Virgil Abloh isn’t letting his new job as the artistic director of menswear at Louis Vuitton keep him from pumping out those collaborations. Earlier this month, Nike announced Abloh will dress Serena Williams for the U.S. Open Tennis Championship in pieces from an aptly-titled The Queen Collection.
On Monday, Williams and Abloh talked about the collaboration in length at a panel moderated by Kimberly Drew at the Westside Tennis Club in Queens (heh); in the audience sat dozens of young girls from tennis clubs all over the city.
“I don't think fashion is all status symbols, it should represent people and tell a story,” Abloh said of the launch. The Off-White designer also spoke of crafting a collection that honors Williams’ personal narrative on the court, because she likes to “look good, feel good, and play good" — a motto she adopted from her sister, Venus.
“With Serena, we have one of our generation’s most powerful, inspiring athletes as the muse,” Abloh said in a press release. “I was trying to embody her spirit and bring something compelling and fresh to tennis.” This is the first time Abloh has worked with a tennis dress, an unfamiliar fabric for Kanye West’s protégé, but says he was inspired by the ballet, resulting in the tutu-like skirt. To make sure Abloh’s Off-White collection was, in fact, fit for a queen, Nike created a custom dress form based on Williams’ body for the designer to use.
“What I love about tennis is the gracefulness. It's an aggressive and powerful game, but it takes touch and finesse,” Abloh continued. “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.”
And Williams loves it: “When I first tried on the dress, I felt very strong and feminine at the same time,” she told Vogue. “It has all the really strong elements, from the leather to that really cool stretchy material. 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.”
In addition to two versions of Williams’ tennis dress (one for day, one for night), Abloh also designed a bomber jacket, a bag, the NikeCourt Flare 2, and limited editions of The 10: Nike Air Max 97 and The 10: Nike Blazer Mid SW. Abloh let his Instagram followers in on a few lucky people who will be gifted the sneakers. They all, like Williams, are queens, including Beyoncé, Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and Naomi Campbell.