Main courtesy of Tom and Lorenzo.
First Look: “ A Chrome Disco”
This look, supplied by Courreges, brings to mind the word “transcendance.” Absolutely everything about it, from the futuristic chrome-cast of the material, to the center mirror, gives the audience an air of surprise. Certainly, even for regular concert-goers, this look is new–not to mention, highly metaphorical. Perhaps, true to the album’s core message, the mirror accent is a metaphor for self-reflection in an age of overworked, self-sacrificing individuals.
Arnaud Valliant, one half of the pair that was responsible for the design and follow-through of this look was quoted as saying this about the outfit over the phone:
“It feels absolutely unbelievable to have collaborated with one of the greatest performers of all time, especially on closing the show. The look was inspired by a beautiful dress from our AW23 show, which was crafted from laser-cut metallic feathers all around. Designing the cape and collaborating with her stylist Julia [Sarr-Jamois] was a dream come true, we were so grateful and excited to see how everyone was so happy. When I first saw it on Twitter during opening night, I almost didn’t believe it was our work. I just keep going “Is this us? Is it our look?” Overall, this has been an incredible moment for all of us, and also our friends in Paris who also have worked tirelessly on this show.” Read more about this soon to be iconic outfit here.
While the team who produced the look and show might’ve worked very hard to pull it off, it is, admittedly, quite amazing to see Beyonce deviate from something which had been her brand for so many years. To be sure, Beyonce had nearly built her brand of music off of impressions of the modern “working woman,”: a soul who she envisioned to be an independent self-starter, unafraid of the hustle, raking in cash left and right from her various exploits. Simply take a few lyrics of her song “6 in Heels,” as an example: “She works for the money [...] From the start to the finish.”
Indeed, how did we go from publishing articles like this one in 2010…to ones like this in 2019? Arguably, through a massive shift in culture–one affecting even those at the top who can afford to attend expensive self care classes or take time off of work. Simultaneously, the people of today are more aware of the dangers of overworking, and yet more exposed to it. This leaves plenty of room for Beyonce’s new album Renaissance, as it signifies a renewal of values beyond material success, such as unabashed self love and self expression.
Second Look: “Hands of Gold”
As evidenced above, Lowe likes to place emphasis on body illusion. The black hands reaching into the gold imply a sensuality that is integral to Beyonce's new album: Renaissance.
According to Loewe itself, the basis of the inspiration for it’s contributions was as follows:
“The bespoke pieces have been created by the artisans at LOEWE’s ateliers in France and Spain, showcasing the house’s storied craftsmanship. Working in collaboration with costume designer Shiona Turini, the looks blend futuristic concepts with theatrical, disco-era aesthetics; robots and machines meet high shine crystals, latex and 3D printed leather pieces. The surrealist hand motifs from LOEWE’s FW22 runway are remixed onto bodysuits, and a colour palette of chrome, silver, black, white, grey is contrasted with bold reds and golds.”
All of Loewe’s looks convey a sense of sensuality through their sculpted shapes, meant to emphasize Beyonce’s natural body type. Additionally, the heavy emphasis placed on sequence in this sequence of outfits ties into Beyonce’s most important Renaissance theme: a carefree attitude.
An article written by Bianca Betancourt published the following quote from Beyonce, written before the release of her album, and addressing the intent behind the songs she had created:
"Creating this album allowed me a place to dream and to find escape during a scary time for the world. It allowed me to feel free and adventurous in a time when little else was moving. My intention was to create a safe place, a place without judgment. A place to be free of perfectionism and overthinking. A place to scream, release, feel freedom. It was a beautiful journey of exploration…Thank you to all of the pioneers who originate culture, to all of the fallen angels whose contributions have gone unrecognized for far too long. This is a celebration for you."
Third Look: “A Wrinkle in Time (The Film) Returns”
The above look might bring to mind memories of a certain, universally panned film. However, it has a greater context within the new Renaissance Album.
Billowing sleeves in ethereal shades of pink, cast in silver. Beyonce rocks an unusual look that might veer space age, might veer divine goddess. Whatever the core inspiration behind this outfit was, it certainly left an impression on concertgoers!
Previously, Beyonce has been heralded as being pro-worker, setting an example and standard of hustling to be followed by the lesser dressed masses. However, this new album seeks to move beyond that, to something that may better resonate with today’s overworked, post-pandemic consumer. The free-flowingness of this outfit suggests themes of transcendence and other-worldliness.
Beyonce’s Message to Us All
As any costume designer will tell you, outfits are rarely just that. They are composite pieces, composed of various sources of inspiration, thematics, and pop-culture references. Much like a Murakami book, all is not as it appears, and even the smallest detail can carry the greatest significance.
According to her album’s liner notes, Beyonce wrote Renaissance, among other reasons, to be a celebration of queer culture. In particular, she notes the queer people in her family. She had a cousin die of HIV/aids during the crisis, as well as a gay uncle who she says was key to the raising of her and her sister, as well as “the most fabulous gay man I’d ever met.” Being queer in an openly homophobic time, he taught her about living her truth regardless of the prejudice of others.
Beyonce’s album, and her outfits in particular, convey this message through their sense of carefree fabulousness and creative artistry. They are not outfits that can easily be realigned to a single buzzword: elegant, sparkly, unconventional. Rather, they tell a story that goes beyond just that.
How She Conveys This
The lines in her songs reference past outfits:
- “Uncle Johnny made my dress/That cheap Spandex, she looks a mess.”
As well as contributions to her album:
- “Thank you to all of the pioneers who originated culture, to all of the fallen angels whose contributions have gone unrecognized for far too long. This is a celebration for you.”
However, Renaissance is not just a tribute to queer culture. It is also a tribute to her own femininity and sexuality.
In the art world–and music industry in particular–the line separating made for the consumer and made for the artist is quite thin and ambiguous. There are still many questions that Beyonce’s new album calls into question. For example, if this is a celebration of her own achievements and revelations, why is the public buying into it? If it is a tribute, where does public consumption of a product even enter the equation? Can celebration and triumph be found through the music and outfits themselves? Asking yourself these questions only raises more, and eventually leads down a rabbit hole of non-conducive discussion for everyone…
Perhaps, it is best to simply take Beyonce’s new album and it’s subsequent outfit symbolism as exactly what they were intended to be: a challenge to be risen to. The hope that, by calling to attention the triumphs of many queer people in America, and by unapologetically expressing herself, she might just inspire others to do the same.
After all, what is a renaissance but a coming back to life of the arts? And who, historically, has been more involved in the arts than queer people? Beyonce’s Renaissance manifests in an explosion of glitter and designer brands, and she pulls it off quite well.