The tennis star reveals how her passion for fashion began -- and the athlete she'd most like to dress

Theo Wargo/Getty

Just a few days ago she was on the courts in Flushing, playing hard at the U.S. Open. But Wednesday, Venus Williams was in a decidedly different setting in Manhattan, having her hair and makeup done for the New York Fashion Week debut of her clothing line, EleVen (presented behind The Grey Goose Blue Door).

“It was crazy,” she told PEOPLE of the timing. “Back-to-back French Open, Wimbledon, Olympics, U.S. Open … four Majors right in a row. So I never really came up for air. I felt like I was just swimming — but it’s been a really nice swim.”

While competing this summer, Williams often wore outfits of her own design. So for Wednesday’s presentation, she opted to hire athletes (below), not traditional models, to display her wares. (Still, they got the VIP treatment, complete with hairstyling and makeup by Make Up For Ever.)

“It was important to show the clothes in the way I wanted to see them shown,” Williams explained. “It’s all about moving and it’s all about moving in style — looking good and feeling well. This whole concept really brings that to life.”

Williams said her passion for design started at a young age — “I was always trying to sew clothes for my dolls, unsuccessfully,” she joked — and took her through several years of fashion school. And though many of her “dreams” over the years have involved winning Grand Slams, showing at Fashion Week fulfilled a different kind of dream.

“It was something I hadn’t expected,” she shared. “I knew I loved design, but to be at Fashion Week is just … wow.”

So now that she’s made this dream come true, who is she dreaming of dressing next? “Of course I would love for [sister] Serena to wear it,” she said. “That’s the next step.”

Venus Williams Clothing Line

Theo Wargo/Getty

–Kate Hogan