Serena’s style changed the game in fashion, business

Tennis – US Open – Flushing Meadows, New York, United States – September 2, 2022 Serena Williams of the United States before her third round match against Australia’s Aila Tomljanovic REUTERS/Mike Segar

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NEW YORK, Sept 3 (Reuters) – From glossy magazine covers to generation-defining styles on court, Serena Williams bowed out at the US Open on Friday, rewriting the playbook for female athletes while building her own empire.

The 23-time Grand Slam winner tapped women’s fashion bible Vogue to announce she was “evolving away from tennis” before taking to the court in her dazzling Nike trainers at the US Open this week under the watchful eye of the magazine’s grande dame , Anna Wintour.

The fiercely competitive queen of Queens had a tough performance in what is expected to be her final tournament, losing in the third round 7-5 6-7 (4) 6-1 to Ajla Tomljanovic, with a solid legacy as a cultural icon in the place.

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“Style and sports have always been closely intertwined, but no athlete has embraced the power of fashion like Serena Williams,” Katie Abel, executive editor of Footwear News, told Reuters.

“She’s never shied away from boundary-pushing looks, on or off the court, and always knows how to send a message, even if it’s controversial.”

She famously competed at Flushing Meadows in a denim skirt in 2004 and ruffled feathers at Roland-Garros in 2018, when she wore a black suit to keep her circulation going after blood clots formed in the days after giving birth.

After organizers said they would ban the suit from their clay courts, Williams’ supporters cried foul. Williams jokingly told the Associated Press, “When it comes to fashion, you don’t want to be a repeat offender.”

The moment was an instant classic and showed she could use fashion to disrupt the status quo, said Katie Lebel, a sports gender researcher and assistant professor at the University of Guelph.

“Sexism is quite pervasive when it comes to women’s clothing … The expectations around what female athletes should look like are particularly steeped in that,” she said.

“Enter Serena and she went against all that. I think she really redefined (the) uniform standards for women in tennis.”

Serena and her sister Venus brought black style to the predominantly white sport when they first took to the court as professionals in the 1990s, facing criticism for wearing beaded braids during competition.

Williams wore this style when she won her first Grand Slam in New York. Photos of daughter Olympia in matching braids in the stands at Flushing Meadows this year were an instant sensation.

“From the moment Serena and her sister Venus stepped onto the court with their signature braids … they were role models for black women and aspiring athletes everywhere,” Abel said.


Williams’ friendship with the late Louis Vuitton artistic director Virgil Abloh led to one of her most memorable US Open outfits, a ballerina-inspired Nike outfit in 2018 when she came tantalizingly close to winning a record 24 major title but failed to make it through the final.

While her run at the US Open is over, her work in New York has just begun with a “Glam Slam” preview of new looks from her label S by Serena, scheduled for Sept. 12 to coincide with New York Fashion Week. York.

And her retirement from competitive sport is expected to have little or no impact on her brand value – with Nike planning to continue its partnership with the 40-year-old. Read more

“Williams may be retiring from tennis, but I suspect her influence on fashion is just beginning. Without her grueling training schedule, I would think she would have even more time and energy to focus on this category,” said W Magazine Fashion Director Nora Milch.

A bona fide fashion mogul off the court, Serena was elected to the board of shopping app Poshmark in 2019, opening her own wardrobe alongside Olympia items for fashion market customers.

Manish Chandra, founder and CEO of Poshmark, said Williams has inspired several other female entrepreneurs to sell on the app through her unique voice and perspective.

“As a champion of female empowerment, Serena always leads with love and helps ensure that our Poshmark community is at the center of everything we do,” Chandra told Reuters.

“Her accomplishments and vision in the worlds of business, fashion and entrepreneurship made her a perfect fit for our board. . . . She leads with humility, kindness and authenticity.”

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Reporting by Amy Teneri in New York and Dhruv Munjal in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Rory Carroll in New York; Editing by William Mallard

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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