By  on April 30, 2008

VENICE BEACH, Calif. — Nike unveiled its fall-holiday 2008 performance and lifestyle collections during a three-day Women's Training Summit here, featuring tennis champion Serena Williams and Olympic gold medal softball player Jessica Mendoza.

The summit, which ended Friday, offered a preview of the Nike-designed softball uniforms for the U.S. women's Olympic team, as well as a closer look at its latest fabric and footwear innovations.

The modern Beady Minces Gallery was transformed into a miniboutique with a stage, where Nike designers presented looks from the training, teen girl, yoga, running and Olympic collections.

The major focus was on the training collection, which was based on five key workout silhouettes — tank top, shorts, capri, T-shirt and long bra. The colorful pieces featured flat, nonabrasive seams and dry-fit fabric strategically placed in the areas where women sweat the most. The latest fabric mimicked the texture of cotton, but with moisture wicking, ventilation and stretch properties.

Williams, who has designed a tennis line for the brand since 2004, said, "I'm lucky to be able to work with a company that sees me as a person who can push the envelope."

She said it was "a challenge" to bring high fashion to the performance sport level. A graduate of the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, where she studied fashion design, Williams said she was initially only interested in designing eveningwear (which she does in her Aneres collection), but she started with sportswear because it was simpler.

"That became a turning point, and now I really enjoy both. Somewhere in there, I also play tennis," she joked. But Williams got serious when talking about her game.

"I love to win, and it's my job to be the best or at least believe that I am," she said.

While Williams described herself as "fierce and mean" on the court, off the court, "I am really soft and supernice. I could get a manicure every four days, and I love everything pink."

Mendoza, who signed with Nike last year, is also a fierce competitor.

"It's gold or go home," she said. "I want to be at the top of the podium."Mendoza, recently named president of the Women's Sports Foundation, said she liked Nike's message: "You don't have to choose between being a girl and being an athlete."

As one of the Team USA leaders, Mendoza's input to the Nike design team was to create the most lightweight and breathable uniform. She plans to stand out on the field by sporting artistic cornrows and accessories, and playing up her Mexican-Native American heritage.

"I want to make sure people see I am just not the everyday girl in a ponytail," she said.

During the three days she gets off each month, Mendoza loves to go out in dresses and high heels. "When we hit the town, nobody even recognizes us because they are so used to seeing the sporty look," she laughed.

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