As soon as the Tommy Hilfiger and Zendaya collaboration was announced late last year, much anticipation surrounded its first collection, especially as the Spider-Man star is following four seasons of Gigi Hadid serving as the brand’s celebrity collaborator. Plus, with Zendaya’s track record of serving statement looks both on and off the red carpet (plus she had the short-lived fashion brand Daya by Zendaya), it makes it harder to ignore what this collab could bring. Well, the first runway show of this partnership happened at the ongoing Paris Fashion Week, and while the pieces are glorious on their own, the actual show itself showed us even more.
But let’s start with the TommyXZendaya collection first: Everything in it is a piece of ‘70s fashion. To be more specific, it draws from the hippie sub-sect of that decade, punctuated with a zodiac print that appears in satin suits, shirts, and dresses, making it the signature feature of the collection.
High boots were the favored footwear for midi skirts, as well as for a-line dresses. Block-striped pantsuits, shoulder-padded blazers, pleated wide-leg trousers, and straight-cut hip-huggers all mean business, reminding us of the time when women started challenging the male-dominated workplace. The more feminine side of the ’70s showed through the halter-neck jersey cocktail dresses, glittered slip dresses, and waist-defining silhouettes—the very same pieces that women would wear to those all-night disco parties at Studio 54.
The (mostly) practical and non-constricting fashion choices from the ’70s were definitely mimicked in the TommyXZendaya collection. There’s no excessive detail or unnecessary decoration; it is all about being comfortable and liberated to express one’s self.
It’s a sentiment that holds true for Zendaya, too. “Fashion is more than just wearing cool clothes,” the 22-year-old said in a statement from Tommy Hilfiger last October. “It’s a way to celebrate self-expression and individuality, which is extremely empowering.” As for Hilfiger himself, the ‘70s was a sentimental time, as this was the decade when he opened his very first store People’s Place at a basement shop in Elmira, New York, where he sold bell-bottom jeans, candles, incense, and records. The store grew to 10 more locations, until Hilfiger filed bankruptcy in 1975. “When [Zendaya and her stylist Law Roach] said they wanted to do the ‘70s their way, it warmed my heart,” the designer told Vogue.
But there’s more history to the collection than just in the aesthetic of the clothes.
At PFW’s TommyXZendaya runway, held just a few days ago, an all-black cast—from light-skinned to dark-skinned women of different ages and of all shapes—ran the show, which was patterned to the iconic Battle of Versailles, a well-attended fashion show in 1973 that pitted French designers against American designers in an effort to raise funds for the restoration of the Palace of Versailles. The American camp had cast 11 African-American models, a move that stunned Parisians, as hiring models of color was an unconventional idea at the time. Today, even though the practice has become a bit more of the norm, an American designer brand staging a fashion show in Paris featuring only black models is still a beautiful nod to the historic event and to the necessity of inclusivity in fashion.
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It’s been a time of political correctness and racial consciousness during this fashion season. Memories of the “Battle of Versailles” in 1973 comes to mind knowing what it meant at the time and how we surprisingly educated the French designers, won the battle and made history. ‘Here is a few of us with Josephine Baker after the show. She was so excited and proud of us and asked me to take her back stage to meet the girls. I knew Josephine previously from Stockholm. We were taking a picture in front of a mirror so all could be included, and an equally excited Bill Cunningham caught us and took this photo. The second photo is a glimpse of the designer Stephen Burrows’ presentation at Versailles. Bill Cunningham has said that the Battle of Versailles was his favorite fashion show during his entire career. He speaks of it in Mark Bozek’ current documentary @thetimesofbillcunningham. This film once distributed is truly a must see because it is such a reveal of the subject. A featured editorial on the documentary was in the February issue of British Vogue . Final photo is a 70’s photo of Stephen Burrows. It’s great that some things stand the test of time. I am a product of radical fashion designers and statements. We educated others along the way. I was recently requested to come to Milan to do what I do, I accepted (Gucci). Went on to Paris to support Zendaya at her request to witness her collaboration with Tommy Hilfiger, her first collection showing. It was to be a cast of models of color, young and old, thin and curvy. It was at the same theatre that Josephine Baker did her revue. And many said the Tommy x Zendaya show was a tribute to us at Versailles. It has always been my purpose to be part of the education, whether it’s on a runway in the 70’s, a model agency in the 80’s, a model Tyson in the ‘90’s, diversity campaign 2007-2014, or in a luxury brand board room in 2019. The “battle” continues.
Battle of Versailles alumna Pat Cleveland graced the TommyXZendaya runway, doing her famous twirling in an asymmetrical pleated dress, while Beverly Johnson, the first African-American supermodel to cover American Vogue in 1974, sauntered in a draped halter-neck cocktail dress paired with high ox-blood leather boots.
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The other night here in Paris I had a great time back stage at the Tommy Hilfiger show and in the green rooms with some iconic stars oh yess and I love my dress thanks tor this moment Tommy and Zendaya for inviting me to show for you @tommyhilfiger #zendaya #walkingwiththemuses #gracejones this was a first time all girls of color show🌈🎼👯👯👯👯👯👯👯👯🎼🎼🎼🎼🌈🙏🏻🎈🦋🦋🦋👀and the music and the audience💥
Adding more shine to this iconic line-up were ’90s top model Chrystèle Saint Louis Augustin in a checkered power suit with gold details; Veronica Webb, the first African-American model to score an exclusive contract for a cosmetics brand, in a cross-front halter-neck dress; and 70-year-old icon Grace Jones who walked—nay, danced and closed the show in a shimmering gold bodysuit and a metallic leather blazer. Sitting front row was another Battle of Versailles alumna Bethann Hardison, while make-up artist Pat McGrath and hair stylist Kim Kimble took charge of the looks backstage, rounding out the black excellence that served as the creative force behind the show.
Zendaya expressed on Instagram her appreciation for the women who had come before her, along with a thank you note dedicated to Roach who acted as a consultant in building the collection.
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I’m still not truly convinced the other night really happened, cause that’s how dreams feel. Our show was a celebration and appreciation for all of the iconic women who fearlessly pioneered and opened doors that are the very reason I’m able to exist in this space. So to every woman on that stage and the many others who weren’t, we love you, we see you and we thank you. ✨@luxurylaw @tommyhilfiger
The TommyXZendaya collection is under the house’s see-now-buy-now scheme, where all pieces were readily made available in Tommy Hilfiger stores and on tommy.com right after the show. Shop the collection here.