NEW YORK (AP) — Tennis icon Serena Williams used the tennis court as her runway as she grew up in the spotlight, explaining to an opulent gathering of the fashion industry how fashion became a preferred means of expression.
“I explored fashion and style as a way to distinguish myself as a little girl because I knew I was different,” Williams said, accepting the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s Fashion Icon award on Monday night. “The U.S. Open served as my personal New York Fashion Week, and the tennis courts served as my runway in many ways.” She claimed that reinventing the classic tennis attire became a means of expressing “my individuality, my confidence, and most importantly, my culture.”
Kim Kardashian, a CFDA honoree last year, gave Williams the Fashion Icon award, making her the first athlete to win it. Williams retired from tennis last year. Williams was described by Kardashian as “the greatest of all time—fearless, heroic, authentic, and iconic.”
Held at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan, the fashion industry’s version of Oscar night was emceed by Anne Hathaway. Willy Chavarria took home the menswear designer of the year award, while Catherine Holstein of the Khaite label took home the womenswear title. Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen of the clothing line The Row won the accessory category.
Among other accolades, Gwyneth Paltrow received the Innovation award from Demi Moore for her 15-year-old lifestyle brand, goop. The CFDA board of directors honored Vera Wang with a tribute by Vanessa Hudgens for her contributions to the bridal industry. Laura Linney gave a lifetime achievement award to Maria Cornejo, the designer.
Additionally, a tribute to the 50th anniversary of hip-hop featured a short film directed by Hype Williams, music by Pharrell, and an introduction by Mary J. Blige.
Williams, 42, stated she had to make the difficult decision to concentrate on motherhood when she decided to retire from tennis. August saw her give birth to a daughter, nearly exactly one year after her final match as a professional tennis player. Adira River Ohanian is the second child and daughter of Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian and Williams. Olympia, their first child, was born in 2017.
She talked adoringly about how she had discovered how to express her creativity on the court during her speech. “I created denim skirts, wore bodysuits and tutus in purple, and styled my hair with braids and beads,” she said. For me, it was really just a good time.
During her playing career, Williams studied fashion, and in 2018 she debuted her clothing line, “S by Serena,” with the goal of “inspiring women women to embrace their bodies and love who they are no matter their size, race, or income,” as she stated in her speech.
She included numerous thank-you notes, but she reserved the last one for her mother, saying, “You made those first tennis outfits when I was young.” She claimed that she “created this creativity in me that I still have to this day” while she was sewing.
Amazon Fashion presents the CFDA awards. Additional recognition included a media award for Alina Cho, a founder’s award for Domenico De Sole, a sustainability award for Mara Hoffman, and an international award for Jonathan Anderson for JW Anderson and Loewe.