- Zerina Akers is Beyoncé's longtime personal stylist. She curated the wide array of outfits for the Grammy winner's recent visual album, "Black Is King."
- Most recently, Akers founded Black Owned Everything, an online marketplace that showcases Black designers and businesses.
- In conjunction with Black Owned Everything, Akers will launch a new foundation that will "incubate" three designers at a time and help connect them to cost-efficient manufacturers.
- Akers is on Insider's list of Luminaries: 25 women pushing boundaries and accomplishing extraordinary feats. Check out the full list here.
- Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.
One could argue that Beyoncé would not be the same culture-shaking Queen Bey without her elegant, meticulous, painfully chic wardrobe. And we have Zerina Akers to thank for that.
Akers realized she had a special connection to fashion when, as a child, she became "obsessed with this one particular Easter dress that was red with white polka dots."
"My family had to hide it from me because I would want to wear it to do everything," she told Insider. "I would scale the wall and climb up into the closet just to get that dress." Of course, her family was also an inspiration. "We've always had all of our fly aunties and my grandmother; it influences you," she said.
Akers began creating her own clothes in high school and later worked as an intern for W Magazine, Stella McCartney, and Janet Jackson's stylist, among others.
Now, she's the woman responsible for decorating music's most famous powerhouse.
In July, Beyoncé released "Black Is King," a visual journey through her "Lion King"-inspired album. The film overflows with ornate, symbolically dense fashion moments. While she couldn't divulge much about working for the Queen — Bey's ironclad press operation is notorious for a reason — Akers did share that "Black Is King" is her proudest achievement to date.
"It's really a full-circle feeling, starting with Beyoncé six years prior as a personal wardrobe stylist, and then evolving and being able to contribute to such a massive body of work," she said.
Akers curated more than 75 outfits for "Black Is King," calling on historic fashion houses like Valentino — which created a one-of-a-kind, hand-sewn, leopard-print couture jumpsuit for "Mood 4 Eva" — as well as independent boutiques and designers yet to be discovered by the mainstream.
Jerome Lamaar, who founded the "street glam" brand 5:31 Jérôme and designed a custom aqua look for the film, praised its wide array of contributors and inspirations. "As a man of color, from the Bronx, and self-made, it's important that we acknowledge how powerful this moment is for designers of color after fighting to be noticed," Lamaar told Fashion Bomb Daily.
Indeed, Akers is passionate about amplifying independent and diverse creators. She recently founded Black Owned Everything, a blossoming online marketplace that showcases Black designers and businesses.
"We started from the [Black Lives Matter] movement, as many corporations were being called out for a lack of participation in the community," she told Insider. "I thought, 'What better way to use your energy than to turn it inward?' And spotlight our brands and our creators in a way that's still inclusive, and to inspire people to diversify their shopping."
Akers began cataloguing Black-owned brands on Instagram in June
The feed was originally intended for her eyes only. She planned to use it when she went shopping for her clients, including artists like Chloe X Halle, Normani, and Karol G.
"It was something I was doing innocently and blindly. The intention was for it to be private and something I was able to have as a quick source for myself," she said.
When Akers decided to make the page public, "it spread like wildfire." In three days, Black Owned Everything had racked up 10,000 followers. Now, it has nearly 200,000, and the official website is slated for a Black Friday launch.
"I quickly realized that we needed to create a larger platform for these designers and these brands," Akers said. "I really want to position it not only as a marketplace but as an amplifier. It's a space we could have for ourselves and where we could tell our stories."
The marketplace will feature Black-owned brands involved in fashion, beauty, home goods, gifts, tech, and accessories. The launch will coincide with a three-month pop-up store in Los Angeles.
Akers is also working to develop additional social media content that "really supports the Black narrative."
"One side of it is really telling the Black story, and the other side is giving us a space where we can also create, even if it's just at home and creating a meal," she explained.
"We're shooting a few different cooking series, and other series surrounding food and health and wellness and yoga. I'm wanting to really, slowly but surely, create this 360-degree space where we're supporting Black creators," she continued. "That's really the goal here is to provide a safe, positively charged space."
"There's so much going on in the world. Just to provide a positively charged space where you know you can come here and read, learn, just be — and not be bombarded with feeling guilty, not being bombarded with feeling sad and being charged with all of this negative stuff. You come here to just support each other and coexist and learn about one another."
In conjunction with Black Owned Everything, Akers is launching a new foundation that will 'incubate' three designers at a time.
The Akers and Akers Foundation will connect designers with manufacturers that can help develop products in a cost-efficient way. A portion of proceeds from the marketplace will go toward keeping the foundation up and running.
The stylist's ambitious vision would be a boon for young creatives and business owners, many of whom may lack industry connections and financial literacy.
Despite the unprecedented challenges of a global pandemic, Akers is busier than ever
In some ways, she said, the adapted schedules and routines of quarantine have allowed her to flex her creative muscles like never before. Styling clients virtually has proved surprisingly rewarding. And even Black Owned Everything might not exist if it hadn't been for Akers' increased time alone.
"I was able to do it because I had the space. I had the freedom to sit and be online and just say, 'I want to create this,'" she said. "There are many people who've lost their jobs during this and have chosen a different outlet, or tried to explore something new and something different. That's been very exciting to watch and motivating."
"There have been times where I've honestly wanted to give up," she added. "I'm really wanting to approach it the right way, but at some point, I had to just say, 'It can't be perfect.'"
"If I could at all somehow make it work and influence some sort of change and help sustain these movements, I think I'd just be really proud of that."
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