When tennis superstar Serena Williams arrives at Flushing Meadows, her outfits turn heads. For this year’s 50th edition of the US Open tournament in New York, Williams will once again make a statement by wearing a dress from ‘The Queen Collection’, a design collaboration between Nike and designer Virgil Abloh (also the new Men’s Artistic Director for Louis Vuitton).
For Abloh, who has made his biggest mark within Nike through footwear, the use of an unfamiliar canvas — the tennis dress — allows him to highlight one of sport’s most dominant athletes while complementing Williams’ captivating aura.
‘With Serena, we have one of our generation’s most powerful, inspiring athletes as the muse’, says Abloh. ‘I was trying to embody her spirit and bring something compelling and fresh to tennis’.
The collaboration began when Abloh and the NikeCourt design team met in Paris to discuss a performance dress for Williams. Nike sent a body form designed specifically for Williams’ figure to Italy to explore options with materials, then it was flown back to Indian Wells, California, where Williams could pick the features of the dress that spoke to her.
One of the most important inspirations for the dress was Williams’ love of dance and ballet, which appears in the tulled design to give her a tutu-like airiness on the court. After Williams tried on the dress, the body form was sent back to Italy for the final modifications that will appear in New York City.
‘What I love about tennis is the gracefulness. It’s an aggressive and powerful game, but it takes touch and finesse’, says Abloh. ‘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’.
Of course, designing for optimum performance was always a priority. The tulled dress flares out to accommodate the athletic moves in Williams’ arsenal, while the supportive-mesh fit hugs her body and simultaneously keeps her cool for the hot New York City evenings.