The Fashion of Beyoncé’s Black Is King

by Rowan Davies

‘She got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile’– Exodus 2:3

The story of Moses, one of the most recognisable Biblical narratives, serves as a universal reminder that young kings and queens all over the world have the ability to achieve absolute greatness regardless of background. Thus providing a perfect opening for a visual album that concentrates on encouraging young people to put their creativity and integrity to the test. 

Once more, Beyoncé proves that she is the epicentre of the entertainment industry. With regards to Black Is King, the holy combination of music, film and fashion succeeds the visual and melodic artistry of anyone before as a result of its edutaining characteristics and drawing of immediate attention to race and culture. However, it is fashion which weaves a continuous river of creative intellect, forming beautiful depictions of African culture complementing the messages of the album with who we have Zerina Akers, stylist to Beyoncé, to thank for curating and recognising the immense talent of Black designers.

Behind each breath-taking costume lies a deeper, symbolic story that perfectly creates an intricate cohesion between scenes and ballads as we are taken through a loose retelling of Simba’s journey. Upon introduction we are presented with Beyoncé in a white Wendy Nichol gown that highlights her as a representation of the ancestral spirits that guide young Black kings and queens to achieving greatness. ‘One day you will meet yourself back where you started, but stronger’ she shares sat poised on a horse in cow print Burberry. Here, Beyoncé is embodying both feminine and masculine symbols of Ancient Egypt, the cow print a symbol of fertility and her bull horn headpiece a symbol of protection.

The visuals for Find Your Way Back compose a celestial fantasy and is debatably one of the most fashionable of the film. A song regarding looking to astrology and one’s historical roots for guidance is effortlessly brought to life by the fashion choices, as each piece contributes to a grander metaphorical picture of the ancestors who now reside among the stars. Beyoncé exemplifies Black excellence in a bodysuit by d.bleu.dazzled and crystal Lace by Tanaya cape, two very talented designers with great futures ahead of them. Beyoncé’s track with Kendrick Lamar Nile is yet an additional ode to Black creativity. Its individual concept is genius: Beyoncé is a peaceful figure dressed in a white rope and lace collaboration ensemble by Déviant La Vie and Alani Taylor. The fashion alone is a commemoration of Black talent encouraged by Zerina Akers, adding further strength to the album’s powerhouse of Black artists.

Wealth and opulence is a recurring motif that peaks in Mood 4 Eva taking place in a colourful surrealist mansion equipped with all luxuries one could only wish for, showing a care-free life of wealth and success. To accompany its melodic prosperity Beyoncé again flaunts Black designers, notably the $100 bill robe set by Duckie Confetti and custom Alejandro Collection gown in rich blue. However, Beyoncé exudes absolute affluence stretched across a cheetah print Rolls Royce in matching cheetah print Valentino haute couture.

Already, a personal favourite, mirrors the level of sophistication of its predecessor Find Your Way Back. The reappearance of green African tribal body paint here evokes its significant connotations of heritage and status, thus taking us through Simba’s spiritual rediscovering. Akers choses specific pieces to complement the track’s rhythmic soul and choreography while still producing iconic Black fashion moments. Beyoncé’s blue Nigerian lace piece has launched its designer 5:31 Jérôme further into mainstream alongside Samantha Garvey who designed a custom floral bodysuit, embodying absolute African matriarchy. Two of the most notable looks of the album reside within the visuals of the song, one being the crescent moon print bodysuit designed by Marine Serre which Beyoncé had previously made an appearance in at  a Houston Rockets game in May 2019, and the other a custom Loza Maléombho structured jacket.

As the journey precedes, Beyoncé uses volume and colour to support the message and purpose of the following song Water. The Molly Goddard and Keäma tulle pieces, Mia Vesper wrap dress and Mary Katranzou gown establish a raw feminine allusion to the traditional African role of collecting water often carried out by women. Both lyrics and visuals recognise the importance and vitality of women in African culture, as they are credited in bringing life to their families. The significance of ancestral figures are profoundly noted throughout the visual album; therefore it comes as no surprise that Beyoncé would refer to Queen Nefertiti in the video for Brown Skin Girl, as she wears a statuesque Timothy White custom gown with accompanying flat-top crown that mirrors the one made famous by the Ancient Egyptian noble. Brown Skin Girl’s entire visual capacity consists of natural, stripped-back Black femininity featuring familiar and successful women in the industry, Naomi Campbell in Alexander McQueen, and Lupita Nyong’o just to name a few. However, a contender for the most visually appealing piece of fashion in this video is the simplistic houndstooth dress designed by Senegal-based label Tongoro, a wise elegant choice with a beautiful story.

The concluding chapters of Black Is King serves as the perfect summary for Beyoncé’s message of Black strength and diligence. As our Simba figure reclaims his rightful place on the throne Beyoncé expresses authority and courage in the energetic My Power. Timothy White makes a strong reappearance here contributing two pieces in vibrant red to the chaotic energy of the visuals, notably the fringe piece worn by Beyoncé followed by Black-owned label Ashi Studio providing a custom feathered corset piece in jet black. Black Is King is visual proof that music, film, fashion, and many other creative sectors are succeeding immensely today as a result of the innovative minds of Black individuals that function behind the scenes. With regards to what is next to come, there is no doubt that Beyoncé will yet again exceed our expectations. We will see you on the Otherside.