Costume is King: Storytelling Through Fashion and Music

Greek mythology, cardboard masterpieces, and crystals. What more could you possibly want?

It’s been over a month since Beyonce’s Black is King was released, yet the impact of the film — and especially the fashion — continues to influence so many others still to this day. Black is King is not only a film but a visual album based on the soundtrack, The Lion King: The Gift, which was recorded for the 2019 remake of The Lion King. The visual album contrasts Beyoncé’s Lemonade serving as an empowering piece for black men. It is dedicated to Beyoncé’s son, Sir, and mirrors the Lion King as it tells the story of a young African king and his journey through Africa to manhood. The visual album is filled with breathtaking scenery, beautiful imagery, effervescent sets and striking storytelling costumes that embody African customs and Black culture. Beyoncé wears more than 60 looks throughout the entire film all coordinated by her stylist Zerina Akers. With so many inspiring costumes to choose from I decided to narrow it down to a few.

Here are three of my favorite looks and the stories behind them:

Beyoncé wearing custom 5:31 Jérôme trench/jumper and headdress. Photo: Courtesy of Disney+
Beyoncé wearing custom-made piece by 5:31 Jérôme. She is standing next to Ghanian singer, songwriter and actor Shatta Wale. Photo: Courtesy of Disney+

I call this costume Lady Liberty which appears in the song “Already.” When I first saw it I fell in love. It reminded me so much of the Statue of Liberty but a modern day take. The talented designer behind this costume is Jerome Lamaar. Lamaar was raised in the Bronx and uses his upbringing as inspiration for his designs. He has consulted for brands such as Converse, Victoria’s Secret, Nike and more. In 2013, he launched his brand 5:31 Jérôme which he describes as a “playful luxury streetwear collection.” Lamaar stated in an interview with PIX11 News that, “As a designer of color it was hard for me in the beginning because people didn’t see the value in it [his work]. Even though I was making things that were super embellished and super high quality, made in the same factories as all the other top designers it was hard at the time.” Lamaar faced a lack of growth and many challenges within the fashion industry causing him to switch his brand to custom only creations. That led him to take a step back from the fashion industry and open his own store for up-and-coming designers in the Bronx.

Eventually, he went on to work with Beyoncé and with her support and guidance has changed his perspective on the industry. He has reinvented himself as a fashion designer and is now revisiting his brand. Since Lamaar had previously worked with Beyoncé on projects such as the Adidas x Ivy Park collaboration, he was granted the opportunity to contribute to this project. He worked closely with Zerina Akers to bring his creation to life. He was inspired by Africa as well as tribal and military-like wear to design the costume. He used references from “Nigerian headdresses and turbans” (PIX11 News) to create the updo. The turban was made in collaboration with fashion designer, Sarah Sokol Millinery. The beautiful garment is a “silk trench/jumper hybrid” with gloves attached and is paired with “Razer sharp sunglasses” (via 531Jerome Instagram). Lamaar stated that he used Earthly gems and crystals such as Turquoise, Mother of pearl, Jade, Quartz, and silver Hematite to create the costume. The garment was made with all Nigerian lace, posing a striking contrast between man-made and natural materials — a concept that is very important to him. The entire garment was then hand beaded and sewn by Lamaar over the span of 3-4 days. I am amazed by how stunning this look is and congratulate Lamaar on his chance to really showcase his skills to the world.


Beyoncé wearing Alon Livné design in Black is King. Photo: Courtesy of Parkwood Entertainment
Pieces of costume labeled and laid out separately before being put together. Photo: Courtesy of Alon Livné
Beyoncé posed in front of The Winged Victory of Samothrace in music video. Photo: Courtesy of Beyoncé on YouTube

This costume is truly ethereal. It is featured in the song “Otherside” and was created by Israeli fashion designer Alon Livné. Livné was destined to be a fashion designer. He wrote his own illustrated children’s book at the age of 11 and was already designing and sewing clothes by the age of 13 using old tablecloths. He even attended the Shenkar College of Art and Design at the age of 17 because of his extraordinary talent. He has defined his works as consisting of “dramatic sculptural shapes that give the human body new proportions and angles,” which would definitely describe the look of this costume. Livné is best known for his work on bridal dresses but has since ventured out to help Beyoncé on her passion project.

He was contacted by Zerina Akers to collaborate on the secret project and actually ended up designing three costumes in total for the film. In my opinion this look specifically stood out the most to me because of the creativity and thought behind the design. It was inspired by The Winged Victory of Samothrace (also called Nike of Samothrace), a marble sculpture dedicated to the goddess, Athena Nike. She was also known as the “goddess of victory” and served as the messenger of the gods and the distributor of glory and success. That success proved to be true because Livné definitely did an amazing job on this costume.The wings on the sculpture are iconic, making this look even better. It is no surprise that this art work was used as an inspiration because it was seen in Beyoncé’s music video with Jay-Z from their album titled, Everything is Love. It took a week to make and the base consisted of two pieces: a mini skirt and a tube top. It was then covered in handcrafted pieces of ivory organza silk fabric that was carefully draped and folded to create a flowy look. A metal armor-like exterior was used to create the wing shape. The organza that was used had silicone threads woven into them which helped mold the fabric into the wing shape. Since marble is hard to carve, The Winged Victory of Samothrace, is praised for its ability to display motion and Livné does just that!


Beyoncé in Black is King wearing Mia Vesper dress and carrying basket of goods on custom-made head piece. Photo: Courtesy of Parkwood Entertainment
Beyoncé wearing Mia Vesper dress and headpiece with neck/mask piece in Black is King. Photo: Courtesy of Disney+

New York designer Mia Humber, known as Mia Vesper, never would have thought that she would receive a call to design a piece for one of her idols, yet she was among the many talented individuals whose pieces were worn throughout Beyoncé’s film. Vesper is best recognized for her efforts towards upcycling and sustainable fashion. She was inspired by her shoe repair guy in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn where she was fascinated by the shoe-repair process. She revisited him several times again creating more projects and gathering more information about how she could make things. As a result, she decided to dive into the fashion industry and as time went on she gained success with her hand-made eco-friendly tapestry jackets. From there she continued to make one-of-a-kind pieces such as dresses and skirts using fabrics and materials found from marketplaces and flea markets. Vesper continued to showcase her work and it sure enough paid off in the long run.

She was contacted by stylist Zerina Akers to create a piece for the film after Akers saw her work in a Los Angeles showroom. Used to jackets and trousers, Vesper had never made something on such a high scale before so it was a great opportunity to challenge herself and expand her business. What she ended up with is a masterpiece. This custom-made one shoulder gown was created with a “Monet-inspired Rayon Lurex plissé material from Russia” (Vogue Uk). The material was pleated offering more movement within the dress and the floral print gave an earthly touch which tied in together well with the title of the song “Water” that the dress was featured in. The headpiece which alludes to head-carrying, a practice used in many countries as well as Africa in which goods are carried on the head using baskets, was surprisingly made with a cardboard box. It was Vesper’s idea and the box was padded and then covered in the fabric. The mask was made from the same pleated material and actually started out as a neck piece but was pulled up into a mask. Vesper along with her team worked nonstop on this look for 8 days. The great news is that you can even shop this look at MiaVesper.com.

Lastly I would like to feature some more designs as honorable mentions since I could not get over how amazing they were!

Congratulations to these three talented designers and every other designer, team member and supporter who helped bring Beyoncé’s vision to life. If you haven’t seen the film yet you should definitely head over to Disneyplus.com to check it out.

Please follow and support these designers for more creativity and fashion!

Jerome Lamaar

Instagram: @531jerome | Website: https://www.jeromelamaar.com/

Alon Livné

Instagram: @alonlivne | Website: https://www.alonlivne.com/

Mia Vesper

Instagram: @mia.vesper | Website: https://miavesper.com/

Sources

Abad, Mario. “Beyoncé in Déviant La Vie and Alani Taylor.” PAPER, PAPER, 31 July 2020, http://www.papermag.com/beyonce-fashion-black-is-king-2646850547.html?rebelltitem=27.

Bateman, Kristen. “Inside The World Of Mia Vesper, The Upcycled Fashion Brand Coveted By Beyoncé.” Nylon, Nylon, 3 Dec. 2019, http://www.nylon.com/mia-vesper-upcycled-brand-interview.

Farra, Emily. “Inside the Making of Beyoncé’s ‘Black Is King’ Wardrobe.” Vogue, Vogue 31 July 2020, http://www.google.com/amp/s/www.vogue.com/slideshow/beyonce-black-is-king-wardrobe-behind-the-scenes-alon-livne/amp.

Kreienberg, Maggie. “Bridal Designer Alon Livné on Creating Three Custom Looks for Beyoncé in ‘Black Is King’.” Brides, 4 Aug. 2020, http://www.brides.com/beyonce-black-is-king-fashion-alon-livne-5073193.

Obie , Brooke. “Beyoncé’s ‘Black Is King’ Is This Year’s Most Powerful Album About Masculinity.” Esquire, Esquire , 11 Aug. 2020, http://www.google.com/amp/s/www.esquire.com/entertainment/music/amp33564645/beyonce-black-is-king-symbolism-meaning-analysis-masculinity/.

Okwodu, Janelle. “Beyoncé’s ‘Black Is King’ Is the Afrocentric Fashion Moment We’ve Been Waiting For.” Vogue, Vogue 31 July 2020, http://www.google.com/amp/s/www.vogue.com/slideshow/beyonce-black-is-king-fashion-message/amp.

Rosario, Veronica. “Meet Beyoncé’s Bronx Designer.” PIX11, WPIX, 3 Aug. 2020, http://www.pix11.com/news/morning/meet-beyonces-bronx-designer.

Williams, Cameron. “Beyonce Delivers 11 Power Looks in ‘Spirit’ Music Video.” PAPER, PAPER, 19 July 2019, http://www.papermag.com/every-beyonce-spirit-video-look-2639224100.html?rebelltitem=20.

Vatner, Jonathan. “Beyoncé Wore Many Alumni Designs in Black Is King.” FIT Newsroom, 18 Sept. 2020, news.fitnyc.edu/2020/09/18/beyonce-wore-many-alumni-designs-in-black-is-king/.

Yotka, Steff. “You Can Shop This Dress From Beyoncé’s Black Is King Visual Album.” Vogue, Vogue, 31 July 2020, http://www.vogue.com/article/beyonce-black-is-king-mia-vesper-dress.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s