Nike’s Serena Williams Design Crew – dubbed SWDC – is Serena Williams’ team of design apprentices working under the sportswear brand and selected by Williams herself. The team of ten are individuals from underrepresented backgrounds, chosen in 2019, forming a partnership between the brand and the sportswoman with the aim “to uplift new voices and help forge the future of design”.
Serena’s design apprentices were scouted with help from Harlem’s Fashion Row and from New York fashion schools such as the Fashion Institute of Technology and Parson’s Design School. The lucky candidates were given 18 months to design and create garments which Serena would be able to wear whilst thrashing another poor opponent.
Williams encouraged her designers to “be very creative” and to not be afraid to do something “extremely innovative”. These mottos led to the designs we see today.
Within the garments, there are elements of the tennis player’s career. There are prints reflecting West African Kente fabric displaying repetitive S monograms, tape meant to represent every year of Serena’s grand slam wins and even one-shoulder pieces which aim to flaunt the ‘serving’ arm – the arm she uses for her almighty tennis serves.
The pieces are wearable but also very different according to Williams. She thought the wearability was really important as well as the innovation. After all, they are sports pieces, meant to push the wearer to peak performance as well as looking visually exciting.
Footwear is perhaps the protagonist of the line’s design story. Serena Williams told her designers that she was the one who liked wearing the shoes but had no idea about designing them, so she really needed them to take the lead on this one. The designers stepped up (pardon the pun) to the challenge – they manipulated Nike Court Legacy, Air Max Koko, and RYZ 365 2 silhouettes to their own visions to create new shoes altogether which seek to represent the tennis player’s personality and successful sports career.
The collection, whilst being a celebration of Serena Williams, also aims to spotlight and champion the trailblazing work of the designers, hopefully breeding and fostering this new generation of emerging fashion design talent. Seven out of the ten apprentices were hired by Nike while the other three are said to be elsewhere in the fashion industry.
For Nike, Williams said; “The world isn't one colour. We come from different backgrounds and think differently. When you bring all that diversity together, can you begin to imagine the amazing things that you are able to make?”
The first edition of SWDC is to make its debut on 1 September and the program’s second batch of designers is working on the follow-up collection. And for those based in the US, the course is opening registrations for their third group now. Find out more here.
GallerySerena Williams Design Crew for Nike (Copyright © Nike, 2021)
Nike: Serena Williams Design Crew (Copyright © Nike, 2021)
About the Author
Dalia is a freelance writer, producer and editor based in London. She’s currently the digital editor of Azeema, and the editor-in-chief of The Road to Nowhere Magazine. Previously, she was news writer at It’s Nice That, after graduating in English Literature from The University of Edinburgh.