Venus Williams Tells Us About Her First Fashion Week Show, Her Design Career, and More!

Venus Williams Tells Us About Her First Fashion Week Show, Her Design Career, and More!
(Photo courtesy of Venus Williams)

Venus Williams Tells Us About Her First Fashion Week Show, Her Design Career, and More!
Venus Williams (Getty)
Venus Williams just wrapped up a fierce competition at the US Open—but now's no time for the tennis superstar to kick back and relax.

Straight after her matches, Williams is right back prepping and training, but this time, it's for a completely different event—New York Fashion Week.

Tonight, Williams will show her recently relaunched athletic wear line, EleVen, for the first time at New York Fashion Week.

In honor of the collection's big debut, we caught up with the athlete-turned-designer to chat about how she balances both careers—and manages to be so successful at both!—what her design space looks like, and which designer she looks up to most.

StyleBistro: Why did you decide to relaunch EleVen this year?

Venus Williams: EleVen is a project I've maintained in one form or another, for a while now—through capsule collections and designer collaborations. Now I have a design degree and wonderful partners that enable me to be in complete control of the line.

SB: Since you first launched the line, how has it evolved?

VW: My designs have evolved over the years as I've developed an understanding of what women want to wear. There isn't one specific EleVen girl. The line can be worn by many different women, which can't be said of all fashion labels.

SB: What does your design studio look like?

VW: I travel a lot so my design space is adaptable. Constants are my sketch book—I use Hello Kitty notepads—which I bring with me when I travel for when inspiration strikes. In my home, I fill my design space with things that inspire me—designs I like and sketches I've done in the past. I consider my studio to be a creative space, so it's important that it inspires me visually.


Venus Williams Tells Us About Her First Fashion Week Show, Her Design Career, and More!
(Photo courtesy of Venus Williams)

SB: Neither your career as a professional athlete nor a fashion designer is a typical 9-to-5 job. During a regular work week, how do you decide to split your time between the two professions?

VW: It's a matter of balance. I'm not willing to sacrifice quality in any of my projects, which is an undertaking, but I make it work. I remain hands-on with all of my projects, so I'm constantly prioritizing and remain focused on the task at hand.

SB: How do these jobs differ from each other? Do you find yourself having to switch in-and-out of different mindsets as you transition between the two roles?

VW: There are differences, but there are also similarities. Both tennis and design require focus, attention to detail, and dedication to quality. I approach both parts of my life with the same work ethic and drive to produce quality results.


SB: We know you're super-involved with your collection, we even heard you try on the samples when they come back from the factory! What are you looking for, and does anyone else try on the samples?

VW: It is important to me that I remain hands-on with every aspect of production of this line. It is a reflection of me and is executed in that way. Fit is top priority so I do handle that directly with my production team. I want women to feel comfortable in my clothes so it's important the clothes flatter different body types. Fitting samples is handled with my production team, but I do look to Serena for feedback on my design ideas. If she doesn’t like it, it doesn’t make the cut.

Venus Williams Tells Us About Her First Fashion Week Show, Her Design Career, and More!
(Photo courtesy of Venus Williams)

SB: How do you shop for your own clothing?

VW: I look for unique elements in my clothing, but I do favor classic, timeless designs. I like my clothes to be vibrant and a reflection of my personality.

SB: When you decided to go to fashion school, what did you think you would be designing?

VW: Athletic wear is a natural fit for me and my lifestyle, so this is a project I've always wanted to pursue.  Athletic wear is a growing market, and I saw a demand for clothes that can be taken on and off the court—or from the gym to lunch—with a few simple accessory changes. I've achieved that with EleVen—my designs are versatile so they can be worn and styled in a number of different ways.

SB: Last but not least, which designer do you admire the most?

VW: Ralph Lauren is one of the designers I look up to. His designs are classic and timeless and have come to define American fashion.

Stay tuned right here at StyleBistro for more updates on the EleVen spring 2013 collection! Tell us, will you be buying any activewear pieces from EleVen for spring? Let us know in the comments! And check out all our fashion week coverage right here.
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