The 2021 CFDA Awards took place just a few weeks ago, and Zendaya took home the Fashion Icon prize, an award previously won by the likes of Beyonce, Rihanna and Naomi Campbell. This award solidifies Zendaya as not just another celebrity with decent style, but a staple in fashion culture right now. Over the last ten years, she has proven her ability to rise in the ranks of fashion and showcase her extreme versatility. 

Going from a tween Disney Channel star on the set of Shake it Up, to a chic Emmy award winning actress; her style evolution has followed and aided in her career trajectory. She is now featured on the best dressed list of every magazine and acts as style inspo for every girl out there.

Going back to her teeny-bopper days on Shake it Up, she rocked the painfully quintessential early 2010’s style, complete with layering shorts over tight and flannels over floral. Can we judge the outfit decisions of a then 14-year-old Zendaya? Definitely not, as I think we’ve all been guilty of some heinous outfit choices in our middle school years. Thankfully in the following few years she seemed to have ditched the floral and ruffles for some chic-er ensembles. Though they still may have featured some questionable prints and patterns, they gave Zendaya a cleaner, more defined style. 


However, it was the 2015 Oscars red carpet that I believe to be the turning point in Zendaya’s fashion career. I vividly remember being awestruck by her white off-the-shoulder Vivienne Westwood gown and witnessing the moment she went from just another teen star to a fashion icon on the rise.

From then on it she could do no wrong in my books, serving look after look on the red carpet and at events. Her ability to change her entire image to mesh with her outfit was unparalleled. Going from glamourous and sensual gowns, to high fashion avant garde looks and throwing in some classy three piece suits showing the world she would not be put in a box.

Some of her best red-carpet moments have been from her two most popular film roles Spider-Man and Dune, clearly dressing in theme with the movie each time. During the Spider-Man: Far From Home press run, she wore a red and black Armani gown reminiscent of a spider as well as a Alexandre Vauthier three piece suit with exquisite tailoring, obviously playing into the London look. 

Her most recent film Denis Villeneuve’s Dune was a breathtaking whirlwind of iconic fashion moments. I would say that this press tour was her most extravagant  to date, every look she wore evoked the science fiction, space age themes in Dune. The Balmain leather dress that draped over her body in a way that defied nature, was debatably the best look of the year; making Zendaya look like a sand princess on the carpet in the Venice Film Festival. Her other equally stunning looks included a dystopian deconstructed Vivianne Westwood chain top and skirt, and a regal Rick Owens white column sequin gown.

Zendaya’s ability to respect and pay homage to the fashion industry has also contributed to where she is today, showing designers and stylists that she has a reverence for those who came before her and those who have built the industry.  While also showcasing her ability to collaborate with those in fashion to bring these looks to life. Her 70’s inspired collection with Tommy Hilliger in the 2019 show demonstrates her close relationships with many of the designers she works with. Her bright chartreuse Valentino cut-out gown from the 2021 Oscars also paid tribute to the iconic Cher in Bob Mackie with her long flowing hair and statuesque figure. The purple and green Versace dress she wore early this year has the same effect, paying homage to an early 2000’s Beyonce and the earlier works of Donatella Versace. 

Zendaya, while obviously out there working these looks like no other, must attribute much of her success and rise in fashion to her stylist Law Roach. Roach, a stylist from Chicago, prefers not to be coined a stylist but rather an ‘image architect’, which I could not agree with more. Especially in the case of Zendaya, whose looks are not just styled and put together, but created as a part of a larger image that is being presented, the entire look is a complete piece of art. Every aspect of the look down to the hair and nails is carefully crafted to contribute to the image.

Roach is a revolutionary figure in the industry, with clients like Kerry Washington, Meghan Thee Stallion, Tom Holland, new-comer Anya Taylor Joy and is attributed with Celine Dion’s recent comeback in the fashion sphere. He and Zendaya met when she was 14 in his shop Deliciously Vintage, and immediately hit it off. He took this lesser-known actress and, through the art of fashion, transformed her into the icon she is today. He talks about their relationship being a collaboration and a partnership, which is clear in the way all her looks are intrinsically Zendaya but have a clear stylist vision that is cohesive and calculated. 

It is clear that Zendaya had time to cultivate her own personal style as a young teenager, and has carried this swag and confidence into every look she has worn. Working with Roach did not change her into something she is not, and becoming such an influential figure in fashion has not stopped her from staying true to her creative roots. She continues to consistently up herself and others at every turn, she has not started to pander to the masses or wear every trend that is in vogue at the moment. She works with new designers, she starts trends instead of following them and never stays inside the box. 


Zendaya has proven over the last ten years that she is a chameleon, able to change her image and demeanour to complement the garment. With her modelesque figure and beauty it would be easy for her to pull off any look, whether it’s designer or a potato sack. However she and Law have come together to make her more than that, they have cemented her and her looks in the fabric of fashion, taking risks while still staying true to their vision. It is obvious with the effect they have had on pop culture and fashion trends today why Zendaya was named this year’s Fashion Icon.

Header Image Source: Vogue

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