Words: Red Mosiane | Images: Harpers Bazaar, Billboard, Getty
The singer-songwriter extraordinaire, Solange Knowles has gone from just being “Beyonce’s little sister” with the embellished denim and ripped tank tops to one of, if not the, most influential black women in fashion this decade.
Even though she has always been stylish, her fashion metamorphosis began in 2009 when she bravely cut off almost all of her hair to pursue a natural hair journey. This was uncommon back then so she left mainstream media buzzing about her look with a lot of negative, often racist and sometimes anti-black comments. Looking back now, it’s quite clear that she made a conscious decision to own her blackness in a way many of her fellow stars were apprehensive to. Wearing her hair the way it grows out of her scalp was a bold political statement. Solange was affirming herself and black girls and women around the world in a way most of us didn’t even realize we needed.
In the years which have followed, Queen Solo has become an unmissable fashion icon and style inspiration to women the world over. Her box braids phase can be cited as one of her most iconic, considering that braids were still perceived in fashion as being for the ghetto.
But Solo didn’t stop at hair. Over the years we have seen the stunning beauty transition into a higher echelon of style. As she’s gotten older, her style has matured with the main constant being colour. She has been credited as being a main driver in setting almost every colour-heavy trend of the decade from playful colourful prints to neon colour blocking and bright monotone looks. Solange outshone her peers and made a name for herself by creating a look as bold and unapologetic as her personality.
Her sense of style is a careful mix of inspirations from 70s glam, high fashion, (actual street) streetwear, with a huge helping of Afrocentric elements all made visible through her dynamic flare for creating a captivating visual. This is why she can give us those wedding looks and photos which literally changed how black women dress and pose at weddings, red carpet looks unlike anyone else’s like her 2017 Grammy ensemble, music videos like those for ‘Losing You’ and ‘Don’t Touch My Hair’, as well as her designs from her time as an Art Director and Creative Consultant for Puma.
Solange is set apart by her own and her glam squad’s constant attention to detail. She never looks haphazardly put together but instead shows a great respect for fashion and even deeper understanding and love of who and what she is through her wardrobe. Whether or not her fans grasp it at the time, there is always a deeper message she is subliminally conveying through her outfits from her hair to makeup to how she mixes pieces.
In a society that has conditioned black women to not know how to appreciate our natural beauty and tries to take away our freedom of expression by calling us “too much”, Solange was a necessary barrier breaking force not only in the world of fashion, but in identity politics. She has shown us that we too can boldly exist. As black women, we have the right to define our own beauty and we have the agency to unashamedly decide how we want to look without limitations. Solange Knowles proved we can also be whichever kind of carefree we see fit even if it doesn’t correspond with the stereotypes society has placed on us.