Tommy Hilfiger and Zendaya rock the Apollo for NY fashion week

Ellie Violet Bramley in New York
Photograph: Caitlin Ochs/Reuters

Fashion’s love affair with the disco decade continued at the Tommy Hilfiger show at the Apollo theatre in Harlem, New York.

The brand presented its second and final collaboration with the actor Zendaya and “image architect” Law Roach, the man behind Celine Dion’s recent style transformation.

Seventies’ sparkle and classic cars on the runway Photograph: Caitlin Ochs/Reuters

The collection picked up where their last project left off – still in the 70s, still dancing. Pussybows and flares were in full swing, as were silver hoop earrings the circumference of saucers. There were black and white spots peppered over silk blouses, scarves and cowl-neck dresses with thigh-high slits. Hats appeared many guises, from the wide-brimmed one worn by the Ashley Graham to Winnie Harlow’s black and white houndstooth print baker boy-style cap.

Related: That 70s show: why the disco decade is back in fashion

Velvet, leather, leopard print and faux snakeskin came in black, white and deep burgundies, choreographed into coordinated outfits. In the second part of the show, the clothes – and the moves – turned up the volume with metallic flares, dresses, halter-neck jumpsuits and suits.

In notes that Hilfiger sent to guests before the show, the collaboration was described as putting “redefined power dressing at its core”. The designer explained further: “We wanted to celebrate and champion female empowerment through fashion.”

A belted oversized coat with clashing prints. Photograph: Caitlin Ochs/Reuters

The musical heritage of the Apollo, which has hosted shows by Billie Holiday, Lauryn Hill and Otis Redding, played into the brand’s long-term relationship with music. It was hip-hop culture that helped Hilfiger achieve international success.

With their first collection, he and Zendaya made headlines with a Paris show in which 59 black models, aged 18 to 70, walked and Grace Jones performed. This show, with a roster of models that included Halima Aden, the 67-year-old Harlem native JoAni Johnson and Alek Wek, continued the theme of inclusion, chiming with the long overdue push for greater diversity in fashion in general, and this fashion week in particular.

Tommy Hilfiger, Zendaya and Law Roach at the Apollo. Photograph: Vanessa Carvalho/REX/Shutterstock

The brand saw the show as a homecoming. For the past three years, since adopting the see-now, buy-now model, which cuts the time customers have to wait to buy clothes from six months to seconds, it has been on a #TommyNow worldwide tour, Zendaya picking up the baton after the supermodel Gigi Hadid’s four-collection collaboration.

The business model seems to be making sense commercially. Although cashing in on instant gratification, as many brands are now opting to do, could be seen as a controversial move at a time when consumers are being encouraged to make their fashion choices more conscious and sustainable.

The show fits with the current emphasis on experience over the static catwalk mould: a cinematic set was made to look like a block party, complete with brownstone steps, parked classic cars and snatches of city life, from sirens to rattling trains, made into an opening soundtrack.

Tommy Hilfiger and Zendaya are flanked by models including Winnie Harlow, Halima Aden and Ebonee Davis outside the Apollo. Photograph: Vanessa Carvalho/REX/Shutterstock

But it was far from pedestrian – saxophonists, drummers and trumpeters were on hand to play live and models largely gave up on walking, instead dancing their way down the catwalk to tracks such as Aretha Franklin’s Respect, Bobby Womack’s Across 110th Street and Curtis Mayfield’s Move on Up.

It was a spectacle made to appeal to media-savvy millennials for whom, research states, experience is valued over “stuff”. With Hadid, Hilfiger put on two mammoth fashion shows, one a “rock circus” at the Roundhouse performance space in north London, the other a fairground in Los Angeles.

Collaborations with pop culture icons are also a smart move. “They have always been an important part of our heritage,” said Hilfiger. “Each collaborator sees our brand through a different lens which allows us to translate our values in new and exciting ways.”

Smoky eyeshadow is applied backstage. Photograph: Caitlin Ochs/Reuters