Photo © Nike

The debut Serena Williams Design Crew (SWDC) collection is releasing in fall 2021. The capsule, which includes apparel, footwear and accessories, was designed by the inaugural SWDC apprenticeship cohort, represented by 10 designers from diverse backgrounds. Below, Serena shares some of the values that guide the program, describes the qualities she sees in the apprentices, and emphasizes why diversity matters – not only for the future of design, but for the future. Period.

Sport might be one of the most diverse communities we have in this world. And the best version of sport is always the one that’s open to everyone. Sport inspires me, and I hope to inspire others through it too.

That’s where I saw the Serena Williams Design Crew making an impact. With Nike, I’m bringing my love for sport and design together, working to build more inclusive, equitable communities in both while inspiring new generations to fall in love with sport and pursue their dreams.

I’ve always surrounded myself with people from different backgrounds, cultures and walks of life. I know the value of diversity in making us better. When you have diversity, you discover new perspectives, which leads to new ideas and ultimately toward better results.

In sport and in design, I always want the best result possible. And it’s the same for Nike. That’s why I’m so proud of our partnership on the Serena Williams Design Crew program and the opportunity for change we’re creating together.

Preview the Apparel

Serena Williams on Designing for the Next Generation 6

Emiko McCoy: Performance Apparel

“In thinking about Serena’s teenage years, we were inspired by ’90s nostalgia,” says McCoy, shown next to the collection’s asymmetrical long-sleeve top and double-layered tight. “Crossing this over into performance, we focused on using proportion to help visualize parts of Serena’s game, like the flow of her serve.”

Serena Williams on Designing for the Next Generation 8

Sandra Cruz: Apparel Color

“This is an important time to be exploring skin tone,” says Cruz, featured next to the tennis jumpsuit with allover print. “We wanted to make sure the colors we used would complement all different kinds of skin tones, which help inspire bigger ideas of diversity and inclusion.”

Serena Williams on Designing for the Next Generation 9

Sheena Wong Shue: Graphics

“For everything we created, the narratives were told through two themes: lineage, encompassing Serena’s past and present, and utopia, which is the future she’s currently influencing,” says Wong Shue, featured beside the collection’s jacket with allover print. “We wanted to create a pattern that was modern, clean and futuristic while still keying in on a feeling of inclusion, race and progress.”

Representation is important. I believe exposure — just seeing what’s possible — is one of the biggest drivers in creating change. The idea for the Serena Williams Design Crew came from conversations I had with Nike about how we could work together to increase diversity in design as a whole. I wanted everyone to be seen, and Nike worked with me to make it happen.

How would I explain the program we created? This program is an opportunity for people who otherwise may have never gotten a chance to design for the biggest sport company in the world. I hope this propels these designers in their careers and their lives. And I hope their experience will inspire others to see themselves in design too.

When I go into a design studio, I want to see everyone at the table and involved: someone who looks like me, my dad, my husband. I want the designers working with me to know their experiences are valuable, their skills real, their voices heard and respected. That’s also the future I want for my daughter.

The apprentices have so many qualities I see in myself. They have passion. They’re perfectionists. In design reviews, they’d ask over and over, “Is it good enough?” They go above and beyond.

Now, our first collection is releasing to the world. It’s a little surreal.

Preview the Footwear

Serena Williams on Designing for the Next Generation 5

Juan Huerta, Graphics

“Woven labels stand for a kind of excellence across footwear and apparel,” says Huerta. “So Sheena and I created a woven labeling system for Serena that puts a spin on the classic NikeCourt logo. The 10-4-1 number system recognizes the work of the cohort—10 designers for one athlete, 10 designers for one collection.”

Serena Williams on Designing for the Next Generation 11

Toussaint King: Footwear

“I actually wanted to steer away from tennis on this, because Serena is so much more than that,” says King about his Koko Sandal. “I manipulated the upper and brought in some of the cut-outs used throughout the collection. As I evolved the silhouette, ‘ascension’ came to mind, so I grounded everything in a big, exaggerated Max unit.”

Serena Williams on Designing for the Next Generation 4

Mika Osoro: Footwear Materials

“I thought about how the word ‘impact’ was both a perfect way to describe Serena’s influence as well as the influence of material choices,” says Osoro, featured next to the NikeCourt Legacy AC in a colorway releasing in holiday 2021. “I used a woven polyester jacquard on the upper. The secondary material was a recycled woven polyester. It reminds me of a lightweight denim, so I used the material on the tongue.”

Valuing diversity doesn’t just mean changing the way things currently are. It’s about changing the future. We say in our manifesto: We want to inspire and engage the most inclusive and accepting generation the world has ever seen. And we can only be what we can see.