The afrocentric fashion in ‘Black is King’

In a spectacular reimagining of the Lion King Story, the July 2020 release of Beyoncé Knowles-Carter’s full-length feature film Black is King could not have been more timely. As the world reeled around the tragic killing of George Floyd, and the rallying cry that Black Lives Matter, blackness has come under the spotlight in a way that has never been experienced before, and the film encapsulates the pervading mood of Black voices demanding true change and needing to tell their own stories their way.

Created as a visual accompaniment to Beyoncé’s 2019 album The Lion King: The Gift -the soundtrack she recorded for the film in which she voiced the character of Nala- Black is King is an ode to black excellence, celebrating in Beyoncé’s words “the breadth and beauty of Black ancestry”.

Black is King takes audiences on a journey across continents, exploring past generations and embracing the diversity in African culture and customs that through the ages have shaped Black history.

Using music and fashion to tell the story of Black history, once again Beyoncé has given Black designers and creatives a powerful platform in which to showcase their work to an international audience, providing a level of exposure that designer Sarah Diouf of Tongoro states “…is a way for the world to discover something new, that they wouldn’t have found out about by themselves, and African brands deserve to be seen.”

The looks throughout the film were pulled together by Beyoncé’s personal stylist and wardrobe curator Zerina Akers who has been instrumental in bringing Africa’s leading and emerging designers to the singer’s attention by actively seeking out talented, under the radar designers from around the world.

The featured Black designers and their creations include: an off-the-shoulder yellow ensemble with a matching headpiece by Adama Paris; a diamond-encrusted bodysuit by D.Bleu.Dazzled; rope dress by Déviant La Vie; money-printed pajamas by Duckie Confetti; a Nigerian lace and silk trench coat style dress and headdress by Jérôme Lamaar; a glittering fringe dress by Lace by Tanaya; a one-shoulder aqua tulle dress by KEÄMA; a structured black and white geometric patterned jacket by Loza Maléombho; custom body-hugging floral bodysuits by Sam Garvey Collective paired with a yellow floral jacket by Venny Etienne of Levenity; a billowy yellow dress from Selam Fessahaye’s first collection; and an off-the-shoulder houndstooth dress by Tongoro. Cowrie shell headpieces by LaFalaise Dion; L’Enchanteur statement jewellery; and majestic headpieces by Melissa Simon-Hartman added finishing touches.

Currently available on Disney+ Black is King is Beyoncé’s love letter to Africa and the contribution the continent’s diaspora have made to the world.

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