- Beyoncé Knowles-Carter's Black Is King premiered on Disney+ on 31 July 2020, to much-deserved praise and many mouths agape in awe.
- Written, directed and executive-produced by Beyoncé and costume-directed by Zerina Akers, the 85-minute visual album is decadent with cultural and sartorial imagery from start to finish.
- Here, we take a look at the designer threads seen in Black Is King from across the globe, including Africa's finest.
Remember when Beyoncé released the 'Spirit' music video on the heels of the 2019 Lion King live-action remake?
The musical offering was indeed a sight to write home about. And write home we did - from shining the spotlight on the African designer's ensemble featured in the video to the uncredited 'inspiration' from the La Maison Noir: The Gift and The Curse visual album by SA-Congolese musician Petite Noir.
But with Black Is King, the star who voiced The Lion King's Nala has more than redeemed herself from her previous lapse in collaboration. As the director of an homage to Africa and her stories, it's evident that Beyoncé (along with her stylist Zerina Akers) did not merely appropriate African garb for its visual allure, but rather researched and commissioned any African cultural references and talent with purpose. From our local Gqom musos and our fellow Nigerian Afrobeat hitmakers to centering African designers where it most mattered.
I mention the costume director and founder of Black Owned Everything, Zerina Akers, in particular, because the fashion on this visual album is the biggest medium through which the narrative of black pride and black opulence is carried.
However, it is not solely African designers worn on Black Is King - as we see the protagonist in Balmain, Valentino, Mugler and Burberry in various scenes of the album - but that's nothing to go off the deep end in "capitalist exploitation" think pieces about.
Black people wear luxury well. African people wear luxury gracefully. And that was one of the key sentiments of this visual spectacle.
READ MORE: Is Africa ready to be a luxury fashion hub?
Given the fact that just weeks before this project dropped, the multi-hyphenate music icon's BeyGood organisation teamed up with the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) to help businesses suffering during the current global health crisis, we can hardly expect her to do more than the African Union with her art.
So let's focus on that - the art. The fashion.
Here, we take a look at the designers - African and European worn in Black Is King:
First, a special mention must be given to Senegalese designer Sarah Diouf's Tongoro Studio for making it onto Bey's catalogue of work once again.
In the 'Spirit' music video with absolutely phenomenal visuals, the star appeared in one of the scenes clad in a bespoke Tongoro Studio BAMAKO suit and bustier, custom durag, earrings, and their CAIRO face piece. All styled by Beyoncé's stylist, Zerina Akers.
This officially marked the fifth time the singer was seen in Tongoro. Not to mention the fact that she's the first and only celebrity to ever wear this almost three-year-old Senegalese label. When Beyoncé is the only celebrity to ever wear your garments, no one else really matters, right?
In 2018, Bey landed at Lanseria Airport in the label's ZANZI two-piece, and was then spotted in a custom MALIKI suit during her Global Citizen Festival visit. Zerina then dressed her in an ensemble from Mmuso Maxwell's Spring/Summer '16 collection shortly after.
Rich Mnisi's custom Rhundzu Blouse and Crocodile Half-pleat skirt were also proudly worn by Mrs Carter while sightseeing with her husband Jay Z.
This time around, Tongoro Studio's BIRIMA dress and a custom NGOR gown are worn by Beyoncé for "Brown Skin Girl".
And so grows the list of young or black or POC designers who can proudly declare that one of the greatest talents of our time has worn their creations.
A custom gown for "Bigger". The New York-based designer also made the sheer black gown for the "Drunk in Love" music video, taking her work back to the shore for Bey's latest visual offering.
For "Find Your Way Back", we're introduced to Destiny Bleu's scintillating ensemble, who has also dressed Lady Gaga previously.
Israeli fashion designer Alon Livne scores a hat-trick here, as the mastermind behind the custom garments featured in "My Power", "Water", and "Otherside" respectively.
In custom Ashi. "Mr Ashi was honoured to create this elaborate hand-made embroidered piece which took 70 hours of work," reads the label's Instagram caption. The "Halo" singer also wore Ashi Studio during her Global Citizen performance in South Africa in 2018.
View this post on Instagram
@beyonce‘s Black Is King film is an ode to the Black Lives Matter movement, advocating and supporting black lives and women. Mr.Ashi was honored to create this elaborate hand-made embroidered piece which took 70 hours of work that was featured in the Black is King film released by Disney and directed by Beyonce yesterday in the states. The look incorporated exotic bird feathers, placed one by one on the bodice for this film that has a powerful impact in the world. #AshiStudio #Beyonce #BlackIsKing Styled by: @Zerinaakers Assisted by: @rrrffb
Probably one of the most enduring stills circulating on social media since Black is King was released, is the custom Loza Male´ombho ensemble King Bey wears on "Already" .
View this post on Instagram
Listen!! I could sit here and visualize Beyonce´ in one of my pieces, I’ve done that... but never in my wildest dreams did I imagine her KILLING afrobeats dances and embrace African culture all the way through the way she did in one of my pieces!!! Understand the vision is so keen and deep here! ??@loza_maleombho has always stood for an image of African royalty and she embodies that perfectly! I am so grateful to have contributed to the costumes of this masterpiece! It feels like being a fly on the wall in a room where history is in the making!!!?? Beyonce´ is wearing a custom piece by @loza_maleombho + KPELE belt + QUEEN ring + BORORO face piece. I can’t thank you enough @zerinaakers for trusting me on this project, you @kwasifordjour and @blitzambassador and the entire creative team absolutely killed it!!! ??????????????????
Also worn on "Already".
Another standout piece from "Already".
View this post on Instagram
Black is King out now. @Beyonce Another one for the books. (wearing Timothy White Custom) I just wanted to take a minute and shout out the people that rode with me through this. My Brother - Creative Genius @kwasifordjour My Brother - Market Director @rrrffb My Team: @beonciadunn @suzetteselman @thankschris @petty__cash @j___dp @auntie_liv_ @thejustinramirez @ryandodson @hottiecollective Tonya Huynh Jaiin Kang Janelle Glindo Ashley Smith Zoe Zhou Anaijah Johnson @maeamaria John Mcqaude Rasheeda Alade Azeezat Amusat (Drop me your handles) ??: @a_kid_named_trav
For the ultra lavish "Mood 4Eva" video, in which husband Jay Z makes an appearance. In this video, Bey is also styled in Balmain and Erdem.
In more frills and ruffles.
Déviant La Vie
Deep in denial, deep in the Nile... in all-white Déviant La Vie.
In the AW19 Daria dress for "Water".
Donning the AREA Crystal Crochet Poncho.
In a custom floral jacket by the Haitian-American designer for the "Already" video.
View this post on Instagram
(long post) The queen herself @beyonce in a CUSTOM @levenity jacket. Styled by: @zerinaakers Design Assistants: @fashionmeali @barajaselena . . I’ve been waiting for this particular moment and it’s finally here. Zerina thank you sooo much for this opportunity!!! Do ya know on average how many No’s I get on a regular?? At this point I look for No’s because it’s a testament of me seeking for the hard to reach opportunities. If you’re getting too many “Yes” in journey then you’re not reaching high enough. I DARE you to reach for the “No” opportunities because ALLLL it takes is for ONE yes, for that ONE person to TRULY believe in you for your whole trajectory to change. Be encouraged don’t stop reaching or believing. Seeing Beyonce in my garment represents soooo much more than me. It represents Marlboro projects in Brooklyn, NY where I grew up, represents my Haitian culture, represents Dallas, TX where I live now! And guess what....there is sooooo much more to come. And I’m saying this not knowing exactly what or when it will be, but this faith thing really works. And I am a firm believer of speaking things into existence. Let this be the motivation for you to continue to grind and remember black excellence is a form of protest.
In a custom Confetti robe, looking like money in what would become the new black wealth anthem.
Sign up for W24's newsletters so you don't miss out on any of our stories and giveaways.