Serena Williams & Nike's Carly Ellis Collaborated On Sparkling US Open OutfitSeptember 2, 2022
Serena Williams’ passion for fashion and professional training have continuously influenced her magnificent, distinctive outfits. Williams took charge of her most recent attire at the US Open 2022 at Flushing Meadows, New York, with the aid of Nike Lead Apparel Designer Carly Ellis, who provided the overall concept and guided the details for an exciting design aimed at making her feel confident and at ease.
Williams has been partnering with Nike since 2004. However, Ellis joined the apparel team in 2018, and the two women have been working together ever since. “One of the most special moments in my career was when I got to see a look I designed debut on-court at the Australian Open in 2021—the lilac dress,” Ellis tells ESSENCE. “It’s been a dream come true to work so closely with her from that moment forward.”
According to Ellis, the tennis champion was extremely hands-on, with incredibly high standards, which makes her an amazing collaborator. “She knows what she likes, what she wants, and what she doesn’t. This has fostered a fast-paced, honest, and respectful partnership between her and our design team,” Ellis explains. “The more direct feedback she shares with us, the more tools we have to create our vision together.”
The Grand Slam champion has always understood the influence of clothing, as any fan would agree. At the beginning of her career, she used vivid colors, risky cutouts, and historical accessories (who can forget those white beads). We have witnessed how that changed over time into fearless disruption. “Serena is playful and unafraid of expressing her personal style both on and off the court. Rather than conform, she chose to embrace, own, and celebrate everything that makes her different,” Ellis explains. “She undoubtedly changed the game itself, from the power and pace of women’s tennis to its reach beyond the court. We’ve long known the power of a uniform when dressing for a big match and stepping onto the world stage to compete. She has elevated sports into a runway for self-expression, individuality, and celebration.”
Williams was given freedom of movement as well as a focus thanks to the elaborate bodice and skirt, which were inspired by the elegant competition gowns worn by figure skaters. The skirt includes six layers in memory of her six previous championship triumphs in Flushing. The deep hue and crystal-encrusted bodice, which is worn with a matching jacket and tote, allude to the competition’s night sky by reflecting light and shining magnificently.
“In our first meeting together on the concept, she prepared a brief for me and brought her own sketches,” Ellis describes their brainstorming sessions. “Serena loves the grace, strength, and sheer skill of ice dancers and was really inspired by the embellishments of their costumes. “We worked on several different designs, combining her ideas, experimenting, and ideating. We knew this had to be perfect.”
The look was paired with the NikeCourt Flare 2—custom Serena PE sneakers featuring a diamond-encrusted Swoosh design and her initials on the medial side. The solid gold deubrés on the laces feature 400 hand-set diamonds in black ceramic created in collaboration with Serena Williams Jewelry. Overall, the entire look took a little over nine months to create.
“Once we had her dress dialed, we, of course, wanted to build in some surprises for the Queen, which came in the form of the crystal-emblazoned train,” Ellis shares. “I will never forget watching her walk out onto center court Monday night in that train, bedazzled jacket, and diamonds adorning her hair and nails, with the world watching her every move. She went on to win in straight sets and then powerfully won her second-round match as well. I like to think maybe the sparkles are giving her some extra magic.”
One of Ellis’s favorite accessories to match Williams’ look was the matching outfit for her 5-year-old daughter, Olympia, who sat in the bleachers cheering her mother on. “We knew this dress was special for Serena, but we know that no one is more special to her than Olympia,” Ellis points out. “I love the tradition we’ve started at Nike of creating matching outfits for this iconic mother-daughter duo. We made it a priority for her on-court debut at the Open, but they certainly surprised us with Olympia’s beads, which were a throwback to Serena’s first-ever US Open match. How adorable was that?”
We would be remiss if we didn’t ask Ellis how she feels about being a part of history. “There are no words that can summarize the pressure and responsibility that come with designing a piece of history for the Greatest Of All Time,” she shares. “Every moment I have spent working with Serena Williams, even in times of pressure and problem solving, is a delight to be relished for the rest of my life. It’s been the greatest honor of my career so far, and this is surely a bittersweet moment to see her storied tennis career come to an end.”
We couldn’t agree more!
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