Has an artiste ever owned fashion – and owned as much fashion – as Beyonce?


A file picture shows Beyonce attending the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards in 2016. Photo: AFP

Has there ever been an artiste who owned fashion – and owned as much fashion – as Beyonce Knowles Carter?

Although chances are slim that she will attend the Met Gala on May 6 (she hasn’t graced the party since 2016), she is practically a Met Gala unto herself.

She wore about 148 looks on her Renaissance world tour alone. More than 60 in her film Black Is King. More than a dozen in the under-two-minutes teaser video for I’m That Girl.

It has been both dazzling and groundbreaking to see her bend fashion to her will, bestowing the glowing crumbs of her attention on as wide a swath of designers as possible, while seemingly all of them clamour for her favour.

Name a brand; she has worn it. Probably a custom version of it.

And yet for all that, despite winning a “fashion icon” award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America and having her own fashion line, Ivy Park, and despite a high-fashion collaboration with Balmain, Beyonce has not really changed how people dress.

It may be counterintuitive, but generally she has seemed more interested in having fashion serve her, rather than serving fashion. Spreading her influence so widely has focused attention on no single name or aesthetic save her own.

Read more: The rodeo-inspired fashion trend rides high with Beyonce's new album release

Until now; with Cowboy Carter, finally, her fashion and her mission have become one and the same, and the effect is industry-shifting.

Even more than Taylor Swift, her fellow diva of the moment, she has determined the look of the moment.

According to a spokesperson for Lyst, the fashion search engine, Western-related product engagement is up 59% year-on-year for this quarter.

“We’ve seen a 51% increase in searches for ‘cowboy boots’, a 31% increase in searches for ‘Levi’s jeans’ since this song and the album dropped and a 57% increase featuring the keyword ‘cowboy’,” she said.

Searches for Ganni Western boots alone grew 224% between March and April, and searches for Y project Western jeans were up 610%.

Sure, cowboys have been edging their way into popular culture ever since Lil Nas X sang Old Town Road, Yellowstone became a hit and Bella Hadid started dating a rodeo star.

Ralph Lauren has been embracing the Hollywood West almost since he began.

But in Beyonce’s total and carefully calibrated cowboy-ification of everything, she has taken the phenomenon to an entirely different level.

Not just the multiple versions of denim, plaid, chaps and rodeo-glam, but also the enormous Alexander McQueen shearling on the cover of W, the beige Ferragamo suit and trench she wore to promote Cowboy Carter in Japan, the bejewelled dove gray Gaurav Gupta jacket and boots she wore to the Luar show.

All of it captured on Instagram and on Beyonce.com to preserve for posterity the aesthetic revolution of the Cowboy Carter” rollout – a campaign that could be a course of study in itself.

“She has mainstreamed country as a genre, and mainstreamed its aesthetics,” said Riche Richardson, a professor in the Africana Studies and Research Center at Cornell University who has taught a class called Beyonce Nation.

A file picture shows Beyonce performing in 2016. Photo: APA file picture shows Beyonce performing in 2016. Photo: AP

Marni Senofonte, the stylist who has worked with Beyonce for about 15 years and created many of the Cowboy Carter visuals, agreed.

“This is worldwide,” she said – even in the context of previous Beyonce fashion statements, like the historically Black colleges and universities moments of Coachella, the Black Panther ode of Formation and the puffed sleeves of Lemonade.

“It’s easily the biggest trend response we’ve seen.”

Alison Bringe, the chief marketing officer of Launchmetrics, the data analytics company, said that in the two weeks after the release of Beyonce’s Levi’s Jeans, the song generated an additional US$1.2mil (approximately RM5.7mil) in online and social media exposure for Levi’s — all of which, she said, can be attributed solely to Beyonce’s influence.

She continued: “Beyonce’s pivot into country music has served as a catalyst for a nearly 45% uptick in the prominence of Western and country styling within the broader fashion landscape.”

Part of this, Senofonte pointed out, has to do with access. Everyone can buy jeans, but not everyone has the ability to get, say, Jonathan Anderson of Loewe to design them a bodysuit as he did for Beyonce during her Renaissance tour (and not everyone wants to wear a bodysuit).

Part of it has to do with the fact that, Richardson of Cornell said, Beyonce has been seeding the ground for a while.

"Renaissance, Formation and Lemonade, to different degrees, built on questions and challenges related to national identity in terms of belonging,” Richardson said.

“This is a more mass expression of that project.”

But the Beyonce effect also has to do with a broader reclaiming of certain powerful mythology for women at a time when they seem to be increasingly disempowered.

After all, as Senofonte pointed out, Beyonce called her album Cowboy Carter, not Cowgirl Carter – and she does nothing by accident.

Read more: Taylor Swift, Aaliyah, Beyonce: Who are the biggest fashion stars in music?

She has been wearing chaps, cowboy hats and bolos, the semiology of the masculine West, rather than prairie skirts and ruffly blouses, their feminised equivalents.

The associations she is claiming for herself have to do with deeply embedded notions of the wide-open frontier, of swagger and sweat and territory. Of freedom and manifest destiny. She’s taking the imagery of Lonesome Dove and Riders Of The Purple Sage, of the Earps and Wild Bill Hickok, and inverting it.

“It’s a challenge to the conventional masculinity associated with that genre,” Richardson said of Beyonce’s all-cowboy hats all-the-time styling.

“She’s broadening the notion of who can wear this.”

And she’s showing everyone how to do it at the same time, using accessories to douse any outfit in the attitude of the frontier. That’s political in the broadest and most inclusive sense of the word.

While it would be a joy to see how she would have given a Western spin to “The Garden of Time,” the Met Gala’s dress code, it’s also possible to conjure up a prickly pear-festooned cowboy hat of the imagination.

She hasn’t just earned her spurs. She’s given everyone else permission to wear them. – The New York Times

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fashion , Beyonce , red carpet , Met Gala , Ivy Park


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