Zendaya/ Image: Flickr
Image: Flickr

Couture Culture: Zendaya

Often, when someone has style, is stylish, and generally knows fashion, we call them a fashion chameleon. It is seen as a compliment. I think both of these things are wrong. Chameleons are the masters of camouflage. Blending in is their best feature, so why would any fashion-forward person want to be described as a chameleon? If we were to choose another animal, surely it would be a platypus; with the bill of a duck, the tail of a beaver, and the body of an otter, they push the boundaries in a way that only a truly stylish person would dare. Not even leopards mix their patterns.

And if anyone knows style, it is Zendaya. While her name may mean to give thanks, it is thanks to her partnership with her stylist Law Roach, that her name is also synonymous with bold, refined, and simply show-stealing red carpet looks. Whether she is at a premiere or the Met Gala, an awards show or fashion week, it is clear that the 27-year-old actress knows the boundaries, and yet pushes past them every time — a true fashion platypus (it is a compliment I promise).

While usually associated with subtlety and a quiet confidence, the sophistication running throughout Zendaya’s style is striking

Pulling archival designs, like the Givenchy Fall 1999 motherboard dress, that Zendaya wore in Seoul earlier this year, or the vintage Versace couture gown worn at the 54th NAACP Image Awards, is impressive. Pulling these designs off? Well, that is another thing entirely. And yet, Zendaya, throughout her career, has always made a statement in such vintage pieces, shining as brightly as the pieces themselves, with neither one having to compromise on their starry status.

Take her thematic wardrobe from the Dune: Part Two press tour, for example, each piece is archival and perfectly crafted. When Zendaya stepped onto the red carpet in London wearing a 30-year-old Thierry Mugler robot suit from the late designer’s Fall 1995 couture collection, she was not only draped in fashion history but proving the part she plays in creating it.

A constant in these pieces, and throughout Zendaya’s style, is the statements they make through their sophistication. While usually associated with subtlety and a quiet confidence, the sophistication running throughout Zendaya’s style is striking. From her red off-the-shoulder gown by Alexis Mabille for a Vanity Fair event to the powder blue bubble dress from Dice Kayek, Zendaya’s style plays with the silhouettes of bygone decades, paying homage to the refinement of the golden age of cinema.

Most importantly, fashion requires inspiration, and it is in Zendaya’s inspired looks, she truly dares

And one motivic silhouette is the power suit. With exquisite shape, as in the Sportmax suit for Vanity Fair’s Oscar after-party, and tailored touches, like in Giorgio Armani during Paris Fashion Week in 2019, Zendaya harnesses the confidence that designers from Coco Chanel, and her sailor trousers, to Yves Saint Laurent, and his Le Smoking tuxedo, envisioned for the modern woman.

Understated yet statement-making, poised and powerful, such suits were seen as emancipatory – subversive even – designed for the effortlessly cool woman taking her first steps into the man’s playground: the labour market. Today, the subversive edge of these suits may have faded, but for Zendaya, as the young, effortlessly cool, working woman, with two Emmys and a Golden Globe (to name just a few) under her belt, the suit is the perfect silhouette.

With such stylish credentials in her own right, you would think that Zendaya would always look to the future when it comes to creating her looks, following her own North Star in the journey to ‘fashion icon’. But, as everyone knows, fashion is cyclical, relying on a 20-year trend cycle. But most importantly, fashion requires inspiration, and it is in Zendaya’s inspired looks, she truly dares.

In choosing to emulate the looks of Cher, as she did at the Oscars in 2021 in a yellow Valentino gown, Beyonce, in Versace, and even Joan of Arc at the 2018 Met Gala, Zendaya ventures where few people would dream of. By delving, once again, through the archives, Zendaya takes the image of true icons and twists them into honouring tributes, proving both her commitment and playful approach to fashion: “We play dress-up and create outfits to make ourselves happy, or to pay homage to the people we’re inspired by,” Law Roach told British Vogue.

And so, it becomes clear, that with Zendaya, there is a style formula at play. The boldness of archival pulls integrates seamlessly with a sophisticated allure, while suits run an element of strength throughout her looks. The result? A striking sense of style that honours herself and fashion history.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.