For this special Fashion Week edition of “How I Get It Done,” we’re asking successful women about managing their careers and lives during this hectic time of year.
You’ve surely seen the work of stylist and Emmy-winning costume designer Zerina Akers in Lemonade and Black Is King. How does one become Beyoncé’s longtime collaborator? “It took ten years to become an overnight success,” Akers says.
In 2013, Akers had just graduated from college with a degree in fashion merchandising. One night, she invited a friend over for lasagna, and her friend asked to bring a friend. “I remember thinking to myself, I need this food to last a couple of days,” says Akers, who was on a budget. “Then I heard my aunt’s voice ringing in my head telling me never to be stingy with food.”
That friend of a friend was Kwasi Fordjour, who went on to become the creative director for Parkwood Entertainment, Beyoncé’s entertainment-and-management company. Fordjour put Akers up for a job as a closet assistant. It took a year of interviewing to get the gig of managing Bey’s personal wardrobe and packing her clothes. “That was my true master course,” Akers says. “I learned everything I know about performance workflow and functionality as well as how to style for music videos, how to dress a curvy woman, how to listen to what your client wants, how to pick up on when they feel good. All those valuable things are how, today, I am able to have really good relationships with my clients.” For the next ten years, she worked closely with Beyoncé.
Akers lives in Los Angeles and was recently in town for New York Fashion Week to support designers like Fe Noel, Sergio Hudson, and Jason Rembert, and to attend shows with her client, the artist Latto. She is also working with Express as a celebrity stylist. “For me, it was always about the pants,” Akers says. “So even when working with my curvier clients, jeans are the hardest thing, but when you can get that right fit, I get excited.” She also owns and curates Black Owned Everything, a shop featuring Black designers. Here, she shares how she gets it done during Fashion Week.
On her Fashion Week schedule:
It’s really crazy. There’s a Google spreadsheet that is color coded with who I’m dressing, gifting suites, presentations. More than likely, there’s a show in the morning, then I’ll come back to kind of refresh, maybe change, and then go on to the evening shows. And it depends, like, if there’s a party, maybe I’ll go to that, but I try to limit how long I’m out because then you have to do it all over again the next day. So it can get exhausting. I always say there’s industry hours and then there’s New York City hours. I usually try to avoid late nights, but maybe I’ll go once or twice if the vibes are right.
On what makes a Fashion Week a success:
What’s most important to me is establishing and building relationships, supporting the people who support you throughout the year. Also getting to work with some of my friends, like Fe Noel and Jason Rembert.
On her morning routine:
I usually am awake by 7:30 a.m. I try to have a big breakfast and then do my makeup. I like to leave the mornings relatively open for meetings or friends or people I haven’t seen in a while.
On her packing tips and tricks:
I try everything on before I leave home in L.A. I take pictures, selfies in the mirror. I try on everything — sunglasses, handbags, shoes — and I pack the outfits together. The shoes are so important. Sometimes it’s faster to take the train or to walk, you know, with traffic and everything. So I plan my outfit around shoes that are comfortable. I have a certain way that I fold. I don’t like to fold clothes on top of each other. I’ll fold like Marie Kondo so you see everything without rummaging through it. I almost got here in one suitcase. I bring a couple of cozy looks that are still cool just in case I want to cop out. I’ll also unpack if I’m somewhere for more than three days. That way you can separate the clean clothes and the dirty clothes, and it’s easier to unpack as well.
On the parts of her routine she forgoes during Fashion Week:
Gardening. I bought some new plants and didn’t get a chance to put them in the ground. When I get back there, I’d love to plant peppers that I want to grow.
I do a CBD bath bomb. It really relaxes my back. And I watch TV. Right now, I’m watching the reboot of The L Word. It’s hilarious that they were able to reboot that show and everyone looks the same. It’s kind of nice to just turn it off like that, have a laugh.
Do you ever skip Fashion Week shows that you’ve said you’ll go to, and if so, what do you do instead?
I sleep. Or sometimes, like this week, I’ll probably have to skip some that I agreed to attend because Latto is coming and I will be helping get her dressed or sitting with her. Then I’ve also agreed to style Jason Rembert’s Aliette show, so I may have to do a little bit more work.
What is your go-to Fashion Week meal?
If we were in Paris, I would say steak and fries.