a real problem. I’ve been clean for three months.