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Zendaya is Most Inspired by That Misunderstood, Fashion-Obsessed Kid You Went to High School With

"People who develop their own styles and aren't afraid to do so — those are the people inspiring to me," the actress, singer and designer of Daya by Zendaya tells Fashionista.
Zendaya models pumps from her fall '16 Daya by Zendaya line. Photo: Daya by Zendaya

Zendaya models pumps from her fall '16 Daya by Zendaya line. Photo: Daya by Zendaya

Let us ask a rhetorical question: What can't Zendaya do? This year alone, the 20-year-old multi-hyphenate continued acting in her Disney hit series "K.C. Undercover" on the small screen, scored the coveted role of Peter Parker's love interest in Marvel's upcoming  "Spider-Man: Homecoming" on the big screen and, in partnership with her stylist Law Roach, launched both shoe and clothing lines for her brand, Daya by Zendaya.

Just last week, the face of Cover Girl (yes, she does that, too) was honored at the Footwear News Achievement Awards with the Launch of the Year Award, following in the footsteps of fellow multi-hyphenate Sarah Jessica Parker and designer Tabitha Simmons

"Honestly, I was like, 'wait me?'" Zendaya says. "So many people that I appreciate and look up to were being honored that night and it was just kind of crazy that I was being brought up in the conversation. I was really nervous."

Following the launch of the Daya by Zendaya shoe line for spring 2016, the star expanded her fashion brand to clothing for fall. Inclusivity is key to the range, which features mostly gender-neutral pieces priced under $160, with sizes running from 0 to 22. 

Despite her busy schedule as an actress, singer, spokesmodel and award-winning fashion designer, Zendaya took a moment to jump on a call with Fashionista for a quick catch-up session. We chatted about evolving Daya by Zendaya into 2017 (and beyond), maintaining the all-important message of inclusion within her fashion empire and being most inspired not by a celebrity, but still someone you're likely very familiar with.

A look from the Daya by Zendaya fall '16 collection. 

A look from the Daya by Zendaya fall '16 collection. 

You told FN News that 2017 will be a big year for your brand — what should we expect from your clothing and shoe lines?

I really just want to grow and continue to make things. Also, this line is really for people. So I try to listen to what people like, what people want, what people want to see more of. As well as, grow [the line] internationally. I just want to continue to grow and do it and love it at the same time. As long as I keep enjoying it, that [makes it] worth it.

You mentioned you want to listen to your fans. What feedback have you received?

They appreciate the sizing. They appreciate the price point. They want something to be cheaper. It's working on getting more pieces that they like. If I know that they like the velvet jumpsuit, then I'm gonna give them more velvet jumpsuits. So everything that the fans want or respond to, it's given to them.

If you could pick a muse for your line, who would that person be?

There's no specific person. The point of it is: it's not a celebrity. [It's] that chic high schooler that comes to school every day dressed up and gets voted best dressed. Or the kid who... nobody really likes their style in high school, but then they grow up and end up being this [trendsetter]. Even though people didn't "get it" when they were kids, they were just being creative. Finally, people started to realize they were setting trends all along. I'm inspired by those people. People who are creative, who think outside the box. People who develop their own styles and aren't afraid to do so.

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Law Roach and Zendaya. Photo: Amanda Edwards/Getty Images

Law Roach and Zendaya. Photo: Amanda Edwards/Getty Images

What's it like designing your clothing and fashion lines with  your stylist Law Roach?

It's great because Law is my creative, I guess you'd say, director, in a sense and he's developed my personal style. So it's only right that we'd be doing this together. He's intuitive. He knows what I like and what I need — I trust it.

How has the business collaboration affected how you work together in the styling process?

I like having him around because I know I couldn't possibly do everything. I know that if I can't, I can let him take over and I know that everything will be taken care of and he's going to uphold [my vision]. Talking to him is like talking to me. You have a partner that you trust and understands you — gets you and your brain.

You sit front row at Fashion Week, you've modeled for Dolce & Gabbana — how does your high-fashion experience influence your shoe and clothing lines?

I think that personally, when it comes to my style, I love mixing high-end and more affordable things. The truth of the matter is, my demographic, the people I speak to and my fellow young people can't necessarily afford Louboutin shoes or a $500 jacket. It's unrealistic. So I want to give the feeling of luxury and give them something that feels good and is of quality while also allowing it to be attainable and realistic for a real budget.

A look from the Daya by Zendaya fall '16 collection. 

A look from the Daya by Zendaya fall '16 collection. 

Your brand really stands for inclusiveness, so how will you continue to incorporate that message in your fashion line going forward?

I have a vision; I think what's really important is that there are a lot of celebrity brands where the celebrity... I don't want to say, gives up ownership, but [the celebrity] just steps back at some point and it becomes something that is not their own. But I'm very hands-on, and I'd like to continue to stay hands-on. That way I can ensure that my vision and what I want for the brand and what I think it stands for — and what it should always stand for — remains true. It remains honest. 

How would you like to see Daya by Zendaya evolve?

I want it to continue to be an empowering line. What I mean by that is: Clothing to me is very emotional. It's supposed to make you feel something. It's supposed to make you feel good, so I just want it to be a line that people want to be a part of. Not just because the clothes are nice — I obviously want to have nice clothes — but because of what it stands for and what it embraces. And [for being a part of] a new era of fashion, which is more forward-thinking and there's not as many labels and rules. It's more open — that's what fashion should be.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.