Back in November, the annual CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America) awards made their in-person return, to honour prominent figures within American fashion and celebrate “the best of American creativity”.
The awards are sometimes dubbed “the Oscars of fashion” and are run as a fundraising event in New York City annually. With Zendaya accepting the ‘Fashion Icon Award’ and becoming the youngest ever CFDA recipient at twenty-five. Perhaps unsurprising given her fashion darling status established in her late teens and early twenties in collaboration with image architect Law Roach who she has worked with since age 14 during her Disney Channel era.
Since then both Zendaya and Law have become two of the most prominent figures in celebrity fashion. Zendaya, collaborating with large brands such as Tommy Hilfiger, Valentino, Lancôme, and Versace. And for Law other celebrities such as Lewis Hamilton, Ariana Grande, Celine Dion and more. Zendaya describes her relationship with fashion as “the gift of extraordinary transformation, the ability to become and embody all these different characters and be literally anyone I wanted to be”. Further describing Roach as her “co-director of sorts, who saw what I did and sometimes more than I could have ever imagined on my own. My fashion soulmate, historian and constant inspiration”.
Iman described Zendaya’s impact on fashion at the CFDA awards while presenting the award as “redefining glamour for an entire new generation of fashion lovers” and as “transcending any known definition of celebrity fashion we have become accustomed to”, strong words from a former recipient and fashion icon in her own right.
As such it would be only fitting to look back upon a small handful of Zendaya’s most iconic looks which elevated her to fashion icon status.
- 2015 Oscars – Vivienne Westwood:
Where better to begin than perhaps the first look that shoved Zendaya into the public consciousness as a fashion icon. However, perhaps for reasons unrelated to her directly. On the evening Zendaya was dressed in a silk, white, off-the-shoulder floor-length Vivienne Westwood gown, paired with simplistic, classic pearl earrings. However, it was television reporter Giuliana Rancic’s comments surrounding Zendaya’s look which brought her to the forefront of the discussion around the 2015 Oscars fashion. Randic said on TV that the actress’ locks looked as if they “smell like patchouli oil or weed”. A comment Zendaya immediately hit back against writing on Instagram that “To say that an 18-year-old young woman with locs must smell of patchouli oil or ‘weed’ is not only a large stereotype but outrageously offensive… I don’t usually feel the need to respond to negative things, but certain remarks cannot go unchecked.” The actress reflected on this early-career moment for W Magazine in April 2021 as a turning point in the commentary that would be tolerated surrounding POC celebrities in Hollywood and an incident that inspired her to ensure a lasting impact was made with her work and her fashion.
- Venice Film Festival 2021 – custom Balmain:
To fast forward to the most recent look on the list, Zendaya’s attendance at the 2021 Venice Film Festival in the promotion of Dune has to be noted. Zendaya stunned in three different looks across the festival however one look, in particular, exploded across social media and the fashion media – a custom Versace wet leather effect dress, reinvented from their wet look corset from the Fall 2020 collection. This stunning dress was complemented by a statement, 93 karat Bulgari emerald necklace and finished off with matching nude shoes and rings.
- The 2018 Met Gala – custom Versace:
Zendaya is undoubtedly one of the most-watched figures annually at the Met Gala, known for extravagant theme following looks which blow 90 per cent of other guests out of the water. Although Zendaya was unusually missing from the 2021 Gala she has impressed with a host of looks across the years, a particular favourite of mine being her 2018 look from the theme of ‘Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination. Zendaya’s look was inspired by Joan of Arc, as she wore a custom Versace gown, in a silver chainmail style featuring armour esque shoulder, waist and neckpieces, silver jewels and a bob wig inspired by The Maid of Orléans. The outfit became one of the Gala’s most notable looks.
- The Australian Premiere of The Greatest Showman, 2017 – Moschino:
Perhaps a less noted event than the others on the list but in no way was the outfit understated for that. The actress stepped out in an extravagant winged butterfly gown from Moschino’s Spring 2018 runway collection and turned a hard to style, costume Esque gown into a stunning statement yet elegant look, coordinating the yellow from the dress with her eyeshadow to add extra dimension and create a long-lasting viral look.
- The 2019 Emmys – Vera Wang:
The final look to mention today, although there are 100s more to choose from, has to be her 2019 Emmys Vera Wang gown. The dress featured a high leg slit, sheer boned corset, all in satin green. The look was styled with Cartier silver jewellery, matching green satin shoes, and dyed, red, long wavy hair; dyed in promotion for the Spider-Man: Far From Home press tour, in honour of her character MJ’s inspiration – famed ginger Mary Jane. The look was striking yet simplistic, statement yet understated, a key element of her looks and her style which has made her the CFDA’s 2021 fashion icon.
Image credit: Gage Skidmore via flickr