“Let Black be synonymous with glory,” says Beyoncé in Black Is King, the visual accompaniment to her 2019 album The Lion King: The Gift. Released early this morning on Disney+, the full-length film is a love letter to people of the African diaspora celebrating “the breadth and beauty of Black ancestry.”
Reimagining the story of The Lion King across the modern world (including South Africa, West Africa, Europe, New York, and L.A.), Black Is King follows a young boy’s journey to self-discovery. Beyoncé absorbed the lessons of past generations and explored African customs to present elements of Black history and African tradition, all with a contemporary twist. And that rich history manifests itself in all of the fashion, from the clothes to the accessories.
“The events of 2020 have made the film’s vision and message even more relevant, as people across the world embark on a historic journey. We are all in search of safety and light. Many of us want change,” said Beyoncé on her Instagram when promoting the film. “I believe that when Black people tell our own stories, we can shift the axis of the world and tell our REAL history of generational wealth and richness of soul that are not told in our history books. I pray that everyone sees the beauty and resilience of our people.”
While big brands like Balmain, Valentino, and Burberry were prominently featured, the creative team tapped into a pool of talented Black designers. Below, see some of the best looks featured in Black Is King from independent Black designers around the globe, all gathered by Beyoncé’s longtime stylist, Zerina Akers.
D.Bleu.Dazzled specializes in custom crystallized hosiery, lingerie, and performancewear. Founder Destiney Bleu worked with Beyoncé for The Formation Tour; she’s also worked with Lady Gaga, Shania Twain, Cardi B, Dapper Dan, and Gucci. Her diamond-encrusted bodysuit is truly hypnotic in the opening minutes of Black Is King.
Loza Maléombho, a West African designer based in Côte d’Ivoire, has “always stood for an image of African royalty” which she says Beyoncé embodies perfectly. For the film, she made a graphic, structured jacket with gold hardware.
Lace by Tanaya
Crystal fringe is Lace by Tanaya’s specialty. According to her Twitter, she made this glittering fringe dress for Beyoncé a year ago, and she’s thrilled to finally see it in action.
Déviant La Vie
Black Is King’s rope dresses are by Déviant La Vie, founded by Brittany Duet and her partner, Murph. The brand is known for bondage-inspired looks.
Born and raised in The Bronx, Jerome Lamaar launched 5:31 Jérôme in 2013 after working with designers like Kimora Lee Simmons and Ralph Rucci. His brand fuses his love for embellishments, maximalism, glamour, and street style — all of which come into play in the Nigerian lace and silk trench/dress hybrid in Black Is King.
Designer Venny Etienne of Levenity was a contestant on Project Runway season 17. The garments he created for Beyoncé represent his roots in the Marlboro projects in Brooklyn, where he grew up; his Haitian culture; and his current home in Dallas.
Brooklyn-based designer Sam Garvey made custom floral bodysuits for both Beyoncé and her background dancers.
During the part of the film that’s an ode to decadent excess, Beyoncé wore money-printed pajamas by Duckie Confetti. The pajama set was actually made available to purchase on Beyoncé’s website, and not surprisingly, it sold out quickly. Confetti is known for his theatrical and avant-garde looks. In addition to working with Beyoncé in the past, he’s also worked with musicians like Cardi B and Teyana Taylor.
Melissa Simon-Hartman is a London-born fashion and costume designer. Her Trinidadian and Ghanaian heritage influences the work in her own brand, Simon Hartman, which was featured on Beyoncé as the black queen chess piece in “Mood 4 Eva.”
Senegalese designer Adama Amanda Ndiaye is the founder of the brand Adama Paris; she also founded Dakar Fashion Week. She says her work aims to “promote female entrepreneurship in Senegal and Africa.”
Selam Fessahaye is a Swedish-Eritrean costume designer. This ruffled yellow dress comes from her first ready-to-wear collection, which launched in August 2018.
The shell pieces seen in the film are the work of Lafalaise Dion, who is inspired by African spirituality and the roots of the cowry shell. “It is time for us Black Africans to reconcile with our heritage and reclaim our culture; our spirituality, our gods and embrace it,” Dion says in a bio. “Our history, we must write it for ourselves. Therefore, I write mine, that of my people through my creations.”
A few of the large jewelry pieces in the film were made by L’Enchanteur, a brand founded by identical-twin designers Dynasty and Soull Ogun. Behind each of their pieces, they hope to communicate “timeless inspirations of spirituality.”