What Zendaya’s Met Gala Evolution Says About The Fashion Industry

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Zendaya has been an exceptional and well-dressed attendee of the Met Gala for countless years. From her debut in 2015 to the few appearances that followed, she has left a mark on the red carpet. She’s gone from a breakout style star to an outright fashion maven. At her first Met Gala, which featured a “China: Through The Looking Glass” theme, Zendaya wore a design by Fausto Puglisi. It consisted of a red and black mini dress and a striking multi-colored train. This set a precedence for her looks, which came subsequently: a golden Michael Kors gown the following year and a floral Dolce & Gabbana Alta Moda gown in 2017. With her longtime stylist, the brilliant Law Roach, the actress has morphed into one of the most stylish women in Hollywood.

Zendaya’s Met Gala Evolution
NEW YORK, NY – MAY 04: Zendaya attends the “China: Through The Looking Glass” Costume Institute Benefit Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 4, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/FilmMagic)

Other memorable moments over the years include an armor and chain dress by Versace for the 2018 Met Gala. The Joan of Arc-inspired outfit was fitting for the “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” theme. The auburn bob set off this defining look. The next year was equally compelling–she showed up in a Cinderella-esque light-up gown, accompanied by Roach, her fairy godfather for the “Camp: Notes On Fashion” theme. Since 2019 marked her last attendance at the prestigious affair, we are patiently looking forward to this year’s event.

Next Monday, as a co-chair of “The Garden Of Time”-themed Met Gala, Zendaya will continue her stylish reign. Being appointed as a host is a lauded opportunity that points to the regard the industry has for the actress. She is far more than a skilled method actress–her clothing choices alongside Roach have shaken up an industry that is often seen as closed off due to gatekeepers. They didn’t do this overnight, it took years. As Law’s style profile skyrocketed, so did Zendaya’s. Today, the two are viewed as reputable individuals who embrace emerging designers and those who are also well-known.

Zendaya’s Met Gala Evolution
NEW YORK, NY – MAY 02: Zendaya attends the “Manus x Machina: Fashion In An Age Of Technology” Costume Institute Gala at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 2, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images)

In the past, the stylist has been vocal about shaping her into the stylish woman we see today. The duo met when the actress was 14, and since then they haven’t parted ways. “Nobody wanted to dress her when she wasn’t known, so I would put her in things that other people had already worn,” he previously mentioned in a Guardian interview. Doing so led her to raise her profile–she became noticed too according to Roach. Their kinship is an indelible part of her rise as a style star.

Zendaya’s Met Gala Evolution
NEW YORK, NY – MAY 01: Zendaya attends the “Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garcons: Art Of The In-Between” Costume Institute Gala at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 1, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/FilmMagic)

It goes without saying that the fashion industry is taking notice of Zendaya. She’s now viewed as a red carpet darling and has starred on the covers of InStyle, Vogue, Ebony, and other magazines. With Roach’s guidance and flare for theatrics, he has spearheaded distinct press looks and rollouts for her. Back in 2015, he left a mark on the Oscars red carpet when he styled Zendaya in a silk Vivienne Westwood number with faux locs. This was a heavily critiqued notch on her fashion journey. 

When she was announced as an honorary chair of this year’s Met Gala, this appointment was a significant win for Black women. Within the fashion industry, many of us are often passed over for visible opportunities, and this is one instance where we’re not being sidelined, instead, we’re being embraced and given a platform. It’s a well-deserved nod for a woman who has been slowly but surely finding her own way not just through acting, but also through style.

Zendaya’s Met Gala Evolution
NEW YORK, NY – MAY 07: Actor Zendaya attends the Heavenly Bodies: Fashion & The Catholic Imagination Costume Institute Gala at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 7, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for New York Magazine)

Further proof of her ability to shapeshift as a fashion chameleon was this year’s press runs for Dune: Part 2 and Challengers. Though both films are nothing alike, with Roach, Zendaya has been able to further legitimize her relationship with off-kilter garments. Dune: Part 2 called for futuristic looks like the insanely off-kilter Mugler moment she had in February. This key look was 30 years old, and Jean Jacques-Urcun, who created it with Mugler helped dress Zendaya in this look, according to Vogue.

Zendaya’s Met Gala Evolution
NEW YORK, NY – MAY 06: Law Roach and Zendaya attend The 2019 Met Gala Celebrating Camp: Notes On Fashion – Arrivalsat The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 6, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Rabbani and Solimene Photography/WireImage)

Custom Jacquemus, Christian Siriano, and Jonathan Anderson push the boundaries of what is viewed as sporty chic for the press appearances for Challengers. While doing press in New York City, Zendaya wore a sleek white trouser look paired with a sleeveless matching top. At a premiere party in Los Angeles, she opted for a custom Celia Kritharioti gown with a sensual and low neckline. At the center of the piece, a tennis ball was attached, a tongue-in-cheek nod to her role.

Separately, these incidents solidify the credibility she will add to the Met Gala this year. With Roach, Zendaya becomes capable of creating experiences. The looks she wears are pivotal to her acclaim, but they also highlight that the red carpet moments are not merely moments, each of them are essential opportunity for her to further platform herself as a supporter of newly fledged brands or those that are already acclaimed and regarded. Paired with Roach’s knack for fantastical garments and imaginative world-building, Zendaya is allowing us into a fashion universe she approves of–the 2024 Met Gala will be her next stage. 

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