If there’s anyone whose style is so completely distinct, original and her own, it’s Solange Knowles. The musical artist made waves last year for her album “A Seat at the Table,” a passion project that came eight years since her last release. But the wait was well worth it, and since then, the singer and songwriter is making stops along the summer music festival circuit around the world. Her latest performance was a very intimate one at the Reebok Classics crib in La Quinta, Calif. during the second weekend of Coachella, which was home to a three-day experience celebrating the athletic brand’s Classic Leather sneaker and its influences on fashion, style and fitness. Afterwards, she spoke with Kimberly Drew (also known as @museummammy) about her process as an artist, her approach towards style and how it plays into each of her creative projects.
“It’s the way that we communicate to people before we even open our mouths and say a word,” said Knowles of style. “And I mean that through our clothes, through the way we decorate our homes, through the way we talk and walk and express our ourselves.”
Since working on “A Seat at the Table,” Knowles admits that her style has evolved into a more minimalist phase, noting New Orleans, where she posted up to create the album, as a big influence. “People are so 100 percent distinctively themselves,” she says. “They like crushed velvet, they’re going to wear it head to toe, every day, 100 degrees or not. Whatever the style is, they’re committing to it in every facet, and so that really kind of gave me the courage to express myself.”
Read on to learn more of her thoughts on fashion and style, including her pre-teen goth phase, the confusing term “festival style” and the go-to jumpsuit brand she’s been wearing every day.
On the Difference Between Fashion and Style
“I used to be interested in fashion years ago, and the more and more I kind of got pushed into that world, the more it actually motivated me to write this album. But I felt that maybe I was setting my intentions on fashion and not enough on style. And so once I kind of made that decision to really kind of do this for me, my style has evolved and changed so much over the last 10 years, and I think that’s one of the most fun things about being a girl is getting to experiment and have fun and be light and express yourself through that.
It’s such a big difference. I had a stylist once who couldn’t fathom why I wanted to wear these brands I found on Instagram or like, just random shit that I find when Dior and all these people are like, ‘We’ll dress you! We’ll create something for you!’ And that’s such an honor and it’s super flattering, but there’s a time and a place for everything. It feels so much more fun now that I’ve gotten to that place where it’s just like, ‘It’s just fucking clothes.'”
On Her Style Icons — and Her Pre-Teen Goth Phase
“My musical icons and style icons are very similar: Kate Bush, Bjork, Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill. Kelis was a huge influence for me growing up stylistically. My mom, honestly. She’s what I think of when I think of classic. You can look at any pictures of her from the ’80s and it’s like, ‘Goddamn, Mom, don’t stunt on us that hard.’ I think I carved out my fashion icons at a young age. I was just looking at pictures of me; I posted one on Instagram of me when I was 12 and I had on all black and these cowboy boots and black lipstick. It was a lot going on. Actually, one of the girls in my band, Franchelle [Lucas] — we went to junior high school together and we decided to be goth for, like, a month. A teacher pulled her to the side and was like, ‘Black girls don’t be wearing all of this black shit. You got to take this shit off!’ And of course that made us go even harder. But it created this mold where at a super young age, I’m like, ‘I’m my style icon,’ and I looked a mess half of the time, so that didn’t work out as planned.”
On Her Approach Towards Her Performance Style
“Since this record has come out, I think it’s been really important to me to really communicate through all of the facets of imagery and art that are associated with the album. Because I have been really honing in on the most clear and direct way, it’s kind of evolved my performance style to a much more understated, minimal and direct way of communicating through fashion and style. [Friday] night, I performed in a turtleneck and simple pleated pants. I looked at a lot of modern dance costume designers — Trisha Brown, Martha Graham, Bill T. Jones — and have been really inspired by setting a strong colorway and letting the silhouettes be the best that they can be for movement and how your body looks in movement. It’s been really interesting because in the past, it was about creating the most unique, expressive, avant-garde moment on stage. Now that I’ve incorporated a lot of dance into my show, those silhouettes don’t dance as well. I’ve actually been enjoying a more limited palette to choose from.”
On ‘Festival Style’ and How to Do the Opposite
“I have had the same style for the last three [Coachella] festivals, so I’m always honestly a little confused by the terminology ‘festival style’ because I feel you should be comfortable and feel authentic to who you are, and you should be in a space where you’ll be able to enjoy the music as best as you can possibly enjoy it. If you’re setting so much intention on a style then I think you kind of miss the mark of really getting to experience the entire experience. So I would say wear what makes you feel 100 percent yourself and carry that onto the festival.”
On Her Go-To Uniform (Spoiler: It’s a Jumpsuit)
“The last couple of years, I was kind of just a studiohead for so long. Really, for almost four years, going to the studio and dressing to work and create was certainly different from living in New York and going out in the world every day and wanting to make sure you’re on point. And I think there was a sense of [comfort] that came with that that kind of evolved into my style. I have a uniform now. When I travel and I’m on the road and doing tours, there’s a designer called Black Crane and I have three jumpsuits in two different colors, so six total. I just wear them every time; I’m on the road every day. I know people think I don’t wash my clothes because I just recycle and recycle them.”
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Disclosure: Reebok paid for my travel and accommodations to attend and cover the Reebok Classics Leather Experience.
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