This time a year ago, had you told sixth-form student Emma Raducanu that she was going to win a tennis Grand Slam in 2021, the then virtual unknown – ranked 343rd in the world – would have probably thought you were having her on. But a lot can change in 12 months.
Emma’s ascent to global stardom has been swift – the stuff of dreams, but better, because it actually happened. First came that storming run at Wimbledon, where she defied her wild card status to reach the fourth round. Then, in September, she triumphed at the US Open, the first British woman to win a Grand Slam singles title in 44 years (celebrities including the Duchess of Cambridge and Liam Gallagher took to Twitter to congratulate her). To say it must be surreal for the 19-year-old from Bromley is an understatement.
‘I feel really good, for me just to see where I started at the beginning of the year and how I managed to end up, I’m really proud of myself,’ she says when we speak at the Tiffany & Co store on Old Bond Street where she is attending the Prince’s Trust Women Supporting Women event. ‘After I’d taken a step back I think that’s when I really realised how much I’ve achieved and now I’m just excited for the next season to start and my first proper year on the tour.’
Her tennis world stardom has also seen her crowned a fashion darling, like Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka before her. Days after the US Open win she made her Met Gala debut in graphic monochrome separates from the Chanel Resort 2022 collection; a fortnight later she was on the red carpet for the No Time To Die premiere, luminous in an iridescent Grecian-style Dior gown.
And she now has a first-rate stylist, Nicky Yates, whose clients include Claire Foy. ‘She’s been a real help to me and she’s such a cool person,’ Emma says, explaining how Nicky has helped her find her fashion comfort zone. ‘I’m still learning! I’m still new to fashion, figuring out what works for me. I’m usually in tennis clothes but day-to-day I’d probably go for something relaxed, then occasionally I like to dress up to feel a bit pretty.’ (Her style icon? Gemma Chan, who went to her school.)
Emma’s is a look that’s glamorous, sure, but still youthful and modern. And it’s that X-factor combination of grace and grit, grown-up poise and teenage fizz, steely confidence and bashful humility that makes her such a fashion power player now (shortly after her win at Flushing Meadows, experts predicted that her commercial endorsements could be north of £150 million). Part of her charm is that she is an ordinary teenager who has found herself in an extraordinary world; that she was a blast of good news when we needed it most only ups the ante.
All of that resonates. According to Lyst, her appeal is broad: after she wore a black strapless Chanel dress there was a 53% spike in demand; there was also an 86% increase in demand for Nike tennis shoes.
So how does it feel to be a new style icon? ‘I didn’t think I was!’ Emma says. ‘I’m just really privileged to work with some amazing brands and top professionals so they know exactly what they’re doing. I just go along with it and wing it!’ Still, most 19-year-olds’ version of winging it probably doesn’t involve a new-season Dior minidress and artfully shoulder-robed jacket.
Whether she can believe this is all happening or not, some of the world’s most influential brands are queuing up to work with her, including Dior, which made her a fashion and beauty ambassador in October. Another is Tiffany & Co. ‘Such an iconic brand – one that you always dream of as a little girl. To be working with them is honestly such a privilege,’ she says.
Emma’s most treasured Tiffany pieces are the ones she wore throughout the US Open: pearl earrings, diamond cross and the Tiffany T bangle and ring. ‘I’ll always cherish them because they were with me right from the beginning, in qualifying, all the way through to the final and even now,’ she says. It doesn’t feel unrealistic to say we’ll be seeing a lot more of them – and Emma – in 2022.