In 2019, Nike founded a new kind of partnership with the legendary tennis player. The result was the Serena Williams Design Crew, a tightly knit apprenticeship programme for 10 talented young people to promote inclusivity and diversity in the world of design. Eighteen months later, the collection is finally ready.
Under the direction of Serena Williams, Nike selected 10 emerging designers from underrepresented backgrounds to work on a new collection inspired by Serena Williams and approved by Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. The 10 winners were selected through Harlem’s Fashion Row, fashion schools such as the Fashion Institute of Technology and Parsons, and Nike workshops. These new talents were given 18 months to design and produce a women’s collection that would live up to their beliefs and inspirations. In addition, a new apprenticeship with 11 new students in the Chicago area is currently underway and applications for the third one are open.
“It’s a plan to make the makeup of our company more reflective of our athletes and the communities we serve,” said John Hoke, Nike’s Chief Design Officer. Of the apprentices trained by professional designers at the swoosh brand, seven of them have gone on to full-time employment with the company. The other three are well established in the fashion industry.
“We tend to say that diversity creates empathy, empathy creates curiosity, curiosity leads to innovation. When you bring together a diverse group – a team of creatives who bring their talent, their stories, their experiences to the table – it creates a unique experience not only for the designers, but for everyone they interact with,” explained Tania Flynn, Vice President of Nike.
Unsurprisingly, this collection designed by the Serena Williams Design Crew is inspired by the athlete’s life. It features references such as her daughter’s initials OO, prints inspired by West African Kente cloth with hidden S monograms and her 23 Grand Slam titles. Three shoes are also included in the collection, which will debut this fall: a Nike Court Legacy, an Air Max Koko and an RYZ 365 2.