©Thomas Concordia

It was joyful, funky, funny – a glorious mix of Harlem in its Jazz Age and Disco heyday and its current, cross-cultural vibe.

#SuzyNYFW: Tommy Hilfiger’s Harlem Serenade-1

At the back of the restored Apollo Theatre, the birthplace of so much musical talent, was the recreation of a Harlem street corner, complete with a long, lean car with fins that snaked its way into the sandy square. Here the painted set depicted a row of brownstone houses that might have been built along with the theatre a century ago.

With another back-to-the-Seventies car parked on the set, appropriated by a team of joyous singers, the show was a blast even before the models of all shapes, sizes and skin tones danced their way past the audience, which included people from the neighbourhood. Such was the general enthusiasm that even hardened fashion folk tapped their dusty feet to the music.“Zendaya wanted to do Seventies style and we were looking at all the different inspirations,” Tommy explained. “It’s my era, which was fantastic, so I said, ‘I love it! Let’s just do it!’ And she said, ‘We think about Diana Ross or Aretha Franklin, so we’re set: Let’s do the show at the Apollo!’“

#SuzyNYFW: Tommy Hilfiger’s Harlem Serenade-2
©Tommy X Zendaya

Zendaya’s collaboration with Tommy Hilfiger paid tribute to the Seventies and Harlem’s influence on the music and design scene.

The Hadid sisters, Bella and Gigi, added to the glamour as they sat front row, watching the vibrant parade of predominantly African-American models in boldly patterned outfits swagger by.

But what about ‘cultural appropriation’ – the two words that light a firestorm of criticism when other designers dare to burnish fashion concepts plucked from past or present identities?

#SuzyNYFW: Tommy Hilfiger’s Harlem Serenade-3
©Thomas Concordia

Hilfiger is not new to black culture – he embraced it from his early fashion hip-hop days in the Eighties. In this show, with his mixing of tailored coats and jackets, often with larger-than-life checks or polka dots, he proved that the velvet underground of skinny trousers, mixed with giant sweater dresses or python-print suits – as worn by Zendaya herself – can be comfortably contemporary.

Whether or not the show was a cultural statement, the joyful rollicking was indisputably a lot of fun.