Black is King has taken the world by storm, partially due to the music, partially due to the star power and vision of creator Beyoncé, but also due to the extraordinary styling and clothing created by Zerina Akers.
Akers talked to The Hollywood Reporter about the year-long project and what it took to help give life to the visual conception Beyoncé had for the film, which is streaming now on Disney+. She lost count of exactly how many people and looks she came up with throughout the year.
“I tried to count,” she said. “I tried to count even on Beyoncé, and I stopped somewhere at 63, but I feel like it’s more like 65. Then we’re never going to talk about the ones that didn’t make it in the film, then we’re at like 70. That’s just on her alone. Again, in that project, it was one thing to have 70 people; another thing is to have to funnel them and dress them, let’s say, in five different, large scenes, from the synchronized swimming, to the club, to the chess scene. So, I don’t have a [total] count.”
Akers credited Beyoncé and her “collective of collaborators” for helping her deliver the style for Black is King. It gave her the opportunity to outfit Beyoncé in looks from couture houses and upstart designers alike, while also dressing Jay-Z, Naomi Campbell, Lupita Nyong’o and African superstars.
Akers revealed that in one sequence, for the song Mood 4 Eva, she styled around 70 people, the biggest part of the year-long project.
“I’m trying to comb back through all of the looks in my head,” she said. “So to digest all of those looks…we had 70 people on set. It wasn’t dressing a mob of 70 people and they’re in that one look; it’s then we have the club scene, and then we have the tea party and the dinner table. That was a huge undertaking like creating a chess board. That, in and of itself, that entire song, that entire video, was, I’d say, the most challenging.”
Akers was inspired by the African theme and said she wanted to “create leopard and animal-print ensembles that spoke to the real woman while trying to strip away some of that fear of wearing animal print. A lot of people shy away from it.”
Mood 4 Eva used historical African references in its depiction of opulence, she said.
“Going back to when cowrie shells were treated as currency in Africa and bringing that into this opulent space by wearing it on a hat, on a headpiece, on a belt so that it’s present and represented. It was just a phenomenal, phenomenal video to work on.”