6 Very Specific References You Might Have Missed in Beyoncé's Black Is King


(Image credit: Courtesy of Parkwood Entertainment/Disney+)

Last week, the debut of Beyoncé's Black Is King film sparked a flurry of Disney+ subscriptions, enthusiastic memes, think pieces, and tons of exposure for everyone involved behind the scenes. Of course, our focus was on the lavish, mesmerizing, imposing outfits. I pretty much ran out of adjectives trying to describe them. For that, you can thank costume designer Zerina Akers. She collaborated with Beyoncé, Creative Director Kwasi Fordjour, and Paris-based stylist Rogelio Burgos on the memorable looks.

I interviewed Akers about her work on the monumental film, and she revealed plenty of gems. For my first question, I asked about what specific references helped guide her vision. "To name a few, the hides used in Zulu culture, Ndebele neck stretching, the masked men of Burkina Faso, the jumping dances of the Maasai people, Nigerian unified wedding dressing," she responded. "These all lent subtle nuances to the wardrobe."

Akers also mentioned a way she conveyed Beyoncé's theme of regality via accessories. "Throughout the film, you will see things like cowrie shells (many items made by LaFalaise Dion), which was inspired by a time when cowrie shells were traded as currency and worn as a symbol of wealth," Akers told Who What Wear. Scroll down to read the rest of our enlightening interview with Zerina Akers. 


(Image credit: Courtesy of Parkwood Entertainment/Disney+)

On Good Morning America, Beyoncé said: "Black Is King means Black is regal and rich, in history and in purpose and in language." How do the outfits in the film convey these ideas?

One thing that speaks to this is that in the styling, we pulled out all of the stops not only for Beyoncé but for her dancers and deep background characters as well. Throughout the film, you will see things like cowrie shells (many items made by LaFalaise Dion), which was inspired by a time when cowrie shells were traded as currency and worn as a symbol of wealth.


(Image credit: Courtesy of Parkwood Entertainment/Disney+)

For a project this massive with so many looks, where do you usually begin?

I typically start by touching base with Beyoncé and Kwasi Fordjour, her creative director, to get their thoughts if there’s anything they specifically want to address. With this project, we had to hit the ground running, so I went to the fabric store and created a bit of a swatch library of things that spoke to me. I jumped right into creating a bunch of custom looks by local designers while my Paris counterpart, Rogelio Burgos, started pulling the runway looks.


(Image credit: Courtesy of Parkwood Entertainment/Disney+)

What look has been the most rewarding for you to see come alive on screen? 

The principle looks in "Find Your Way Back." It captured the essence of the project with subtle tribal references, a combination of independent and runway designers, and a futuristic element. It was truly styled to create the look.

Was there a look that was particularly challenging to bring together?

The chess scene was definitely one of the more challenging scenes to get through. I had to call in backup since there was so much going on that day. We shot/staged two to three sets at a time. Brookelyn Styles came through to support.


(Image credit: Courtesy of Parkwood Entertainment/Disney+)

There were so many fantastic accessory moments throughout, but the unique eyewear really stood out to us. Where did you source the sunglasses?

A number of places! Many of the notable Kerin Rose Gold of A-MorirPlanet I custom-made the "Mood” glasses. L’Enchanteur dipped a pair in 14-karat gold. 

Can you tell us about the process of creating the outfits for Blue Ivy?

When dressing Blue Ivy, I often try to coordinate her with her mother. Sometimes we take existing looks and alter them to fit her or we make something completely custom. I like for her to feel equally a part of the party!


(Image credit: Courtesy of Parkwood Entertainment/Disney+)

Were there any under-the-radar brands you were excited to feature in the film?

Plenty! I was super excited to pull Jerome Lamaar back into designing. He had taken a break from his brand, 5:31 Jérôme. Loza Maléombho and I had been trying to get a look on Beyoncé for a while, and it finally landed here! These looks really set the tone in the "Already" video.


(Image credit: Courtesy of Parkwood Entertainment/Disney+)

This look was put together for the song "Find Your Way Back."


(Image credit: Courtesy of Parkwood Entertainment/Disney+)

A scene for the song "Already."


(Image credit: Courtesy of Parkwood Entertainment/Disney+)

This appeared in the scenes for "Find Your Way Back."


(Image credit: Courtesy of Parkwood Entertainment/Disney+)

This look accompanied the song "Brown Skin Girl."


(Image credit: Courtesy of Parkwood Entertainment/Disney+)

An ethereal setting for "Bigger."

"Already" Music Video From Black Is King

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Erin Fitzpatrick
Senior News Editor

Erin got her start as a Who What Wear intern over 12 years ago—back when the site only published a single story per day. (Who What Wear has since increased that number twentyfold.) She graduated magna cum laude from USC, which is how she ended up moving to Los Angeles from her hometown of San Diego. In college, she also interned at Refinery29, where she was promoted to editorial assistant and then assistant editor. After nearly three years at R29, she came back to WWW in 2016, where she currently holds the title of senior news editor (as well as the unofficial title of resident royal expert—in case you haven't noticed her numerous Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton stories). She spends her days trying to incorporate her idols, Anna Wintour and Roger Federer, into as many stories as possible. Outside of work, she loves tennis, classic rock, traveling, and smothering her dog with affection.