News & Runway

Zendaya Coleman Launches a New Footwear Line, Explains Why People Still Don’t ‘Get’ Cultural Appropriation

Zendaya shoe collection

Image: Jane Kratochvil

Zendaya Coleman is carving out a space for herself as a budding fashion It girl. Her red carpet game is obviously on point, her beauty looks consistently dazzle and the girl is smart to boot. The grace with which she handled Giuliana Rancic’s comment on her locs at the Oscars, coupled with how perfectly she drops knowledge on cultural appropriation makes Zendaya one of our favorite teen stars out there. And it looks like the 18-year-old starlet is opening a new chapter in her career, this time as a shoe designer. Zendaya is launching her first footwear collection called Daya and was on hand yesterday at the preview of her very first shoe range, which she created in collaboration with her stylist Law Roach and Titan Industries Inc. 

“The inspiration behind this collection is women in the world. I was very inspired by my own niece who is in college and my sister who is a mother of two and a working woman. She’s got a husband and kids,” Zendaya told us. “Those types of women have things to do. My sister, she works and takes care of her family. My niece, she’s just now trying to step into her first job interviews. But they don’t necessarily have money to blow on the perfect shoe all the time.” Zendaya emphasized that with this collection, she wanted to offer stylish shoe options for women who want to look cute, but don’t want to blow their budget on fancy footwear. “You shouldn’t have to save up for years to get the shoes of your dreams,” she said.

Another woman who inspired Zendaya’s collection? Herself. “[The range is] a reflection of my red carpet style. I work very hard developing my own personal style, so every shoe had to be something that I love and would want to wear, otherwise, I’m not going to do it.”

Of course, creating the line wasn’t without its fair share of challenges, something Zendaya and Roach learned quickly through the process. “Shoe designing is a whole ‘nother world. You have to make a decision on every component of the shoe,” Roach said. “It’s a lot if you really want to be involved in every step of the process. Celebrities slap their name on things all the time and that’s exactly what she didn’t want to do. We wanted to put our heart and soul in it and let girls know that they were the inspiration for it.” 

So, why shoes? “I thought it would be a nice first step into the rest of the things I want to accomplish when it comes to the fashion world. But I’m obsessed with shoes, that’s the main thing.” And Ms. Daya certainly has some cute options on tap, like fuchsia fringe strappy wedge sandals and striped snakeskin pumps in offbeat hues. We were particularly fond of a pair of sporty white and gray sandals with perforated mesh-effect straps and another sleek pair of black sandals with an inky blue iridescent reptilian strap. As mentioned, keeping the price points affordable was of particular importance to Zendaya, so shoe fanatics will be happy to hear that Daya’s selection ranges from $125 to $175.

Recently, Zendaya’s been making headlines over her remarks about cultural appropriation. The teen star recently explained to Nylon the difference between appreciation and appropriation and how the latter can be easily avoided. “You don’t just wear something just to wear it—you have to understand the history behind it. I urge people to take the extra step of knowledge and learn about things. I’m someone who feels uncomfortable with things unless I know [about them]. I’m not going to try something unless I’ve taken the time and effort to learn about it. I just think with the Internet and the resources we have, you should do a little research.” 

As with anything that has to do with culture these days, even that very clear and fair explanation fell on deaf ears. A look at the comments section below the article reveals that some people still missed the perfectly articulated point. “Does she use alternative fuels or does she just hop in any old plane or car without knowing the whole history behind the medium of transportation? Does she know the history behind how all the things work that go into her daily life?” one commenter pondered. There seems to be a lot of that going around. It’s as if any explanation of why cultural appropriation is problematic is answered by a slew of Internet trolls who are determined to misunderstand the issue. We asked Zendaya if perhaps she had some insight as to why these thoughtful explanations seem to go over people’s heads.

“Everybody comes from a different path in life. Some people have grown up a different way than I grew up. Me, I grew up knowing where I’m from, being very proud of where I’m from,” she said. “My dad, when I was 2, he decided to reclaim his African name and he became Kazembe. My mom taught me about my heritage and how we have roots in Germany and about the first of my family to come over to America. I’ve been lucky to know where I’m from and to have pride in that. I think a lot of people, maybe their parents or whatever, never taught them that. They were never really allowed to connect with where they’re from so that pride isn’t really a big deal to them and it doesn’t matter as much. Now that we’re in the 21st century, we have access to DNA tests to learn about where we’re from. And I’m not saying I’m perfect and I know everything because I don’t, but at least I know about myself and I take the time to learn more about Zendaya. So, as long as people can take the time out to know where they’re from and have respect for themselves, once you gain respect for yourself, you can have that for other people. It all starts with the self.”

Check out a few images of Zendaya’s collection below.

Images: Jane Kratochvil