Venus Williams has always been known for her style. Since she turned pro at 14 (while sporting white-beaded box braids, no less), the athlete’s brought a bold and unapologetic approach to tennis fashion. And her latest venture, Lacoste x EleVen by Venus Williams, is no exception. Out today, the 18-piece capsule collection blends unique and classic design elements from both brands, the latter of which is Williams’ own that she founded in 2007. A wide array of styles are featured, from pleated tennis skirts and nylon tracksuits to varsity jackets and striped polos. “The collection really embraces styles I’ve loved from Lacoste that feel so classic and true to the spirit of such a historic French brand,” Williams tells ELLE.com. “We combined those qualities with all the elements that are trademarks of EleVen—movement, color, versatility—which allowed us to create something that felt really new and fresh for today.” In honor of the collection’s official launch, Williams spoke to us about fashion, the current tenniscore trend, and her already-iconic Willy Chavarria look from this year’s US Open.
How did the collaboration between EleVen and Lacoste come to be?
I have been a lifelong fan of Lacoste both on and off the court, so when I first became an ambassador for the brand last year, I knew I wanted to collaborate and design something special with their team. Pairing Lacoste with EleVen was a natural fit because I wanted to design the collection through the lens of female empowerment that is so central to both brands. This collaboration is a nod to that retro sportswear vibe Lacoste is known for, while being modernized through EleVen’s design aesthetic.
Do you have a favorite piece?
We tried to make a very strong edit with this collection, so I really do love them all, but if I had to choose, it’s all about the polo shirt. Lacoste has always had this place in my memory of that perfect tennis polo, and with our version we went for retro with an oversized fit and classic striping, so it feels like a great vintage find or cherished heirloom. I love the color palette that brings a feminine edge and, of course, our “Venus did it first” emblem makes it extra special. The varsity jacket is another favorite that feels like a real collector’s item.
The “Venus did it first” emblem is a nice touch. What was the inspiration there?
The starting point of that emblem was a capsule collection that Lacoste did a few years back for the spring/summer 2015 season, which then read “René did it first,” paying tribute to the brand’s founder and his inventive nature. Not many people know that outside of the brand, Lacoste was an inventor all his life, not just in the world of tennis but also in various fields. Even in aeronautics! So, the Lacoste team proposed “Venus did it first” as a throwback to René Lacoste and a nod to a number of firsts in both of our careers. It’s about breaking barriers and pushing boundaries, and I love that we found a playful way to incorporate that.
How would you style the collection?
These pieces are very versatile, which is a quality we always try to have with our EleVen designs. The collection combines sporty and chic elements, so you can wear the pieces for a casual everyday look or for a more refined moment. There are also fun, vibrant pops of color in this collection that will make any outfit stand out. I love to have staples like these in my closet that I can throw on to elevate any outfit.
You’ve said that you make clothes in order to empower women. How do you hope this collection will continue that same mission statement?
Empowering women has always been incredibly important to me—it’s the reason I founded EleVen. We want all of our collections to help instill confidence in women, and this one is no different. All of these pieces were made with the intention to help women feel and look their best, so I hope everyone who wears this collection truly feels that way. I’m proud of all the work that has gone into this.
What do you think about the resurgence of tennis fashion (a.k.a. tenniscore) right now?
I love it! Obviously, tennis fashion has always been a staple throughout my life, but I love seeing other people putting their own spin on it. Fashion has always been an outlet for me to express myself, both on and off the court, so I support any time people are leaning into their creative sides and finding new ways to showcase their personality through fashion, especially tennis fashion. Lacoste and EleVen are both at the intersection of fashion and sports, and our collection is celebrating that blend of style and athleticism.
Does your personal style influence the type of clothing you design?
Definitely. When designing clothes, I always think about how I would feel in them, how I would move in them, and how they can help support my lifestyle. My personal style is typically bold and authentic, and everything we create at EleVen is something I’m personally excited to wear. I truly believe that in order to perform your best, you need to feel your best, so our items are all created with the utmost attention to detail and strong craftsmanship.
At the US Open this year, you wore an amazing Willy Chavarria blazer that had everyone talking. How has your relationship between sports and fashion evolved over the years?
I’ve always loved incorporating fashion into tennis. It’s so fun for me to be able to combine two of the things I’m most passionate about. Fashion and sports are so intertwined, and I’ve always used my on-court looks as an opportunity for self-expression. At the US Open this year, I wanted to use the walk-in look as an additional moment to showcase my individual style and personality even further. Over the years, I’ve continued to develop and evolve my personal style and only wear what makes me feel my best. Fashion is a personal representation of yourself, so I like to have as much fun with it as I possibly can.
You’ve been a global brand ambassador for Lacoste since last year. How have you grown in the role since then?
Working with Lacoste has really been a dream come true. As partners, they just get what is important to me, and we’ve been able to work together to help inspire other young people around the world to chart their own path. This past September, Lacoste and I worked together to refurbish the tennis court at St. Mary’s Park in The Bronx which was another special moment. Being able to dedicate our work together to help make sports more accessible to young kids everywhere is a really rewarding part of this partnership, and we’re just getting started.
Are there any traits you possess as an athlete that also help in being a businesswoman?
It’s all about mindset and being willing to constantly evolve and grow. I’m always wanting more from myself. I’ll never settle for less than my best or give anything less than 100 percent effort. Even if I make a mistake or have a tough loss, I see it as an opportunity to continue learning, which at the end of the day, will ultimately make me a better athlete, entrepreneur, and individual.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Juliana Ukiomogbe is the Assistant Editor at ELLE. Her work has previously appeared in Interview, i-D, Teen Vogue, Nylon, and more.