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Zerina Akers is amidst by flowers. 

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It’s Monday morning, and the apple had the weekend to abstract the Disney admission of Beyoncé’s Atramentous Is King, the beheld anthology that serves as the accompaniment allotment to her music release, The Lion King: The Gift. While a weekend is affluence of time for peers, admirers and appearance houses to accelerate bright arrange Akers’ way, it’s far from abundant time to anatomize the cultural references, hidden meanings and appearance pairings of her assignment as the film’s apparel artist in a activity hailed as “visually stimulating,” “impeccably styled” and “dazzling, but additionally anxiously calculated” by Vogue, The New Yorker and The New York Times. 

“The weekend has been overwhelming,” Akers explains to The Hollywood Reporter by telephone. “I’m so ashamed by everything, that it was well-received, that bodies got it, and we were able to accommodate a much-needed escape and absoluteness analysis with aggregate that’s activity on. It was this admission of joy that we all bare as one aggregate of people, of humanity.”

Akers is quick to accord acclaim to Beyoncé and her aggregate of collaborators — including aesthetic administrator Kwasi Fordjour, clothier Timothy White and their aggregation of stylists and administration — as she explains the massive accomplishment of affairs off the year-long project. It gave her the befalling to accouterments Beyoncé in a array of looks from couture houses to cipher designers while additionally bathrobe ancestors associates (Jay-Z, Tina Knowles Lawson, Blue Ivy and twins Rumi and Sir), supermodels (Naomi Campbell and Adut Akech), Oscar winners (Lupita Nyong’o) and African superstars (Yemi Alade, Shatta Wale, Wizkid, Tiwa Savage, Busiswa, Mr. Eazi).

Akers opens up to THR about her bigger challenges, admired apparel and all of the cultural references — from money and cachet to alliance and ancestors — that are alloyed throughout Beyoncé’s latest aesthetic offering. 

Let’s alpha at the alpha with the aboriginal eyes of Beyoncé on the bank in the Wendy Nichol dress. On Instagram, you wrote that it’s the absolute way to alpha with the appropriate bulk of nothing…yet everything. Why that dress?

Wendy Nichol advised the bank dress on “Drunk in Love,” this very sheer, languid, blooper dress. This started out as the nude adaptation of that aforementioned dress. I capital her to feel affectionate of bare down, area aggregate was array of falling apart, array of falling away, area it meant nothing, area it about wasn’t about the clothes. Wendy was able to do it in a way area it still actual abundant acquainted like a couture trend. We added silks, organzas and charmeuse strips on top of it, and congenital on top of that as a base. For that attending and that artist to end up aback on the bank in a actual altered way on this anthology now — two albums able the Beyoncé anthology — I anticipation was absolutely absolutely powerful. She’s a mother of three now, and it’s a full-circle moment with that designer. It’s absolutely beautiful.

From there, the blur explodes with appearance with dozens of looks. I apperceive this is ability be a asinine question, but what was the best arduous arrangement to create?

I’m aggravating to adjust aback through all of the looks in my head. The bigger atypical activity I’ve anytime done was “Mood.” So to abstract all of those looks…we had 70 bodies on set. It wasn’t bathrobe a mob of 70 bodies and they’re in that one look; it’s afresh we accept the club scene, and afresh we accept the tea activity and the banquet table. That was a huge adventure like creating a chess board. That, in and of itself, that absolute song, that absolute video, was, I’d say, the best challenging.

I additionally capital to actualize bobcat and animal-print apparel that batten to the absolute woman while aggravating to band abroad some of that abhorrence of cutting beastly print. A lot of bodies shy abroad from it. [We also] activated actual references, arena with opulence, and affairs some of these affiliated references, the use of cowrie shells and things like that. Activity aback to aback cowrie shells were advised as bill in Africa and bringing that into this abundant amplitude by cutting it on a hat, on a headpiece, on a belt so that it’s present and represented. It was aloof a phenomenal, astounding video to assignment on.

I had to abeyance several times, in “Mood” and additionally “Brown Skin Girl,” to see how abounding bodies you advised for in assorted sequences. You mentioned 70 on set for “Mood.” Do you accept numbers for the absolute project?

I approved to count. I approved to calculation alike on Beyoncé, and I chock-full about at 63 but I feel like it’s added like 65. Afresh we’re never activity to allocution about the ones that didn’t accomplish it in the film, afresh we’re at like 70. That’s aloof on her alone. Again, in that project, it was one activity to accept 70 people; addition activity is to accept to carry them and dress them, let’s say, in bristles different, ample scenes, from the synchronized swimming, to the club, to the chess scene. So, I don’t accept a [total] count.

I capital to go aback to the beastly book because it abstracts prominently. You said bodies shy abroad from it and it additionally can overpower an individual. Here it’s done differently. Can you allocution about the apologue of that, and why you relied so abundant on beastly print?

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I capital to booty these stereotypes that are generally portrayed with atramentous people, whether it be of African coast or in the diaspora, of how we represent affluence and how we activity affluence and opulence. They maybe alarm bodies apprenticed for absent to abrasion a gold alternation or absent to affectionate of amplify it. Wealth looks actual altered in atramentous and white, and it absolutely ties aback to the corruption in abounding African cultures. Let’s say, from Nigeria, in weddings aggregate is custom fabricated in the aforementioned bolt for absolute conjugal party, or the absolute conjugal activity and their family. Afresh they change looks center through the reception. At the end, there’s a anniversary area all of the guests bandy or pin money assimilate the helpmate and benedict as an alms to them. They appear with purses abounding of money and they aloof bandy it at them. It’s a beauteous commemoration from top to bottom. We pulled from references like that.

Coming from one end of the diaspora, area we’re array of advised in a way for affectionate of cutting gold chains and rappers, but it’s all array of one thing. It’s all a cellular memory. Application Duckie Confetti and those money-print pajamas, and afresh she puts in the architecture teeth — it’s arena in that space. Tying it aback with the stereotype, aback you appetite to abrasion article affiliated or feel ethnic, it’s an beastly print, you know?


So we took that, animated it and fabricated it decadent. I don’t apperceive if I’ve anytime apparent alloyed beastly prints done in such a way on any aerodrome in a way that’s wearable. It’s usually added scaled back, as in one piece, and not mixed. I’ve been aggravating to attending aback to see if I disregarded article because I don’t anticipate I’ve apparent it. To booty that and about-face it on its head, and afresh utilizing [Poppy Lissman atramentous bar sunglasses] to actualize this faculty of anonymity. You accept this atramentous bar beyond her face. I bethink [Jean-Michel Basquiat] adage that aback he would cross-out words, that’s aback you capital to apprehend them. Demography abroad the eyes in that shot, you are accustomed to see yourself. She becomes anyone, she becomes everyone. To me, that was one of the stronger and added fun looks to assignment on.

You acquaint a adventure by agreement affluence houses like Valentino, Burberry, Balmain, Alexander McQueen alongside rising-star designers, abounding of whom you’ve formed with in the past, whether it was Formation or aloof added looks, like d.bleu.dazzled—

Jerome LaMaar has done dresses for us.

Yeah. Can you explain the accent to you and to Beyoncé of application lesser-known Atramentous designers in this blur and what you achievement bodies booty from that?

Beyoncé does not affliction who the anorak is by. If it’s a admirable jacket, it’s a admirable jacket. She’s not, “Oh, I’m activity to booty the Chanel one over the Jerome LaMaar one.” It’s which one looks better. “Oh, this I love. This is bringing article that represents who I am and who I appetite to be.” With some of the beyond houses, I adulation that I was able to abutment those that accurate us. I mean, Olivier [Rousteing] has appear through for Beyoncé in added means than one. Riccardo Tisci at Burberry, I capital to abutment his administration there because he has been there for her for added than 10 years — for abounding years — with able stylists. He’s consistently appear through. I admired accepting this amplitude and belvedere to say, “Thank you,” and still cull them in in these beyond beheld pieces. The Burberry cowhide attending on the horse, aback that circulates, she’s additionally cutting [Ariana Boussard earrings and bangles]. From the Valentino look, she’s additionally cutting A-Morir sunglasses by Kerin Rose Gold. Mixing the aerial and low so aback those looks circulate, it makes such a abstruse aberration in the careers of these designers and these businesses. That’s the power. It’s affectionate of like Robin Hood in a way, a appearance Robin Hood.

Speaking of Tongoro with Sarah Diouf, Beyoncé was the aboriginal to abrasion her cast aback she wore it on a boat. It was casual. She acquaint a picture. Afresh she wore her afresh on a cruise to South Africa. Alike at that point, I anticipate she was still the alone one to abrasion her brand. Since then, Sarah has gone from employing seven bodies to employing 50. The ability of families that that afresh helped and feed, aloof by her diversifying who she’s wearing. It promotes and inspires bodies to additionally assorted their spending and arcade and accessible their eyes a bit. It creates a domino aftereffect that is abundant bare in the world. We get acclimated to arcade on Amazon or added actual accessible ways, but there’s so abundant out there. There’s so abundant amazing talent.

Black Is King is additionally such a moment for bling, anatomy paint, arch pieces and accessories. As a apparel designer, it allegation accept been fun to comedy in that apple and add all of these added elements to booty aggregate over the top. Do you accept a admired moment?

For one, [Francesca Tolot] on the atramentous and azure anatomy acrylic really, I think, became a brilliant of the show. But Neal [Farinah] and Nakia [Rachon Collins] dead the hair. Those arch pieces were to die for and provided the much-needed assertion point to a lot of these looks. I’d say one of the admired headpieces was the headpiece with the horns for the cowhide attending that [echoes] the Egyptian goddess, Hathor, and pulls in references to tribes in the Congo. It aloof absolutely blew me away. They absolutely became the stars of the appearance as able-bodied in “Brown Skin Girl” with all the beads. That attending was absolutely [one of] my favorites.

What was it like to be on the set of the “Brown Skin Girl” shoot? It’s such a ancestors activity with Kelly Rowland, Tina Knowles-Lawson, Blue Ivy and afresh with Naomi Campbell, Lupita Nyong’o, Adut Akech, etc.

Oh, I mean, a dream! I got to dress Naomi Campbell! It was about like agreeable bodies to your home. Aback you allure bodies to your home, you accompany out the acceptable china. You’re activity to serve them in your Hermes tea cups. You’re activity to go all out. That’s how it acquainted to accept the guests on the set and to absolutely be able to dress them. Naomi Campbell in the Schiaparelli was aloof to die for. I adulation Daniel Roseberry’s collection, and was so absolute abroad by the abstract silhouettes that he’s creating. To abode that attending there and on her was breathtaking. The McQueen and the Jil Sander on Adut [created] a mother-daughter vibe that is so beautiful.

We attempt Lupita in New York separately. To assignment with such an extra was a little bit intimidating, I allegation say. She’s a actual able woman. Her attendance is monumental. She’s actual assured and abiding of herself. I was appreciative to be able to acquisition things that she admired that contributed and angry aggregate together. My admired on her was that bond Rodarte aback she’s in the mirror. It’s aloof absolutely admirable with white on white rosettes.

There’s a duality of ablaze and aphotic in several scenes, and others area the adverse is ancestor of blush that are monochromatic. What were the conversations you had about atramentous and white?

Talking about the chess scene, in developing the “dark side,” for me, it represented the aboriginal spirituality. Aback you attending at the bishop, I capital it to feel like about a allure priest, because there’s this abstraction or angle that it’s evil, and that’s not the case. I capital to appearance the aspect of that in the chess piece. I achievement that throughout the film, bodies can booty and alpha accomplishing analysis on aboriginal spirituality, and that we all don’t accept to necessarily convenance one thing. There is a lot of power, and that it’s a bloodline thing.

Going to the monochromatic looks … I adulation color. It aloof brightens the day. I’m not an all-black girl. I’m added of a pop of color. If it’s a gray day, you’re activity to acquisition me in a chicken suit. I adulation to comedy with color. Spiritually as well, there’s a lot of ability to cull from it aback you can comedy there. In a lot of the monochromatic dressing, it reminds me of grandmothers. Your grandmother activity to abbey and demography time to put calm a look, acquisition lavender shoes to bout her lavender dress and afresh putting on a lavender hat with a bag and gloves.

Also, for example, in Nigeria, monochromatic bathrobe from head-to-toe represents affluence and corruption in abounding ways. Cutting your Sunday’s best, that’s aback you could get out of your compatible and put on your best. And a lot of bodies in the South, their mothers and grandmothers wore uniforms as they formed so that would be their day to get out of that. I admired arena in this amplitude of this affectionate of all-in-one, array of affectionate of actual custom, actual — you accept to affectionate of hand-pick it, you had to get it made, or you had to get it absolute — and demography the spirit of that into these looks.

I’m activity to apologize in beforehand for allurement this because I apperceive this was a year-plus of your activity and abounding hawkeye nights so it isn’t fair to aces one but do you accept a admired appearance moment in Atramentous Is King?

Right? [Laughs] Acknowledge you for your consideration. Can I accord you three admired moments?

I’ll booty them all.

I adulation the tea activity scene. I ambition I could accept aloof lived in that apple a little longer. This actual changeable meeting, actual feminine and airy acquisition of women, I anticipate is article that we all dream of. We’d adulation to accept a nice babble with our girlfriends and afresh bolt up and aloof debrief. It’s soft, but it feels tough. It’s floral from head-to-toe, but there’s a woman in a do-rag, and afresh it’s still in abutment of the matriarch. That was a absolutely fun one to style.

Another one I adulation is Timothy White, who’s been Beyoncé’s advance clothier for 20 years. He’s affectionate of her Bob Mackie. He’s an unsung hero on our team, and abounding bodies don’t absolutely apperceive who he is. He fabricated the abstract atramentous clothes in “Brown Skin Girl.” Alongside the Valentino look, it has absolutely become an iconic Bey angel that represents the blur and what it is. That’s one of my admired looks. He absolutely went all out. He did the azure binding attending in “Water,” and the red binding attending in “My Power,” and so abounding added things. He’s a godsend.

You acquaint that the chicken Adama Paris attending is “very dear” to you. Why is that?

The blush chicken speaks to actual able airy entities and beyond platforms. So, whether you’re speaking to an Oshun in the Yoruba ability or you’re speaking to St. Anne, it pays admiration to affiliated alcohol — whether that be in Africa, Brazil or through Cuba — those that accept aerial us in an concealed way. It’s actual special.

Speaking of special, you additionally got your designs in there with the tweed bathrobe and the arch wrap. Acquaint me the adventure abaft that?

I capital a lot of Chanel in “Mood.” We were declared to shoot it in September or August but we didn’t shoot it until the end of September. So, I had to accord aback all of the samples because we had them for too long. Chanel didn’t accomplish a tweed bathrobe, and I had this abstraction of this tweed bathrobe. I capital her by the basin in this bathrobe with the towel, but I capital it to feel like this abundant tweed to tie aback to this accurate community. That’s area that was born. I aloof advised it. It had a bit of a train. I capital the anhydrate to feel like a bank anhydrate and a arch blanket and an African arch wrap. That’s area that came from.

There’s addition activity we formed on. Natalia Fedner fabricated a absolutely flat, gold headpiece, agnate to the one that Nija wears in the chicken in “My Power.” On Beyoncé, she wears it in “Already.” She’s sitting on the arena and there’s a gold medal. That one, we took and put array of all of these altered earrings, these gold earrings, which for a lot of adolescent atramentous girls are their aboriginal allotment of jewelry; these tiny, gold earrings that are a attribute and connection. Generally it can be the alone ancestors heirlooms that bodies have, their grandmother’s gold rings. I abrasion abundance all the time. My grandmother, she’s still alive, acknowledge God, and we about-face rings. She gives me rings and buys me gold earrings, and that’s a appropriate affiliation for us. It’s a pillar. To advance these, from simple gold to bamboo earrings, all on this headpiece, area she’s crowned in this homesickness in a way was absolutely fun. I concluded up axis that headpiece upside bottomward in a way.

Beyoncé wrote on Instagram that the blur now serves a greater purpose, accession at this time, and the achievement is to present elements of atramentous history and African tradition, which I think, in ample part, is able by your collaborations. What is your achievement for how appearance or the apple responds to this moment?

I anticipate Beyoncé is arch the allegation in creating absolute change through this film. Aloof with the admixture of the absolute and couture designers, it absolutely creates a amplitude and a belvedere for access. That is phenomenal.

For myself, I started the Instagram page, Atramentous Owned Everything. In beneath than two months, it’s developed from three followers to about 140,000. It shows that bodies are ready. There’s a hunger. Beyoncé amplified that with “Black Parade” and created a agenda so you can go to Beyoncé.com and acquisition all of these brands. Absolute change is happening. We’re able to accord to a absolute shift, and it’s growing.

We accept added assignment to do, but in agreement of the film, the blur aloof gives you a nice beheld escape into that world, and additionally provides the platform. The assignment is day to day. We’re off to a absolutely acceptable alpha in creating some absolute change and giving afterimage to atramentous designers, atramentous companies, black-owned businesses, atramentous creators, and afresh we can aggrandize that into added cultures as well.

What’s the abutting footfall for Atramentous Owned Everything?

I absolutely haven’t aggregate with anyone. I am creating a exchange platform, an e-commerce space, to allure a nice, well-curated alternative of these designers to advertise their clothes in one abode that will accomplish it easier for consumers while additionally giving bodies admission to a beyond market. The bodies that are in my community, at my arms’ reach, they get funneled there. Bodies that are agreeable in the belvedere now, they get afterimage from a lot of high-end brands and appearance people. And the amplitude will affection atramentous creators; health, wellness and yoga instructors; things like that. Accord me a few weeks and we’ll be ablution soon.

My aftermost question: What’s next? Are you demography a vacation?

Oh, I wish. No, no, no. Chloe and Halle accept way too abundant advancing up. And I accept to adapt Beyonce’s abatement wardrobe. I don’t anticipate I’ll get a vacation aloof yet, but I achievement to architecture more. I achievement to get my easily bedraggled a bit added in the architecture world, and actualize things of my own. It’s fun.

Scroll bottomward for added looks from Atramentous Is King.

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