Serena Williams’ long-anticipated clothing and shoe line, created in partnership with Nike, has been unveiled. The tennis-great partnered with Nike in 2019 to create the Serena Williams Design Crew (SWDC) and insisted that diverse designers be included.
The first collection of the SWDC will drop for sale in September, including shoes, lifestyle and active apparel and accessories. It is inspired by 90s and West African styles. Williams told Harper’s Bazaar she and the apprentices were on the same page.
“When I step on the court, I definitely want to stand out. I like to be different. I just like taking a chance when it comes to design. … I love bold colors and a print,” Williams said. “I didn’t even tell the designers this, we were just on so much of the same wavelength that they felt the same way, and it definitely gives you that nostalgic feel.”
The SWDC is an apprenticeship program whose first cohort included 10 talented designers from New York City who went through a six-month design curriculum at Nike, the company reported in a news release.
The second cohort includes 11 designers from Chicago, who are already hard at work on the apprenticeship. According to Nike executives, Williams has been very vested in the process.
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“This is industry-defining. I remember a conversation I had with Serena, and she asked, ‘Has anyone done this?’ And I said, ‘Quite honestly, no.’ You could feel the spirit, the energy coming from Serena in that conversation,” said Jonathan Johnsongriffin, Nike VP and Global Creative Director.
“Serena has been so committed to the program. She wants to meet each apprentice. She wants to see their portfolios. She wants to be a part of the briefing of the product. She wants to be a part of the design reviews,” Johnsongriffin continued.
“When you talk about her being involved in every part of the process — even her design vocabulary is sharp. She’s like, ‘We don’t have enough silhouette differentiation. Can we go back and think about something else? That shows where her head is at, how invested she is in the success of the team and the line,” said Tania Flynn, Nike’s VP, Women’s Apparel Product Design.
Jarvis Sam, Nike’s VP of Diversity and Inclusion, also said bringing the collection to life with such a diverse group gave them an important reminder.
“One of the great things that the apprenticeship has reminded us is that the creative experiences of BIPOC groups are not a monolith,” Sam said. “We’re challenged to think about the nuanced differences within those populations and cohorts so that we can create an opportunity that has a real infrastructure to it, one that focuses on retention and development as much as we do acquisition.”