Illustration by Javie Huxley
As I started my regular daily scroll through my various social media accounts on a dreary Saturday, something caught my eye—a metallic Thierry Mugler gold corset. And engulfed in the said corset was the debatable queen of Instagram, Saint Records or, for those who don’t follow her account, Solange Knowles.
I mean, who could forget those famous wedding photos that had everyone immediately committing them to both their memories and mood boards? Now. as someone trying (and failing) to condense their daily social media intake, it was rare that I missed one of her posts. So after a dry spell of almost 5 months (but who’s counting?), I was beyond ecstatic to see her return.
As a small surge of her snaps flooded my timeline, followed by more news about the singer, shaped in the form of a new album and monochrome fused styled shoot for T: The New York Times Style Magazine, my joy at her returning was matched.
As I indulged in my weekly dose of The Read podcast, I listened to Kid Fury and Crissle hilariously articulate my exact sentiments of innate happiness at the thought of a new album from the singer. It was evident that the admiration for Solange stretched far and wide, black audiences particularly seemed to subscribe to her. Was it her expertise in gracing many an indie magazine, proudly displaying natural hairstyles? Her soothing, yet poignant lyrics? Her “for us by us” attitude, displayed through her efforts in using black musicians and dancers? Or the ability to potentially be the only person able to rock a cowboy hat with embellished crystals during Mardi Gras?
Growing up in quite a large household and being five of six kids, I always seemed to struggle to find my personal style, resorting to raiding through my older sisters’ wardrobes for something to wear on non-uniform days. My teenage day-to-day consisted of one of those famous Nike Just Do It backpacks, oversized everything and purple glasses to match my bag, because who could waste an opportunity to accessorise? As my style somewhat developed during my first year of university, I began sporting a short bob with an awfully short fringe and an OTT fur coat I splurged on in one of the high-street stores, which I insisted on wearing to all lectures. Detouring through a phase of chunky boots and monochrome, minimalist dressing and copious amounts of Sarah Jessica Parker Lovely fragrance, I found myself arriving at my current wardrobe situation.escribed by a great friend last week as “the girl in cycling shorts, tiny handbag and hairclips”, it’s safe to say my wallet and wardrobe had been through it during the last few years.
“Her hair—an afro, kinky and unapologetic—outfit, meticulously coordinated. I longed to exude that level of quietly confident nonchalance”
I remember coming across an almost entirely red outfit of Solange ’s on Tumblr that stopped me in my tracks. Her hair—an afro, kinky and unapologetic—outfit, meticulously coordinated. I longed to exude that level of quietly confident nonchalance. Though I had seen many black women in the public eye unashamedly claim their blackness, it was the first time I felt as though I was watching someone who I could identify with in fashion, someone who connected with my generation.
Subsequently, it sparked my interest in closely following her glow up. Whether it was wearing a durag to the Met Gala in 2018 to documenting her evening antics on a deserted street in New Orleans during Mardi Gras, she never disappoints.
In 2016 Knowles released her fourth album A Seat At The Table, a politically charged and unapologetically loud album needed in a time where the existing reign of President Trump was set to take place. Listening to the album felt like the embodiment of the current trials and tribulations. “F.U.B.U.” and the notorious ”Don’t Touch My Hair” made bold statements—there was no mistaking that it was for the culture. The visuals behind the lead singles from the Grammy-winning album, ”Don’t Touch My Hair” and ”Cranes in The Sky” featured a palette of dreamy pastel hues, finger waves, synchronised routines and unapologetic blackness woven throughout, with Harvard University naming her artist of the year.
Certainly a figure of hair inspiration for black women, this era allowed her to experiment with numerous hairstyles that had us all in awe from her blonde afro and braids, heavily beaded cornrows and of course the infamous album cover sporting loose waves with delicate multi-coloured clips. Thus her crooning, soft vocals nor the first or last to uplift black people, came at an all-important time.
Solange graced the cover of ES Magazine last October and was embroiled in a scandal with the publication after they removed the intricately braided crown from her head and her justified disappointment came unfiltered. How ironic it seemed that within the spread, the musician expressed the importance of braiding within black culture only for her words to fall upon deaf ears. Seeing the star call out such unjust behaviour to seem more digestible to a commercial, white audience via the playground of all breaking news, Instagram, was a breath of fresh air.
“Certainly, for me, Solange helped encourage that sometimes awkward, stagnant moment I faced when conjuring creative ideas”
Extending her hand to architecture, solid concrete sculptures were built courtesy of the singer in April 2017 with an entirely black entourage clad in fuchsia robes dancing to her tracks with moves choreographed by the singer. Continuing her efforts, a partnership with Uniqlo was forged in the summer of 2018 named Metatronia, a performance art piece exploring the process of creation, which was launched via Hammer Museum in LA. The unique installation located in vacant green land featured equally mesmerizing black dancers, kitted in stylish basics from California State University. Though an unpredictable collaboration, the project seemed to perfectly align with her aesthetic and personally seemed to both engage me and open up an interesting dialogue in the world of commercial advertisement.
As the eagerly anticipated approach for Solange’s upcoming album rapidly approaches, a new era will be upon us having described the new sound as hints of jazz, drum & bass and electronic influences. Certainly, for me, Solange helped encourage that sometimes awkward, stagnant moment I faced when conjuring creative ideas and carefully nurture that into something that felt like my most authentic self. Of course, like many celebrities in the limelight, perfection is a myth and working on myself will always be a task I place on me. But whether it’s her distinctive vocals, creative flair or sense of style, she has inspired an up-and-coming generation and it’s safe to say I’m ready for the next era of her journey to be unveiled.