It’s showtime at the Apollo! For the second season of their design collaboration, Tommy Hilfiger and Zendaya took the audience uptown to the landmark Harlem music hall. A venue that has been home to vaudeville performances, jazz, hip hop, and more, the Apollo holds a special significance for the African-American community. Though segregated and whites-only in its early years, it has long been a benchmark for black artistry. It’s something Zendaya wanted to acknowledge, “It’s a place that has such history and soul, it’s a dream location,” she said backstage. “I’ve always wanted just to come here, and we wanted to pay homage to the people who paved the way for me to even be here in this space.”
After last season’s unabashed celebration of black womanhood, Zendaya and Hilfiger wanted to keep the momentum going. The late ’70s and early ’80s remained the key references, but they changed tack on the time of day. Where Spring was filled with disco references and sparkle, Fall’s offerings skewed towards daytime. Modernized versions of the leisure suit, wide-leg pants, and Carter-era wardrobe staples featured prominently. Pam Grier’s blaxploitation wardrobe of leather pants, long scarves, and décolletage baring shirts served as an inspiration, but so did forces closer to home. “My grandmother has a lot of these clothes. Many of the looks were taken directly from her life,” said Zendaya. “I’m looking to the effortless chic of that time period; this is my fantasy of that era.”
Hilfiger was clearly in his element revisiting a decade he’s intimately familiar with. After all, his fashion career began in ’71 when he started his first store, planting the seeds for what would eventually become a billion-dollar brand. Zendaya’s perspective on the period is viewed through a Gen Z lens, but Hilfiger lived through it all. “When Zendaya said she wanted to do the ’70s I had chills because that’s my era,” he said. “I know the shapes, I know the fabrics, and I know the look so well, but we’ve modernized it and made it relevant for right now.”
The revisions were most evident in the menswear—Alton Mason danced across the runway in a python suit fit for a modern dandy—and the eclecticism Law Roach worked into the styling. A silent partner within the collaboration, his outré perspective was all over the collection.
Of course, a Tommy show isn’t just about clothing. If last season Zendaya claimed her seat at the table, this time around she delivered unapologetically black joy. More than a home to music and comedy performances, the Apollo is known for its ultra-competitive amateur nights complete with audience participation. The Tommy experience channeled some of that energy but got creative with the presentation. Instead of hosting the main event in the theater, they took the show outside with a set of Harlem brownstones that gave the appearance of an ultra-chic city block complete with classic cars parked in the driveways. With singers crooning along to a soundtrack of cookout classics and models dancing as they strode through the space, it was a joyous celebration, one Hilfiger credits his multi-tasking muse with creating. “She came in with the vision,” he says. “It’s easy, I just listened to what she wanted to do and then we did it.”
Photos are courtesy of Alessandro Lucioni / Gorunway.com