Last Wednesday, straight off the plane from her hometown of Los Angeles, Zendaya entered the Titan Industries showroom with a huge grin on her face.
Energized and excited, she kicked up her feet to show off her white cage booties with cutout details — one of the styles in her new collection. Armed with a highly active social media following and a unique design sensibility, Zendaya is ready to make her in shoes.
“I love shoes. [Early on], I was always in sneakers, and it was a big step to get into heels,” she recalled of entering the spotlight at age 14 with her Disney show, “Shake it Up!” “Now that I’ve established my own red carpet persona, this is the perfect time for me to come out with my own shoes. Titan has an amazing team of people who took our vision and [combined it] with theirs.”
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The Disney actress and singer is the latest famous name to join the crowded celebrity fashion market through a partnership with Huntington Beach, Calif.-based Titan. Her line of vibrant, playful footwear is called Daya. It’s launching at retail for spring ’16 with 26 styles priced at $125 to $175, in three to four colors each — think bold shades of fuchsia, cobalt and yellow.
“I was inspired by those girls who are going to prom, their first job interview or stepping into the job world. The mom who has kids and doesn’t want to spend a trillion dollars,” she said.
Zendaya has a refreshingly hands-on approach. For example, she took part in multiple three-hour Skype calls with the Titan team to perfect details like the best hue of nude and the number of straps on her styles.
Titan is banking on Zendaya’s personal involvement to add to the collection’s allure. (Daya is a nickname that only her family and close friends use.)
“She’s inviting her fans into her family,” said her longtime stylist and design collaborator, Law Roach.
Titan Chairman Joe Ouaknine said it’s rare to find a celebrity with a desire to dive so deeply into the project.
“For the first time, we’re going to have a celebrity who’s going to wear the shoes and talk about the shoes when she posts something,” said Ouaknine, noting Zendaya’s 9.9 million Instagram followers. “When we first met, she took charge of the conversation, and I thought, ‘This has potential.’”
Andrea Bernholtz, who recently left Rock & Republic to become CEO of Titan Industries, said her first priority is to build buzz and awareness around Zendaya’s line — though those details are under wraps for now.
“The relationship is organic and authentic. She put thought behind it and developed everything,” said Bernholtz, who officially came on board two months ago. “She’s such a perfectionist and has a fresh eye and perspective.”
Also in the works is a standalone e-commerce site for Daya shoes, a first for a Titan celebrity line. (The company also produces L.A.M.B. and Gx by Gwen Stefani, Badgley Mischka, Charles Jourdan and Cynthia Vincent.)
Even in a sea of celebrity collections — Kendall and Kylie Jenner launched their much-buzzed-about line at FFANY last week — Zendaya believes she can fill a void in the market.
“There’s an empty space when it comes to the girl I was when I was 14, just starting off in the industry. I didn’t have the money to buy the Louboutins that I wanted so badly,” she said. “A lot of times, the shoe option just wasn’t there.”
That’s why affordable prices were so important to the star, though she admits that balancing price and value can be challenging. “Price is such an important thing for me, but how do we not compromise the shoes?” she said.
As part of her research, Zendaya, who is currently recording a new album, turned to her family and women within her close circle. “I brought my niece to a lot of meetings, and I talked to my sister about styles and the max [amount of money] she would spend,” the singer said. “I was never into sandals or flats — that just wasn’t my thing. So I asked, ‘How do I convince myself, how do I get myself to like these?’ We created something I like — a gladiator or a dope pointy-toe flat. It’s not forced that I have to wear these shoes.
“I wanted shoes that would speak for themselves,” she continued. “If people didn’t know who the heck I was, which a lot of people don’t, [I still want them] to like the shoes.”
Her collaborators at Titan are just as bullish on the new venture. “I have taken this launch under my wing,” said Bernholtz. “Zendaya and her team are extremely creative and fun to work with. … We are off to a great start and have high expectations for the brand.”
“I don’t like to copy anyone’s style. I want to create my own. I definitely respect people who do what they want and have established their own look. Erykah Badu does what she wants and that’s inspiring. That makes her so dope.”
“If you could see my shoe closet, it would be a bit much. I’m obsessed with Christian Louboutin. I’m also into slides because I’m a bit of a tomboy. I have a lot [of pairs], but I think we’re going to have to empty stuff out to make room for my own shoe [line].”
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“My black ‘So Kate’ pumps by Christian Louboutin. I wear them everywhere.”