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6 November 2012

Venus and Serena Williams Jozi lifestyle

Venus and Serena Williams sizzle on the court - and take a big liking to South African fashion and design off it - on their whirlwind trip

Venus and Serena Williams with Thula Sindi Venus and Serena Williams with Thula Sindi

“I’ve had so much fun on this trip. I’ve been to South Africa before, but every time I come back it gets better and better. I loved the Thula Sindi dress I bought. The style is gorgeous,” said Serena.

Venus and Serena Williams are famous the world over for their scorching serves, blazing groundstrokes and their phenomenal Grand Slam tennis success – but the stylish sisters are also well known for their keen love for fashion.

Be it on the court, when taking tennis attire and styling to new creative heights or through designing their own clothing lines and showcasing at some of the world’s major fashion shows, the Williams sisters’ fondness for clothes, design and accessories is well established.

So, while dutifully conducting coaching clinics, inspiring young women and treating their fans to an exhibition tennis match were their priorities on their ‘Breaking the Mould’ tour of South Africa this weekend, they nevertheless found some time to check out Johannesburg’s trendy sidewalk café culture, its bustling high-end shopping malls and of course the country’s distinctive fashion offering.

Serena tweeted this week that she badly needed a vacation with ‘sand, beach and lemonade’. They didn’t make it to South Africa’s pristine beaches on their 48-hour whirlwind trip, but they did get to see why Johannesburg is forging its reputation as Africa’s lifestyle, fashion and design capital.

Shortly before playing each other on the tennis court in an exhibition match, the Williams’ found some time on a blissfully sunny day to pop into Johannesburg’s trendy Parkhurst district, known for its café’s, fine restaurants, art galleries – and of course its many clothing stores.

Venus and Serena popped into the ‘Egality’ store, which stocks the latest and best South African fashion and accessories from the country’s established and aspiring designers, where they were extremely impressed with some of the local fashion and with the designs and clothing of current ‘South African Tourism SA Fashion Designer of the Year’ Thula Sindi.

Venus has just showcased her EleVen clothing line at New York Fashion Week, with her work modeled by US Olympic gold medalist athletes and her show attended by fashion luminaries such as Andre Leon Talley. And with a fashion degree from The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale and collaborations with design superstars such as Ralph Lauren and Diane Von Furstenberg under her belt, Venus certainly knows quite a bit about the art of fashion design.

And during their hour-long trip to Felicity Spies’ Egality store, she and sister Serena, joined by their mom and sisters, certainly took a big liking to the distinctive South African design styles they encountered, leaving the store with bags full of dresses, skirts and accessories from a wide range of local designers.

Sindi’s signature mix of classic South African design and colourful prints - with a very modern touch - was a big hit as the Williams entourage bought three designer dresses, two skirts and four belts from his range.

The competitive sisters even got into a friendly tussle over who would lay claim to a printed blue and purple chiffon skirt Sindi showcased last week at Mercedes Benz Africa Fashion Week 2012.

“I was trying it on, but Serena ‘stole’ it from me. That’s life I guess,” Venus said of the Sindi dress which both instantly took a fancy to. As a compromise, they bought a long and short version of the dress, on the proviso they wear it separately – on different continents.

Serena also bought a beautiful black paisley maxi dress and matching belt from Sindi’s range, while the sisters and their siblings also bought a black and gold shift dress and some stylish belts from Sindi.

But it wasn’t only Sindi’s designs that impressed the Williams’, with the group also buying a number of tops, skirts, dresses and accessories from many different designers, including tops by Joburg-based Avant Apparel, patent yellow waist belts from Cape Town-based designer Chloe Townsend’s Missibaba range, some custom accessories from Cape-based jewellery brand Marzipan, stunning hoop earrings from Johannesburg-based Frida Sebolai’s Soul Food range, which is a product of the Braamfontein-based Branson Centre for Entrepreneurship.

Another popular choice for the Williams’ was the colourful rope necklaces from Katherine-Mary Pichulik’s striking Pichulik range, with Venus also buying a skinny sky blue belt from Cindy Poole’s The Summit range. And it wasn’t only the clothes that impressed the sisters at Egality. They also bought a handful of custom-made gift cards from Cape Town graphic designer Mandi Garbman’s Unwrapped design store.

“I loved the work of the local South African designers. Through experiencing local design anywhere in the world, you can really see the vibe of the city and the thought processes of the designers when you are exposed to their work and their clothing. I loved the mix of modern and very traditional African design. To be competitive internationally, you need both, and need to showcase elements you can find here that you can’t find anywhere else.  I’ve enjoyed my first trip to South Africa and meeting and seeing the work of some of the South African designers like Thula Sindi and I am definitely coming back,” said Venus, who said she was keen on bringing her EleVen range to South African stores and who was invited to showcase her clothing range at Mercedes Benz Cape Town, Joburg or Africa Fashion Week next year by African Fashion International (AFI) during her trip to Egality today.

As for Serena, she couldn’t wait to get into Sindi’s dresses and skirts on her return to the United States.

“I’ve had so much fun on this trip. I’ve been to South Africa before, but every time I come back it gets better and better. I loved the Thula Sindi dress I bought. The style is gorgeous,” said Serena.  

The modest Sindi was ‘overwhelmed’ by the response to his work from his illustrious new clients.

“Venus and Serena were so warm and nice and I was really happy that they liked my style. They’re very open and direct about what they like and what they don’t like and as someone who sells clothes for a living, I liked that. They were interested and engaged with the garments and in how they were made, where they were made, how to wear them and how to accessorise them. It was a wonderful experience showing them my work,” said Sindi.

“It was exciting having these world-class, stylish athletes at Egality and great that they were exposed to some wonderful South African brands and designers, who deserve all the attention they get,” said Spies in conclusion.

ISSUED BY SOUTH AFRICAN TOURISM

For further information contact Jermaine Craig at jermaine@southafrica.net and +27832010121.