Serena Williams went from U.S. Open to New York Fashion Week in 72 hours. This season, she’s not sitting front row—she’s presenting a full see-now-buy-now collection for her namesake label, launched a little over a year ago.
“I didn’t expect it to be this fast, for them to call us up and be like, ‘We want you guys to show at New York Fashion Week.’ And be like, ‘Oh my God, we want to show,’” she tells Glamour backstage.
It’s a first for Serena, the brand, but not for Williams, the designer. She presented at the same venue where she had previously showcased her collections with HSN, a few years ago. Going into it, there may have been some familiarity. But this show marks a new chapter, one where Williams is doing Fashion Week on her own—and on her own terms.
“I wanted to have more creative direction and to do it by myself,” she says. “I was always working with HSN, which was wonderful and an amazing experience, but you’re limited with a lot of different things. I wanted to do something that I went to school for and I have so many visions for. And now we’re here.”
One thing Williams wasn’t going to compromise on was an inclusive casting. The models sent down the Serena runway were of all different shades, shapes, and sizes. Some even walked out in pairs, to show the same look in straight and “great” sizing, which is the Serena way of saying extended.
“It’s really important for me to be all-inclusive. I really love the word inclusivity and not exclusivity—I think that’s just better,” she says. “I want everyone to have a chance. I think it’s so important for everyone to feel like they can see an outfit and think, ‘Oh, that looks like me and I feel good in it.’ It doesn’t matter what color they are. I want them to be able for them to relate to someone.”
“I want this to be a celebration of women that turn their doubt and fears into courage and inspiration, that take those moments where they’re afraid and turn them around,” Williams says. This mission is echoed in the show notes that accompanied this collection, where she writes that it was made for “women who break traditions and boundaries…unflinching women of all colors and sizes.”
According to Williams, her team designs “for the inside-out—not necessary for a body type. We‘re designing for a woman who wants to be confident and wants to feel good and wants to go and be good—or, like me, have a baby and still feel sexy and still feel good about themselves.”
Unsurprisingly, the front row at Serena’s inaugural Fashion Week event was as diverse as it was star-studded.