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When Vogue editor-at-large Andre Leon Talley tweeted about “the most original fashion performance art show in Fashion Week,” you might think he was referencing one of haute couture’s eccentric heavyweights. Instead he was big-upping the debut of Venus Williams’EleVen by Venus line. The four-time gold medalist and winner of seven Grand Slam titles put boxers, gymnasts and dancers on the runway in New York last month to unveil the sportswear line she’s had in the works since graduating from the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale in 2007.

While she’s had the degree and insider mentorship for a while, Williams’ nascent designing career has often been sidetracked by her day gig. Before she sent her models out, Williams talked to Playbook about finally getting to show at Fashion Week.

Why is this second career and being in the fashion industry so important to you?

I’ve been in fashion forever; I went to school for it. It’s a natural transition for me. It was my dream off the court, as well.

You have your own interior design company, too, and there are so many opportunities in the fashion industry. Why do a clothing line?

I got a letter in the mail one day, and it was for a fashion school, and it was all the way in Tampa, which is three hours away from where I live in West Palm Beach. My mom was like, “That’s too far.” So I found a school in Fort Lauderdale that was only 45 minutes away. At the time I guess I didn’t know that I could make my own choice because I was 18. I ended up going to school and I loved every second of it. What I loved most was finding my own voice, and I think that’s what makes EleVen stand out. If I had someone designing, I think the chance would be 100 percent that it would look like everybody else, with some ideas from me here and there. And that’s why I think it’s so unique and different in terms of style and styling because it really is me and my view of how I see things. I’ve found that I had to work and find who I was and bring it out in the design, so that there’s a piece of me in every collection. Although every time I’m like, “Oh boy, I wonder what’s going to happen.” As you design, you never know how it’s going to turn out and what’s going to be the inspiration. It just keeps coming out more beautiful each time.

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article courtesy of ESPN.com

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