This interview has been edited and condensed.
Tell me about your process with Solange for the videos.
First, I listened to the music, which was very special and very moving. Then Solange sat down with me and started to tell me how she wanted the visuals to look. It was really important for her that the visuals made black women and men look regal and majestic. She wanted the women, especially, to show sisterhood. So there was a lot of uniformity and making sure that everything matched, what I like to call twinning.
She had worked with Carlota Guerrero, the video’s art director, and they knew the color palette. Solange is known for prints, bright colors and color blocking, but she’s definitely evolved and is embracing these nudes and muted colors and this softness. But by the time she sat down with me, she had really concrete ideas about the location, and how she wanted it to look.
What looks does she gravitate toward?
I think aesthically she is unlike any other friend I have or anyone else I’ve worked with, because she doesn’t care about labels, about brands, about any of the contrived things. She really lets the clothes speak to her. She loves unknown and emerging designers. For example, a designer whose clothes are in Croatia in a museum. That actually happened.
Tell me about the Croatia piece.
We worked together for the Met Gala this year, and it was a really exciting theme for her. Her interpretation of the theme [Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology] was very different than other people’s. They all went metallics. And she was more about the construction of the piece, the architecture of the piece and the technology that went into designing it.
So she found this designer, and I found out that his work lived in this museum in Croatia. So it was basically impossible for me to get in time for the Met Gala. And I was also like, “I don’t think you can sit in this.” But when it came time to brainstorm and discuss the videos, I was able to pull up all of that research for the Met and thought, “It’s a video, so you don’t have to sit in it or eat in it.”
How does she find these designers?
I don’t know. I ask her all the time. It’s kind of in her nature to find these off-the-beaten-path brands. She will send me texts and emails of screenshots. She will never know the name brands or anything like that, because that is so irrelevant to her. So I’m on this treasure hunt to find where she found this, where she saw it, how it came to her. I think that is really special, because we work in an industry where the name holds so much weight. It was really refreshing to work with her. And to see that none of those things mean anything to her. We are a good balance, because I have brands I live and die by, but it makes me step out of my comfort zone and find other designers and celebrate them as well.
Tell me about the looks in “Don’t Touch My Hair.”
She wanted to create images where black men and women looked very regal and strong and beautiful. So we asked, “What are these iconic images in our culture?” And it’s Sean John velour tracksuits, do-rags and fur and finger waves. I don’t know if people know how hard it is to find Akademiks velour tracksuits in 2016. I had to buy some off a website from China and reach out to the brand and find some off Amazon. And then the blue pleated outfits, which were Solange’s reference to church choirs. In our black churches, the women are very pulled together. Their robes are very regal. But this is kind of the unexpected fashion twist to this.
And who was the designer?
Jaimee McKenna. Solange found her months ago for the Met. Solange likes to look at a lot of the Central Saint Martens students, and she was one of them. I somehow, someway, found a phone number to her dad, and was able to track her.
Wait. So you called her dad?
Yes. For another one of the designers, I DM’d her son on Instagram, because she didn’t have a website, didn’t have a LinkedIn, didn’t have anything. So I was like, “How can I find this person?” I went through every channel possible, and she had a really unique last name, and I found her son and slid up in his DM’s. I was like, “This might be a crazy question but do you know this person?” And he said, “Yeah, that’s my mom.”
The album is very much a celebration of black female empowerment. How was that a consideration in the looks?
I feel like it is such a theme in our day-to-day lives. We have a group text about it, and we have these unique experiences, because some of us work in magazines, one is a doctor, we have Solange, one is a director. We are blessed to have a group of outspoken women who are leaders in a range of fields, and we have these unique experiences, in a way, because we are black women. I feel that is present in everything that I do. But with this project in particular, it was about celebrating these iconic black images and artists.
Tell me about this look from “Cranes”:
Solange and her art director wanted to use a lot of natural materials, and they literally made that on set out of a plastic bag. Another one was made of yarn. One was foil. A lot of things for “Cranes” were homemade.
How does her style compare to yours?
We have very different styles. She loves proportions and what I call shape shifting. She loves what I call an emoji heel: a stacked, realistic heel. But I skew sexier in my everyday attire. I don’t push that on her, because that’s not her, and she’s not going to respond to that.
What was it like working on these videos?
I’m really proud of the way that she presents black people in this project. It is so nice to see us in this way, to see people that look like you in this way. And I don’t get a lot of that in fashion. I don’t get to sit at a fashion show and know I am going to see all these beautiful black women or people that look like me in the audience or on the runway. It was a really special project to help create that.