Venus holds court in fashion circles

For reigning Wimbledon champ Venus Williams, the court has always been her catwalk.

For reigning Wimbledon champ Venus Williams, the court has always been her catwalk.

Remember 1999's US Open?

The leggy tennis star, who collaborated with Reebok on designing seven different outfits, one for each of her possible matches, has since become the latest celebrity to partner with the budget-minded retailer Steve & Barry's on a women's line. Called EleVen, after her one-time Lynwood address, it features more than 120 pieces of low-cost active wear, accessories, jewellery and under-R100tennis takkies.

The 27-year-old Williams says her collection grew out of a sketch of a pleated tennis skirt.

"I couldn't help myself," she says. "I love pleats."

From flirty skirts to puffy down jackets with removable sleeves, denim to jewellery, Williams' brand is, according to Steve & Barry's, the largest collection ever launched by a female athlete, and that includes her sister, Serena Williams.

The younger of the fashion-forward Williams sisters is in the process of launching Aneres, Serena spelt backwards.

Aneres is a couture collection of formal wear to be sold at high-end boutiques.

And as with many high-profile athletes, Serena has her own custom-apparel line with her sponsor, Nike.

But Venus Williams has stepped outside the sports bubble by coming up with designs for a lifestyle brand that is more in line with the kinds of collections launched by big-name celebrities such as Sarah Jessica Parker, Jessica Simpson and Jennifer Lopez.

"We're reading more about stars who are doing this sort of thing because it leads to sales and it extends their visibility," says Mary Stephens, fashion design director of FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. - Reuters