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Booth Moore, Los Angeles Times (MCT), Published June 29 2012

Tennis star unveils new clothing line

When a perfect 10 isn’t enough, there’s EleVen.

That’s the name of tennis pro and sports style icon Venus Williams’ new “tennis lifestyle brand,” with its dresses, tops and bottoms designed to be worn on and off the court.

Williams, 32, is the winner of 21 Grand Slam titles and three Olympic gold medals and has been ranked No. 1 in the world several times since she entered pro tennis in 1994 at age 14. This summer, she’s headed back to the Olympics in London, where no doubt her outfits, as well as her game, will make headlines.

Black crinoline skirts, corset lacing and puffy sleeves have characterized some of Williams’ memorable fashion moments on the court. But her designs for EleVen are more understated.

“I had a lot of fun doing designs on the court which were unprecedented for sports,” Williams said recently from London, where she is training and preparing to play Wimbledon, which starts Monday. “But I wanted to do something that will be available to everyone. That’s my vision of sportswear.”

The “Oh and Oh” tennis dress ($96) could take you to the mall as well as the court, with gray-and-white color-blocked sections (one with an abstract handwriting print) and pale pink grosgrain ribbon trim. The “BFF” tank top ($58) has feminine-looking ruching at the bust line and double crisscross spaghetti straps with a single rose gold charm attached. The “Geo Star” capri leggings ($49) come in a gray-and-white geometric print inspired by Williams’ love of Hollywood Regency-style interior design. (Williams also owns the V Starr Interiors design firm, located in Jupiter, Fla.)

Williams said fashion, like tennis, is her “heart and sweat and pride and joy.”

She earned a degree in fashion design at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale in 2007, and she first launched EleVen for the apparel chain Steve & Barry’s, which went into bankruptcy in 2008. She went on to design some tennis pieces for Ralph Lauren and Gilt.com.

Williams, who has homes in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., and Los Angeles, is producing the line with an L.A.-based design team and manufacturing partner. She sketches her designs and transfers them onto a computer so they can be interpreted by the design team. After the samples are made, she tries on every piece.

EleVen should fit right into the growing fashion fitness category, sitting alongside such lines as Lululemon and Stella McCartney for Adidas.

“My inspiration isn’t from sports; it’s more from ready-to-wear,” Williams said.