Serena Williams has opened up about the regret she still feels about turning down the look late designer Virgil Abloh initially suggested she wear for the 2019 French Open.
Williams, who frequently worked with the Off-White founder before his death in 2021, shared her regret over her decision not to wear the outfit, which she said included a “long skirt” and “crazy train,” in a Vogue video tribute to the late designer.
“So, the collaboration for the French Open, I still kind of regret not doing what Virgil told me to do,” the tennis star said. “He wanted me to wear, like, this long skirt with the crazy train and then a cape with a train, and then just walk out on the court.”
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According to Williams, at the time, she told her longtime friend that, although she “loves fashion” and “pushing the envelope,” she didn’t think she should wear the outfit.
“I’m thinking: ‘Virgil, I like fashion, and I like pushing the envelope, but this, I just don’t think I can do this,’” Williams recalled.
Instead of the outfit Abloh had originally envisioned for the tennis tournament, Williams wore a custom black-and-white Nike crop top and matching skirt created by the designer. The outfit, which was emblazoned with the words “mother,” “goddess,” “queen,” and “champion” in both French and English, also featured a matching jacket.
However, according to the tennis pro, she told the designer when she next saw him that she regretted her decision.
“When I saw him next, I was like: ‘I should have did it. I just should have did it. I just should have wore it,’” Williams recalled, adding that the former Louis Vuitton menswear artistic director told her that he’d told her so. “And he’s just like: ‘I told you, I told you.’”
“I just wasn’t brave enough to go out there in all the red clay, and just walk out in this train, of like, a Met Gala at the French Open,” Williams continued. “And I really wish I had done that.”
Williams’ decision to turn down the designer’s initial design came a year after she wore a Nike catsuit at the French Open, which was later banned by the French Tennis Federation for not adhering to the dress code.
Following Abloh’s death, the 23-time Grand Slam winner paid tribute to the designer on Instagram, where she shared a video of the pair working on various collaborations over the years and wrote: “Words cannot express the sorrow I feel on the passing of my friend.”
“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 honour to stand next to him. He lit up every room he walked into,” she continued. “May his beloved family and friends find comfort in knowing how profoundly his art impacted our culture, and us all. I will miss you.”