The build up to Beyonce’s new “Black is King” visual album has been immense. Now that it’s finally here, fans and critics will no doubt dissect every moment of the 1-hour, 25-minute film, which is inspired by last year’s “Lion King: The Gift” (the star also curated that film’s soundtrack album).
There is plenty to analyze when it comes to the overall message — especially at a time when Black identity is at the forefront of the collective mindset. That can also be said of the film’s fashion. The industry is having its own reckoning with racism, both in the past few months and in past years, from Gucci’s and Prada’s blackface missteps in 2019 to the ongoing lack of diversity in the upper echelons of corporate structures.
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“Black is King” does not address or criticize these issues head-on. Instead, it is a bounty of Black beauty and fashion and a full-on celebration of it — and a chance for the industry to also celebrate it by contributing their craftsmanship and creations to the myriad fashion moments that weave throughout the film.
The film is also a glimpse of what the industry could look like if BIPOC voices, talents and points of view were treated as full equals (not novelties) to their Eurocentric counterparts. The film is full of both European and African haute couture moments that each display luxury, glamour and prestige. And it’s not just Beyonce who is wearing them: Each character in the film — from dancers and extras to Naomi Campbell, Lupita Nyong’o and Pharrell Williams — has their own major fashion moment. As fashion capitals like Lagos, Nigeria begin to gain more global momentum, “Black is King” is a reminder of the opportunities that the fashion world can be taking right now to reset the point of view.
Below, a look at 7 of the best feast-for-your-eyes fashion moments from Beyonce’s “Black is King.” We’ll be updating fashion credits as they are identified.
1. The crystal-covered moment
After the intro of the film (which loosely follows the general plot line of “The Lion King”), an aerial shot zooms down on Beyonce, which kicks off a montage of the star literally shining in a handful of crystal-covered looks. There are plenty of recognizable pieces from buzzy New York brand Area, but it’s nearly impossible to break down every sparkle since there’s so much of it.
2. The Animal-Print Moment
For the song “Mood 4 Eva,” which features Jay-Z, Beyonce wore a custom Valentino Haute Couture cape (not pictured) and needle-lace jumpsuit decorated with paillettes and strass embroidery. The look was, of course, made especially for the film by creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli. On top of a leopard-print car and surrounded by dozens of mens in leopard-print suits, it’s certainly one of the less subtle nods to the Lion King — though subtle really isn’t what this film is about anyway. Elsewhere during the song, there are some pretty major shoe shots.
3. The Naomi Campbell moment
There are many cameos in “Black is King” (yes, Jay-Z, Blue Ivy and even Tina Knowles are in there), but the supermodel’s appearance really cements the film’s fashion cred. Bey and Campbell are in equally voluminous gowns; the former decorated with flowers, the latter in a dramatic hood and crystal accents.
4. The all-white moment
In a lace-and-macrame gown that is accessorized with white lace gloves and hat, crystal-and-pearl accented sunglasses and African tribal makeup covering just the lower half of her face (did anyone else think of our current mask situation here?), Beyonce has a surreal funereal moment.
5. The bodysuit moment
For a dance sequence no doubt inspired by the Pilobolus dance company, Bey and co wear matching full-length brown bodysuits by Marine Serre. The French designer’s signature crescent moon body wear have become a major fashion status symbol in the past few years, but in “Black is King,” it has an even bigger impact as the troupe tries out mind-boggling dance moves.
6. The Blue Ivy debutante moment
There is a debutante narrative for the song “Brown Skin Girl,” complete with vintage-style ballgowns and coordinated dance movements. 8-year-old Blue Ivy also made an appearance in a similar taffeta gown, reminding us that her real coming of age might be something even more extravagant in real life.
7. The pink gown in the desert moment
Any opportunity to have a Giambattista Valli gown floating in the desert wind is one that should be taken, and Beyonce does.