Anyone who frequents Twitter, procrastinates on Instagram, or simply has a phone with an internet connection will have likely seen an image of Zendaya sharing a bed with Mike Faist and Josh O’Connor. The frame is from Challengers – a film by Italian director Luca Guadagnino. It will hit theaters in September, after making the rounds at the Venice Film Festival. The movie promises to become a headline-generating machine before and after its premiere.
In the plot, the start of Euphoria portrays a professional tennis player, whose career is cut short by an injury. She must choose – both on and off the courts – between continuing with her partner (Mike Faist), or returning to the arms of her ex-boyfriend (Josh O’Connor). Everything that surrounds the film and this love triangle has already become the object of analysis and desire… including, of course, Zendaya’s wardrobe.
British designer Jonathan Anderson – the creative director for Loewe – is in charge of costume design for the movie. He has an opportunity to make some of his creations go down in cinema history. The first candidate for iconic status is a shirt worn by Zendaya, emblazoned with the phrase, “I told ya.” Beyond the message – an expression that usually fills the mouth and inflates the ego of the person who pronounces it – the garment is quite modest: gray, short sleeves, cotton fabric. The typical thing you can find in any fashion chain, just as useful for taking a walk as for hitting the gym. Shirts like these almost always end up being used as pyjamas in the end. However, the hype that surrounds this shirt on the designer’s Instagram account isn’t only because of how good it looks on Zendaya, or because Anderson’s designs tend to have a cult following. The most special thing about the shirt is that it’s a throwback to the one worn by John F. Kennedy Jr. – or “John John” – in the 1990s.
Although there isn’t much information available about the original design – a shirt with which John F. Kennedy Jr. was immortalized while playing frisbee with his dog – several websites sell replicas using the image. For about $35, it’s possible to get an “I told ya” t-shirt just like the one worn by the son of the former president of the United States, who wore it in white and with black letters… perhaps in a nod to one of the slogans that the Democratic Party splashed on buttons during JFK’s inauguration in January of 1961. Anderson has also used this color combination in the sweatshirt version of the shirt that he has shared to his Instagram account, which has caught the attention of colleagues such as Marc Jacobs. The t-shirt and sweatshirt confirm that the wardrobe in Challengers is sophisticated merchandising for the British fashionista.
Anderson came out to say hello at the end of his spring-summer 2023 show for Loewe, while wearing an illustrated sweatshirt with three rackets that reads Challengers, along with the words “Boston, 2022,” in reference to the location and date of filming. Zendaya also pointed out the iconic origins of this shirt. And, a few months later, the actress was photographed on the streets of London wearing the exact same sweatshirt… an excellent advertising campaign that will probably end with a “sold out” sign. Unsurprisingly, Anderson is an expert in orchestrating collections inspired by cinema, working alongside Japan’s Studio Ghibli, or filmmakers such as John Waters.
The relationship between Guadagnino and Anderson goes beyond Challengers. In addition to sharing muses such as Josh O’Connor or Chloe Sevigny – one of the stars of the film and the image of Loewe – the filmmaker himself posed in one of the campaigns orchestrated by the designer for the firm of which he is the creative director. They will also be working together again on Queer – the Italian’s next film, which stars Daniel Craig and is based on the novel by William S. Burroughs. The relationship between the two men was consolidated after they worked on several films such as I Am Love, or A Bigger Splash, with Belgian designer Raf Simons. Clearly, the collaboration has been a success: it only remains to be seen how long it will take for the John John Kennedy t-shirt – resurrected by Zendaya – to be sold out. Then, the director and the designer will be able to say, without hesitation, “I told you so.”
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