Unique and fearless with her approach to fashion and music, Solange Knowles has changed the game with her latest release A Seat at the Table.
Breaking records since its release (number one) on the Billboard charts and joining her sister Beyonce to become the first female siblings to each have a number one album), A Seat at the Table is a stunning release from Knowles that is on point – stylistically, in the design and, of course, musically.
To touch on the music briefly, the 21 track album features collaborations with Lil Wayne, Kelela, Sampha, Q-Tip, Dev Hynes, and Kelly Rowland. A journey that vocalises the pride, frustration and celebration of black culture and the community and social history that surround it. It’s a rich exploration that is filled with funk, soul and even spoken word from her mum, Tina Lawson.
The release of the album is accompanied by an epic 112-page book with lyrics and photographs – designed by Montreal-based graphic designer Frederique Gagnon and Barcelona studio Querida. The book features lyrics, poems and completed with photography by Carlota Guerrero. The design plays with repetition and restrained simplicity, in a similar style to heavyweights in the design world, M/M Paris. With a clear and purposeful separation between the simple typography layout and photography in the book, Guerrero’s photos have a hazy focus on femininity and still life, which perfectly match the styling by Shiona Turini.
Now – the fashion. As with anything she does, Knowles is a risk taker with her style, playing with proportions and colour and particularly championing unknown and emerging designers (including Jaimee McKenna and Jaclyn Hodes). Stylist Shiona Turini has been working with Knowles since 2012, and collaborated on some of the iconic looks in the digital book and the two videos Don’t Touch My Hair and Cranes in the Sky.
In a recent interview with The New York Times, Turini described how the pair looked at mood boards with images of Cam’ron, Lil’ Kim, Diana Ross and Lynette Yiadom- Boakye paintings. She sourced looks from designers such as The Row, Rosie Assoulin, Phlemuns, Acne Studios, Brother Vellies and students from Central Saint Martins in London.
Highlights throughout the videos (shot across 70 locations) include the 1999 Issey Miyake-inspired look created by Knowles and her mother Tina Lawson and the hugely consuming pink coat created by artist and textile designer Nadine Goepfert. In Cranes in the Sky, Knowles and Turini used a lot of natural materials to create a number of the looks. One look being made out of a plastic bag, another was made out of foil, there are suits made out of leaves and at one point in the video she wears a dress that is simply made out of purple yarn. “I fucked round and made a dress out of yarn,” Knowles explained on Instagram.
Aside from the DIY outfits, in Don’t Touch My Hair, Knowles wears custom pieces by Los Angeles-based designer PHLEMUNS. As one of the most interesting designers of recent times, designer James Flemons has dressed the likes of Miley Cyrus, Rita Ora and Kendrick Lamar. In another shot, Knowles is in head-to-toe Acne Studios and stands amongst male dancers – one wears an oversized white fur coat by Saulo Villela, the creative director of Adrienne Landau.
Knowles wears more than 14 looks across the two videos, which are directed by Knowles’s husband Alan Ferguson and Carlota Guerrero as art director. The result is iconic and a visual celebration of black men and women – of all shapes, sizes and skin tones.
A Seat at the Table is a breathtaking, aesthetically-rich and thought-provoking album that shines the spotlight on important issues with fierce eloquence that will be referenced visually and praised for years to come.
Images: Taken from A Seat at the Table’s accompanying book. Photography by Carlota Guerrero.