“I basically gave them the keys to do whatever they wanted,” proclaimed Tommy Hilfiger, which caused Zendaya, who was sitting next to him, to let out a little laugh. We were backstage about 45 minutes out from the start of the Tommy Now runway show, and the launch of Tommy x Zendaya, the see-now buy-now collection designed in collaboration with the singer/producer/actress, Zendaya, with the help of her stylist and Next Top Model judge, Law Roach. The collection—worn by over 70 women of color, of all shapes and sizes—was pure 70's. So 70's in fact, that Grace Jones made an appearance, too.

"The first day we really met for a design meeting, they had boards showing everything I love. And I wasn’t expecting the 70's vibe," said Hilfiger. "That was close to my heart because I started in the fashion business in the 70's, and everything they were showing me was so true to what I’m all about. "They did the casting, they did the music, they did the lighting, they did every single detail."

Let's talk about that casting. It was very important for Zendaya to have an epic line-up of models (which included Veronica Webb, Dilone, and Winne Harlow) but the show's casting was actually in homage to another major 70's moment. Zendaya and Roach decided it was about time to look to that iconic Versailles runway show for inspiration for this one. “This whole night is about a tribute to these women, and the new women that are coming up, but also the women who paved the way for all of us to be here,” she explained, “I think it’s about celebrating all they’ve done for our industry and our community.”

Zendaya, Grace Jones, and Tommy Hilfiger take a bow.

Estrop

And who were those women? Here's a little bit of fashion history for you: Back in 1973, the palace of Versailles had fallen into disrepair. To raise money to save it, the American fashion publicist Eleanor Lambert (who, just to note, founded New York Fashion Week, the Met Gala, the CFDA, and what is now known as Vanity Fair’s International Beat Dressed List) dreamed up an enormous fashion show at Versailles and invited five American designers to compete against the French. Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass, Halston, Anne Klein, and Stephen Burrows, along with their favorite models and muses, descended upon Versailles to show their wares alongside their Parisian counterparts, Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Cardin, Ungaro and Givenchy. The Americans won unanimously, in part due to Stephen Burrows casting all models of color for his collection, something that didn’t happen often in 1973 (or 2019, for that matter).

Bethann Hardison walked in that iconic show, so it was fitting to see her backstage, chatting away with Tommy Hilfiger as Pat McGrath lead her make-up team on the look for the evening. "It’s been really really really fun. It’s also been a learning experience. Learning what it takes to make clothes. It’s so much more than just 'here’s some clothes.'"

It's been a busy year for the multi-hyphenate. Next up? Perhaps a film alongside Timothée Chalamet? Zendaya smiled coyly and said, “We’ll see, we’ll see!”