“Black is King” and Its Amazing Looks

Beyoncé has unveiled an 85-minute film, a music video for the song Already and a trailer for her upcoming Black Is King album. They feature more than 20 looks, including couture Valentino, the young New York brand Area and the covid-era designer Marine Serre (she created respirators and addressed the theme of the apocalypse even before the pandemic).

The premiere weekend for Black Is King turned out to be a failure: despite the praise of industry professionals, the album did not arouse the audience’s interest. However, the singer does not despair to interest them and devotes all posts on her Instagram to new work. Today, she showed fans three new looks she created for Black Is King.

Last year, as part of the release of the movie “The Lion King”, Beyoncé’s collection The Lion King: The Gift was recorded, and in the film itself she voiced the character of Nala. For the soundtrack Brown Skin Girl for the Disney film, the singer, along with her daughter Blue Ivy, won the 2020 BET Awards. The singer also recruited her eldest child to work on the new visual album Black Is King. Black is King is finally out and it is full of visual candies of all sorts, including looks and outfits.

In anticipation of the album’s release, little was known about the recording, except for the theme and a few video clips, but even in these fragments, a wealth of designer suits could be noticed. The entire film is filled with vibrant colors, voluminous silhouettes and visual symbolism. So in one shot, a group of people are dressed in orange suits, reminiscent of the one JAY-Z wore in the video for “Apeshit”, and in another moment, the women’s dresses in fuchsia refer to the yellow outfit in which Beyoncé appeared in “Hold Up”.

The visual album’s costume designer is longtime stylist of the performer, Zerina Akers, who has commissioned looks from a variety of brands in the African diaspora and beyond. In “Black Is King,” Beyoncé managed to maintain a harmony between the costumes from famous fashion houses such as Burberry, Valentino, Gucci and Balmain and the work of black designers, including Jerome Lamar, Alon Livne and Loza Maleombo. They and African brands such as Tongoro Studio have reinterpreted the traditional symbols of various African cultures, paying tribute to the continent’s rich diversity of creativity.

The imagery that appears throughout the film builds a single storyline, where each designer’s vision is woven into a compelling story told through Beyoncé. In the frame, references to specific details of the traditional wardrobe of African peoples appear, organically interpreted in the context of modern fashion.

One of the most notable examples, often found in the work of the pop singer, is the image of the goddess of rivers and fertility Oshun, who is revered by the Yoruba peoples. The connection to Oshun and spirituality is conveyed both at the beginning of the film through a white Wendy Nichol dress in white Japanese organza and silk, in which Beyoncé walks over the rolling waves, and through a golden Balmain outfit with a pleated off-shoulder bodice.

With regard to African materials and clothing traditions, Bogolanfini fabric, the creation of which is an integral practice in Mali, runs as a red thread throughout the visual album. The unique arrangement of symbols and shapes created by the unpainted space on the Bogolanfini fabric is evident in the black and white Loza Maléombho bodysuit with exaggerated shoulders in the song “Already”. The gold buttons on this costume are reminiscent of similar ornaments used in the crowns of the Akana rulers who live in Ghana and Ivory Coast. Another reference to the geometric patterns of the Bogolanfini is the Tongoro Studio dresses, which Beyoncé wore in the video for “Brown Skin Girl”.

Another people whose dress traditions are adopted in “Black Is King” are the Zulu – the indigenous people of South Africa. Valentino’s customized leopard print jumpsuit and cape in crystals, appearing in Mood 4 Eva, symbolize the use of leopard skins in Zulu ceremonial attire. A more abstract variation on the use of animal print is a custom Kujta & Meri dress with a plunging neckline and a flat, wide hat with the same pattern. The Burberry cow-patterned corset and miniskirt, designed for Beyoncé by Ricardo Tisci, also pays homage to South African culture, in particular the Zulu and Kosa cattle breeders.

Anastasia Fetter

Anastasia Fetter