Serena Williams is no stranger to the runway, having modeled for her own fashion line’s shows in the past. But Monday marked the first time the 23-time major champion walked for a major luxury brand during fashion month.
On the first day of Paris Fashion Week, Williams paid tribute to her longtime fashion collaborator, the late designer and Off-White founder, Virgil Abloh.
Off-White, a Milan-based luxury brand, honored Abloh, who died in November 2021 at the age of 41 after a private battle with a rare cancer, while presenting its Fall 2022 collection — Abloh’s final contribution to the brand.
The star-studded show (Kendall Jenner, Joan Smalls, Gigi and Bella Hadid, Karlie Kloss, Naomi Campbell and Cindy Crawford also graced the catwalk for the occasion) was divided into two parts, with Serena donning a portion of the “ready-to-wear collection” for the upcoming season in the first portion.
— Vanessa Friedman (@VVFriedman) February 28, 2022
Serena Williams just walked in Virgil Abloh’s final Off-White show at Paris Fashion Week pic.twitter.com/noXQXQmnel
— jessica testa (@jtes) February 28, 2022
After the show, Williams took to Instagram to express gratitude for the opportunity to honor her friend.
Williams had long been Abloh’s muse, with the tennis star serving as the inspiration for the designer’s first Nike collection in 2018. The collection, called “Queen” (naturally), included Abloh’s take on the classic tennis dress with asymmetrical color blocking, classic Off-White text and a tulle tutu skirt. “I was trying to embody her spirit and bring something compelling and fresh to tennis,” he said in an official statement on the launch. Williams wore the dress in multiple colorways at the 2018 U.S. Open.
In 2019, she donned neon yellow sneakers designed by Abloh while attending the Met Gala. Not long after, she rocked an Abloh original to the 2019 French Open. The black-and-white striped two-piece set — complete with a matching cape — was emblazoned with the French words for “mother,” “champion,” “queen,” and “goddess.”
When Abloh died, Williams was one of a bevy of celebrities who shared tributes to the beloved designer. “Words cannot express the sorrow I feel on the passing of my friend @virgilabloh,” she wrote on Instagram. “I will forever be grateful to have had the opportunity to witness such greatness, such genius and to feel the warmth of his smile. It was my honor to stand next to him. He lit up every room he walked into. May his beloved family and friends find comfort in knowing how profoundly his art impacted our culture, and us all. I will miss you.”