Tennis legend Serena Williams has been named a fashion icon by the Council of Fashion Designers of America.

The organisation awarded Williams the title on Monday night at a ceremony in New York.

“I explored fashion and style as a way to distinguish myself,” Williams told the crowd. “In many ways for me, the tennis courts became my runway.”

Williams is the first athlete to win the award. Previous award recipients include Beyoncé, Zendaya and Rihanna.

The 23-time Grand Slam singles champion rocked the red carpet at the American Museum of Natural History, wearing a bespoke black sequin dress designed by CFDA Chairman Thom Browne.

On the fashion industry’s equivalent of Oscar night, Williams was presented the 2023 CFDA fashion icon award by fashion mogul and television star Kim Kardashian.

Others in the audience included actors Anne Hathaway, Gwyneth Paltrow and Demi Moore and singers Mary J Blige and Vanessa Hudgens.

Kim Kardashian attends the 2023 CFDA Fashion Awards at American Museum of Natural HistoryIMAGE SOURCE,GOTHAM/GETTY IMAGES
Image caption,

Reality TV star and entrepreneur Kim Kardashian
American actress and singer Vanessa HudgensIMAGE SOURCE,GETTY IMAGES
Image caption,

American actress and singer Vanessa Hudgens
Goop founder and Hollywood celebrity Gwyneth PaltrowIMAGE SOURCE,GETTY IMAGES
Image caption,

Goop founder and Hollywood actor Gwyneth Paltrow
Fashion mogul Tom FordIMAGE SOURCE,REUTERS
Image caption,

Fashion designer Tom Ford

In her acceptance speech, Williams spoke of her love for fashion and its role on the tennis court.

“I designed skirts out of denim and I wore purple tutus and bodysuits and put beads in my hair, and braids,” she said. “It was really just a fun time for me.”

Williams studied fashion during her playing career – attending fashion school between Grand Slams – and in 2018, launched her S by Serena clothing line.

In 2019, Williams told Essence magazine that her clothes “represent women everywhere – indomitable mothers, daughters and sisters; resilient businesswomen and entrepreneurs; outsiders and underdogs; little girls with crazy dreams and unflinching women of colour”.

Williams, 42, ended her 27-year professional career in 2022 in New York at the US Open, though she has said “I am not retired”, and “the chances (of a return) are very high”.

She referred to her career’s end in a Vogue magazine article as “evolving away from tennis”.

At the awards ceremony, Williams thanked several people but saved the last one for her mother.

“Watching her sew created this creativity in me that I still have to this day,” Williams said.


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