"She turns her disappointment into triumph. Her grief into joy. Her rejections into approvals. If no one believes in her it does not matter. She believes in herself. Nothing stops her. No one can touch her. She is woman."
So said Serena Williams via loudspeaker Monday as part of a female-power soundtrack for a runway show of her Serena Williams Signature Statement collection for HSN during New York Fashion Week.
Williams interspersed the long-form poem that she wrote and recited on the soundtrack with music from women only, including her buddy Beyonce's "Lemonade."
"I wrote it right after Wimbledon and during the Olympics, and I just was in this moment of I want to empower women," she explained in a backstage interview. "It was right around the time I was asked, 'How do you feel about being the greatest female athlete?' and I was, like, they never ask men that. I wanted to give women strength. I played it for Beyonce and she loved it."
The idea, said the tennis great, was to carry that strength and unity into the clothes into her third show. The fall collection of soft faux shearlings, feminine black lace, ivories, touches of soft stretchy leather and classic wool maxi coats in gray and black was available immediately on HSN as Williams joined the "see now, buy now" push that's become increasingly common during Fashion Week.
She paired dainty stovepipe leggings in a soft rose with long, matching vests and cardigans, a velvet and fur-trimmed dress with sexy pumps, and a black lace gown worn over high-waisted shorts. And she included knits in a Merlot and touches of fall green.
The sophistication spoke to her years in fashion, along with her sister, Venus, who focuses on athleisure wear for another company. Are they competitive in fashion as well as tennis?
"It is very competitive spirit, but we're in totally different fields," Serena smiled. "She's into more sportswear and I'm into more ready-to-wear, and more sportswear, too."
Her older sis was on hand front row to cheer Williams on. So how does Venus feel about some friendly sisterly competition?
"We give each other confidence, so if your sister likes it you know it's going to be OK," Venus said. "Your sister always tells you the truth. We definitely help each other out and give suggestions. And that's the way sisters should be."
Williams won Wimbledon this year but lost in the semifinals at the US Open. She tied with Steffi Graf's Grand Slam record of 22. She also tied Graf's record until this week as the No 1 female player in the world for 186 weeks.
Asked if getting back to No. 1 is a top priority, Williams responded: "Right now I'm focused on fashion and then when I'm not I'm focused on Grand Slams. I always love having goals."