After powerfully strutting across a sapphire blue tennis court perched on the rooftop of New York City's Spring Studios, 10 models faced an eager audience wearing fall looks from Serena Williams' collection, S by Serena. An off-shoulder black dress with gloved sleeves glowed with sophistication. A fitted, one-shoulder dress colored a bold red radiated elegance and sexy confidence.
Taking place at Glam Slam, a tennis-meets-fashion event presented by IMG and Spring Studios in partnership with Chase Sapphire, the high-energy show opened with Williams' favorite dress: the Landry, a little black dress with sheer sleeve cutouts and a ruched, criss-cross pattern skirt.
"We just don't want to limit anyone," Williams says of her S by Serena design philosophy. "Everyone has an opportunity to look good no matter who you are, where you're from, what you look like or what your body is."
Throughout her designs, Williams has a penchant for ruching, cutouts and sensually tracing the body's silhouette while maintaining comfort and playing with the lines of a garment.
Throughout her career, watching Williams play tennis was never just about witnessing her powerful serve, counterpunches or overall technical mastery: There was always joy in soaking in her fearless fashions. Diamond drop earrings swinging at the rhythm of her movement. Pleated skirts revealing a pop of bright pink at her twirls. Tulle skirts designed by Virgil Abloh and Nike that brought fairytale fantasy to the court.
In her youth, Williams wasn't only studying the great tennis players that came before her; she was also studying fashion design, earning a degree at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, before rising to the top of global sports rankings and befriending fashion leaders.
"In the beginning, I was always inspired by pop culture and everything that was happening around the '80s and '90s," she says. "I'm still really inspired by pop culture."
There was also a time, Williams explains, when she was absorbed and inspired by iconic Black women like Dorothy Dandridge, Diana Ross and many more.
As someone oriented to chasing and achieving her dreams, evolving from tennis is allowing Williams to focus on other goals, from fashion to investing in game-changing companies through Serena Ventures. When it comes to designing, she also leans on the support of those around her, including her five-year-old daughter Olympia, whom she credits with helping pick some of the looks.
At the end of her (likely) last professional tennis match, glistening in a custom Nike look, Williams tearfully said, "I wouldn't be Serena if there wasn't Venus [Williams]. She's the only reason Serena Williams ever existed." In fashion, she continues to credit her sister for inspiring and pushing her. (Venus is similarly gifted immensely across tennis and fashion: She has her own clothing line, Eleven by Venus Williams, that focuses on tennis-centered athletic wear.)
In conversation with Harper’s Bazaar Digital Director Nikki Ogunnaike ahead of the presentation, Williams told the audience: "Venus has helped me out a lot. She's doing… completely activewear. I love activewear, but we don't do activewear at S. So it's really nice to see. Some of the most amazing designs and activewear are honestly at Eleven."
When the presentation neared its end, models walked to the back of the court and lined up once more. Wearing a mix of neutral-toned New Yorker uniforms and bright colors like pink (Williams' favorite color), the crowd clapped under midday sun. Joined by Olympia, Williams led models offstage, gliding while wearing her S by Serena Tatum dress in mocha.