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In Paris, Zendaya Introduces Her Tommy Hilfiger Collaboration

Category: Fashion & Style,Lifestyle

PARIS — After holding immersive Tommy Now extravaganzas from New York to Los Angeles, London and Shanghai, Tommy Hilfiger rolled into Paris on Saturday night to be host of a runway show in the global capital of fashion for the first time in his five-decade career.

“We have taken our see-now, buy-now show concept all over the world at this point, but we just didn’t think we were ready for Paris — until now,” Mr. Hilfiger said backstage at the Comédie & Studio des Champs-Élysées, a landmark theater not far from the flagship stores and headquarters of some of France’s oldest and most prestigious luxury names, from Christian Dior to Louis Vuitton. He had decided it finally was time.

“We know we have something to say,” Mr. Hilfiger continued, “and we really felt sure we were ready.”

His secret weapon was Zendaya, the 22-year-old Hollywood actress, singer and social media sensation with more than 54 million followers on Instagram. Together they had a plan, inspired by “The Battle of Versailles.” The 1973 event famously pitted French designers like Yves Saint Laurent and Christian Dior against up-and-coming American talents like Oscar de la Renta and Halston — but even more than that, the clash also featured charismatic black models, including Pat Cleveland and Jennifer Brice, an unprecedented move for the day.

More than 40 years later, as the fashion industry continues to grapple with its uneasy relationship with diversity, Zendaya chose to present the Tommy x Zendaya collection using an all-black cast of women of all ages and shades, shapes and sizes.

“I feel like we are paying homage to these women who changed our legacy, and who allowed me and so many others to be here,” Zendaya said before the show. An activist who has regularly been an advocate for more diversity in fashion and in Hollywood, she added that she felt grateful to have the full might of what she called the “Tommy powerhouse” behind her, helping her to make her vision a reality.

“This is a proud and happy celebration of female beauty in all its forms, something which is as important now as it ever was before,” she said.

It certainly felt like the army of joyful models who stormed the red, white and blue runway in flared trouser suits, draped metallic dresses and “Age of Aquarius” zodiac prints had come to Paris to party. There were newer faces like Jourdan Dunn and Winnie Harlow and veterans including Beverly Johnson, the first African-American supermodel to appear on the cover of American Vogue; Veronica Webb and Ms. Cleveland.

As a result, while the Paris Tommy Now night may have started just like any other — thousands of screaming local teenage fans clutching tickets and popcorn, merchandise for sale, arcade games and giant “Tommy” signs that blinked in bright lights — it ended with Grace Jones, 70, dancing onto the stage in a gold bodysuit and metallic blazer, smacking her rear to “Pull Up To The Bumper,” before all the models flooded the runway for a finale set to Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family.” It would have been hard not to sing along.

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