Happy Birthday Solange Piaget Knowles! Haley wrote this piece just last year and already so much has changed for Solo. New projects, blonde braids and an upcoming IKEA collab, it has been a good year for my personal queen and savior. Please take a quick tour through some of Solange’s best looks and share a few of your faves in the comments. -Nora
Solange has been a fashion icon for a long time, but in 2015, something changed. When Leandra wrote her rules of style a couple years ago, it was essentially an ode to pattern-mixing. “Pants are optional, prints are not,” she wrote. The accompanying slideshow still hits — it’s good — but knowing Solange’s style now, I can almost detect a layer of uncertainty in how she held herself: her hand posed stiffly on her hip, her lips pulled into a people-pleasing smile, the clothes, in some cases, wearing her.
Now, Solange doesn’t do patterns. Now, her chin tilts ever-so-slightly up. She walks unhurriedly, for no one, and her eyelids blink languidly, which is impossible to prove but has to be true. Now, she looks at the camera as if to say, I love you but don’t care what you think.
I bow at her conviction. She seems so self-assured. And she looks so good all the time. “She doesn’t need a stylist,” Shiona Turini told the New York Times. Turini styled Solange in 2015 (now Solange works with Peju Famojure), but said it was more like being her fashion collaborator. “She has the final decision on anything. And there is no way me or anyone else is going to get her to wear something she doesn’t want to wear.” Solange’s aesthetic taste is unlike anyone’s Turini’s worked with. There is little concern for brands or labels; there is only room for things that “speak to her.”
Without prints and patterns, Solange’s style isn’t just about being monochrome — although a ton of fashion outlets have written up her color-blocking. To call her style minimalist or maximalist would fail to capture it, because she’s capable of spanning the whole spectrum in one fell swoop. And she does it over and over. She rarely sits between the two extremes. Instead, she marries the compelling bits of both without losing the allure of either.
She’s both a plain-gray-sweats type and a 3D-textured-knit type:
A simple-dress-with-heels type and a bold-structural-statement type:
A jeans-and-white-T-shirt type and a weird-pants-big-sleeves type:
A plain-black-puffer-coat type and an avant-garde type:
Never either, always both. It’s art without trying to be.
I’m a stranger to Solange, not by choice, so I can only guess at all the moving parts that inspired her shift in style. But one factor is undoubtedly the creation of her album A Seat at the Table — which Rolling Stone described as a “record about black survival in 2016,” and one that “walks softly, speaks radically.” The same could be applied to Solange herself, and it’s evident in her style, too.
As she recently told Fashionista, “Since this record has come out, I think it’s been really important to me to really communicate through all of the facets of imagery and art that are associated with the album…[I]t’s kind of evolved…to a much more understated, minimal and direct way of communicating through fashion and style.” On her evolution, she also said her new attitude felt like a relief: “It feels so much more fun now that I’ve gotten to that place where it’s just like, ‘It’s just fucking clothes.’”
It’s refreshing when a shift in tone is so obviously authentic and emotional, rather than the result of a new stylist, new budget or new brand strategy. Maybe that’s because Solange understands style is not a competition, but a pure expression of self. Maybe that’s why just fucking clothes look so good on her.
Feature photos by Kevin Mazur and Andrew Toth via Getty Images.