We all buy clothes, but no two people shop the same. It can be a social experience, and a deeply personal one; at times, it can be impulsive and entertaining, at others, purpose-driven, a chore. Where do you shop? When do you shop? How do you decide what you need, how much to spend and what's "you"? These are some of the questions we're putting to prominent figures in our column "How I Shop."
Serena Williams has a big announcement to make, and the setting definitely fits the occasion: The Penthouse of the Mark Hotel a.k.a. where the record-setting and history-making tennis champion also threw a headline-making baby shower for one of her closest friends, the Duchess of Sussex, a.k.a. Meghan Markle.
Despite the intimidatingly luxurious surroundings, Williams was incredibly chill and low-key, conducting interviews in the albeit grand living room, featuring one of four fireplaces, which might have been lulling her to sleep (better that than me). "It's the fire, I promise," Williams said, apologetically, while stifling a yawn. "It makes me so relaxed."
Of course, the Grand Slam legend has every excuse to be exhausted — and not just because of constant traveling, grueling daily training sessions and 24/7 parenting responsibilities. After debuting her size-inclusive S by Serena Williams line at New York Fashion Week in September with a runway assist from two-year-old daughter Alexis Olympia, she's expanding her fashion footprint into fine jewelry.
"For me, it was like, 'Where do I go next?' Williams explained. "I wanted to stand out and be different, as I usually do in true form. In true Serena form."
In conjunction with global diamond manufacturer K.P. Sanghvi, Serena Williams Jewelry launched on November 12 with 70 pieces priced between $299 to $9,999. The collection includes apropos tennis bracelets, rings, earrings and nameplate necklaces featuring strong messages that fit with Williams's ethos that's consistent throughout all her endeavors.
"Empowerment is obviously all things that I'm about," she said. "Empowering people and empowering women. So we have statement words, like 'winner,' 'lucky,' 'loved,' 'sexy.' My favorite is 'great.'"
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The line also features one of Williams's signatures that fans of her powerhouse skills on the court will recognize. "From the first Grand Slam that I won, I always have a heart [necklace] on," said Williams, who, by the way, counts a record 23 wins thus far. So her collection includes her interpretations of diamond-encrusted pendants that Williams treasures — and thoroughly tested out, as she'll explain below — on the court.
"It's nothing like a heart I've ever worn because I wanted to create something completely different and stand out," she added.
There's no question Williams herself consistently stands out, whether on the court or red carpet, while sending a powerful statement to the world. Her "Black Panther"-inspired and postpartum health beneficial Nike catsuit at the 2018 French Open made headlines after the French Tennis Federation President issued an ensuing ban on fitting jumpsuits for women, because it's 1918, apparently.
Following that, she issued a sartorially A+ response by walking onto the U.S. Open court in an asymmetrical tutu-skirted dress and a personalized moto jacket by friend, frequent collaborator and Off-White designer Virgil Abloh for her appropriately-named "Queen" collection for Nike. Returning to the French Open this year, Williams adhered to the no-catsuit edict, but sent a literal message of empowerment with a black and white graphic printed and fishnet-paneled outfit, again designed by Abloh for Nike. The billowing jacket layered over her crop top and skirt read en Français: championne (champion), "deesse" (goddess), "mere" (mother) and, of course, reine (queen).
"Be yourself. Be unapologetically you," Williams said. "Don't be afraid to stand out and wear a necklace that says 'great,' because you are, or sexy, because you are, and that's being unapologetically who you are."
As I dry my eyes and collect myself, read on to learn how Williams decides what to wear on the court, how she test-drives her accessories and why the Atelier Versace gown and Off-White x Nike Air Force 1 Volts worn to the 2019 Met Gala, which she co-chaired, mean so much to her.
"There are guidelines in tennis as to what you can wear. I always say, 'OK, people probably see me the most on the tennis court. So how do I look my best while I'm sweating and running and grunting and being in dire pain at times? What have I not done?' Which is getting more narrow because I feel like I've done almost everything. I start from that point of view. Then, I look at different fabrics and how they perform, how they do under sweet — heat and sweat — sweet is like a mixture of those words [laughs]!
I always try to keep one or two of [the outfits after I wear for a match], but the rest, I usually either donate to my charity or if I'm home, I drive it to a women's shelter.
I always pick out my jewelry [for a match] a long time in advance because I always practice in them for at least a month to make sure they're not flopping in my face or twisting on my fingers. So it's my own like testing process and then it goes from there. Usually if I win in something, I'll wear it for a little bit. I've always worn heart necklaces. At one point, I wore a circle. It was weird, but that was a gift. Those are pieces that are always cherished.
I'm testing pieces in my jewelry collection, too. First of all, I wear the dog tag every day. I'm training every day and I wear my rings all the time. I never take them off. They're currently in the testing process to see which ones I will wear next year.
I always say, 'accessorize, accessorize, accessorize.' Because you can wear a simple black dress and make it look like the best outfit in the world with what you're wearing with it. I absolutely love that and I've done that for so many years. Everyone has done that, so I want to be part of that narrative and create accessories that you can wear around an amazing outfit. In my S by Serena Williams line, there's a plaid coat that has a belt and all words around the belt start with 'S' [like 'sensational,' 'strong,' smart' and 'spectacular.'] That's about empowerment.
What I wore at the Met Ball was really empowering and interesting and really different, plus, pairing it with Nike, which has meant so much to me for decades; Atelier Versace and Nike and Virgil together was just really cool. It was definitely a moment and some of my favorite pieces. Total Serena personality into that.
At home, my style is comfortable. I'm always about being comfortable and being chill. When you're at home with a baby you just have to wear clothes you're OK to lose, in case there's an accident or she stains it, so that has been my wardrobe a lot lately when I'm just chillin' at home.
When I have different events, I'll have my stylist shop for me and then I shop like that. So I have like racks and racks of clothes that they pulled and then I'll try things on and 'Oh, this looks good. This looks good. This doesn't look good. This doesn't look good, so…." When I shop, I think of things first. I have a list, then I go get it. But I'm definitely an online shopper.
But I also don't go out too much because it's ... kind of hectic when I do go out."