And now she’s this year’s CFDA Fashion Icon.
The iconic look marked a new direction for the star, who wasn’t always coveted as the icon she is now by the fashion industry. Designers initially wouldn’t lend to Destiny’s Child, so Miss Tina’s role as their seamstress was borne out of necessity. “In the beginning, we couldn’t pull clothes,” Ty shares, “so Miss Tina had to make everything. After Independent Women, we were finally able to get designers to loan to us.”
Now those same designers are knocking down the door to dress Beyoncé. She has a long-standing relationship with Riccardo Tisci, who’s dressed her for the Met Gala for the past five years. Lorraine Schwartz regularly sends precious jewels to accompany her red carpet outfits. The singer co-founded Gucci’s international charity campaign, Chime for Change, and wears designs from the fashion house for everything from music videos (Formation) to basketball games.
For emerging designers, dressing Beyoncé can propel your career into the stratosphere. When she wore Michael Costello to the 2014 Grammy Awards, the placement “opened the door for us as a company and a business,” Michael told Teen Vogue. “When we saw that look come out, it was a big breaking point for us. I think it really made people take us more seriously in this competitive market.”
Thankfully, Beyoncé makes discovering designers a common practice. On Instagram, she posted a photo in Demestiks by Reuben Reul, an African-inspired clothing line sold throughEtsy. “Beyoncè is the type of artist who will wear a Topshop shoe with a Givenchy dress if it looks good and it makes sense. She’s not about the label, she’s about the look,” Ty says.
It’s that ease that also helps her run her own labels. With her new activewear line with Topshop, Ivy Park, Beyoncé manages every aspect of the brand down to the smallest detail. The same was true for the now defunct House of Deréon. Even the brand names hold personal meaning for Beyoncé: House of Deréon was named after her grandmother, Agnéz Deréon, and Ivy Park is a nod to the park she visited as a child, her company, Parkwood Entertainment, and her daughter, Blue Ivy.
But this year was the very peak of Beyoncé’s style evolution. In Lemonade, Beyoncé weaved fashion into the deeply personal narrative brilliantly. There’s the juxtaposition of a sweet, ruffled yellow Roberto Cavalli dress as she stomps through a New Orleans street, destroying every thing in her path. In another scene, she’s defiant in a Hood by Air fur coat and Yeezy separates as she screams at her jilted lover. In search of healing, she finds herself on a cabin porch in Louisiana, wearing a simple cotton shift dress that invokes the glamour of the Victorian era and the antebellum South. And finally, Bey looks angelic in an ethereal Maria Lucia Hohan gown as she sings about dreams of freedom. The clothes portray the many facets of the femininity that Beyoncé conveys throughout the album — they are the drapery to her unapologetic womanhood.
From a design perspective, most of the clothes are a nod to the icon’s signature look: trend-conscious, figure-flattering, and most of all, accessible. Beyoncé rarely strays from that signature look, a fact that sometimes draws criticism from fashion insiders. When you talk about her style, people often cite her affinity for mermaid gowns and bodysuits. They claim she’s boring and predictable. But this is a woman who knows what she likes. She revels in dressing for her body.
Beyoncé is not the imaginative risk-taker that Rihanna is, and she doesn’t treat fashion as theater like Lady Gaga, both former CFDA Fashion Icon winners. Both of these women use fashion to inspire a story in their own ways, but Beyoncé’s approach is altogether different. It is her body — curvaceous, graceful, and strong — that tells the story when she walks into a room. Beyoncé steps onto the carpet first, then the clothes follow. She is the event…not her gowns.
In an age of look-at-me personal style that’s catered more towards Instagram likes than real life, Beyoncé emerges as something that’s not aspirational, it’s inspirational. Her style evolution is authentic and feels deeply personal: She’s emerged from the Southern charm of Tina’s homespun gowns to the world’s most elegant couture. One of Beyoncé’s greatest superpowers is her ability to reinvent herself right before our eyes: from trendy Destiny’s Child teen to the bat-wielding femme fatale in Lemonade.
For Beyoncé, the vision comes first, and the fashion follows. “She gives me an idea,” Ty explains of their process. “She’ll say ‘I want to look sexy or I want this to be angelic.’ She tells you what she wants and you have to get in her head and find clothing to bring it to life.”