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The sin­gu­lar Erykah Badu’s amaz­ing style just goes on & on

RRule No. 1 of in­ter­view­ing Erykah Badu on the topic of fash­ion: Do not be so sim­ple as to pre­sume that her eclec­tic and ex­pan­sive wardrobe can be con­tained in a sin­gle closet. “Oh, do you mean my clos­ets?” she re­sponds when asked about where she stores her things. “My clos­ets look like full rooms. I am a col­lec­tor, after all.” She goes on to tell me that she hasn’t got­ten rid of one piece of cloth­ing since the mid-’90s, when she ap­peared, mi­rage­like, on the mu­sic scene as a soul god­dess in col­or­ful head wraps and slinky dresses. Her vast col­lec­tion re­sides in her home city of Dal­las, where she has lived for most of her 48 years. There she has “two big dress­ing rooms.” Pause. “And a few small clos­ets…and stor­age.” Pause. “And my grand­mother’s house—she doesn’t re­ally need all that space.”

Any­one who has watched Badu’s iconic mu­sic videos or seen her per­form (she still tours eight months out of the year) knows that fash­ion isn’t the only thing she col­lects. A cre­ative poly­math, she has a vo­ra­cious ap­petite for all forms of art and cul­ture. She’s a singer, a song­writer, a pro­ducer, a mama, an ac­tor. She’s also a doula for those who are com­ing into the world and for those who are leav­ing it. Badu says she doesn’t get much rest with this line of work and al­ways feels slightly deliri­ous. She has helped de­liver around 35 ba­bies, and the last one was coaxed out only after she gave the mother a spe­cial brew of tea, banged on a gong, and played hard-core hip-hop. “Ba­bies like Wu-tang,” she dead­pans.

Her last sig­nif­i­cant re­lease, But You Caint Use My Phone, came out in 2015. Since then Badu has of­fered

oc­ca­sional sonic gifts like the re­cent cover of Squeeze’s “Tempted” (with James Poyser from the Roots). But cre­at­ing an al­bum is an all-en­com­pass­ing en­deavor, and Badu is not up for it. “I can’t re­late to none of the shit that’s go­ing on, so I just kind of have to ac­cept that I’m in a down­load­ing pe­riod,” she says. Be­sides, she has other things she wants to do.

In De­cem­ber she is launch­ing her own on­line shop­ping em­po­rium called Badu World Mar­ket, in­spired in part by the New York City boot­leg par­ody art store and streetwear la­bel Chi­na­town Mar­ket. Her shop will fea­ture ev­ery­thing that in­ter­ests her, from Na­tive Amer­i­can herbs to Ja­panese geta san­dals to collaborat­ions with artists all over the globe. Badu also de­signed her own mer­chan­dise re­plete with a Badu World Mar­ket logo. She shows me a jazzy video in which her three kids—son Seven, 22, and daugh­ters Puma, 15, and Mars, 10—model the wares. The goal of the shop is to “en­cour­age net­work­ing among smaller brands and pres­ti­gious art houses,” says Badu. “It’s a hub to share space with all peo­ple.”

Badu knows her power and uses it to help artists who oth­er­wise might not get seen. In 2016 she helped put Pyer Moss de­signer Kerby Jean-ray­mond on the map after she styled his fall show. (He has since said that he wants to be the Erykah Badu of the fash­ion world.) Through so­cial me­dia she has been able to en­list de­sign­ers to cre­ate cus­tom opal-en­crusted grills and weaves made of re­cy­cled bot­tle caps (she is wear­ing one of them on the open­ing spread of this story). “I love chal­leng­ing them,” she says. “That’s part of the joy of hav­ing a plat­form. It’s kind of self­ish too. I just like it. I’m al­ways look­ing for the new new shit.”

When it comes to shop­ping for her­self, that typ­i­cally hap­pens when Badu is “Pms-ing.” She ap­pre­ci­ates the zen-like fo­cus re­quired to home in on the right gar­ment. “It’s kind of ther­a­peu­tic,” she says. “I’m very picky.” In those in­stances she will head to H. Lorenzo in Los Angeles or, when she’s in New York, Dover Street Mar­ket or East Vil­lage vin­tage stores. As a self-de­scribed thrift-store girl, Badu has re­cently pur­chased pieces by Os­car de la Renta, Valentino, and Jean Paul Gaultier.

Get­ting dressed at home is based on what­ever char­ac­ter or mood she is feel­ing at that mo­ment. “There’s the girl­who’s-cook­ing-pan­cakes look,” she says. What would she wear? “Oh, she might wear a ki­mono. A T-shirt. Black socks. There’s a look for ev­ery­body.” Some­times, she says, it takes, “like, 20 re­dos” be­fore she gets it right. “Some peo­ple have this gift where they can see their out­fit be­fore it’s on the body, and that makes a very good stylist. I don’t have that gift. I’m an artist, so I’m sculpt­ing as I go, elim­i­nat­ing along the way.”

Daugh­ter Mars, mean­while, is more con­cerned about what Badu will wear to school drop-offs. “She says, ‘Mama, please don’t come up here look­ing crazy.’ ”

The In­style team wit­nessed first­hand the lengths Badu will go to nail a look. From start to fin­ish our shoot took about 15 hours, but not be­cause Badu is a diva—far from it. Wigs, makeup, jewelry, hats, shoes, the works: Each out­fit evolved right be­fore our very eyes. She brought many of the ac­ces­sories from home (and they will soon be avail­able on Badu World Mar­ket). Around 1 a.m., after wrap­ping up her sec­ond-to-last shot, Badu, wear­ing a full Dior getup, a hat that re­sem­bles a top­knot, and face chains hang­ing from ears to col­lar­bone, started danc­ing as if she were in a trance­like state, jewelry jan­gling. “When she was fin­ished, we were so tired that we just clapped and cried a lit­tle bit,” said an ex­hil­a­rated but weary spec­ta­tor.

Whether Badu is in front of a crowd or at home in one of her many clos­ets is of lit­tle con­se­quence. In­spi­ra­tion strikes wher­ever and when­ever. “I have a good un­der­stand­ing of my own per­sonal style,” says Badu. “[I know] what looks good on my body, what col­ors look good on my skin. I’m not afraid to take risks. I mean, it’s all creativ­ity. Whether it’s writ­ing a song or do­ing a dance or mak­ing a film. I feel like I’m wit­ness­ing myself. I’m my own au­di­ence.”


Dior coat, blouse, jeans, and head scarf. Ilar­iusss x An­gos­tura hat. Gucci bracelets. From Badu’s col­lec­tion: cus­tom grill by Nep Sidhu. L’en­chanteur rings (col­or­ful stones). Studs, watches, nail pieces, and rings. Mi­col Ragni boots.

Bal­main pon­cho. Palm An­gels pants. Dior ear­rings. From Badu’s col­lec­tion: House of Flora with Neil Moodie head­piece. Cus­tom choker by Chris Ha­bana. Chris Ha­bana pearl han­dlet. An­gos­tura rings and fin­ger casts. Studs, watches, and bracelets. Off-white c/o Vir­gil Abloh boots.

Valentino cape. Raf Si­mons coat, pants, gloves, and bag. From Badu’s col­lec­tion: Jes­sica Pass hair pieces, mouth­piece, and ring. Mai­son Margiela tabi boots. EDI­TORS’ PICK For more di­men­sion, use a cream eye shadow, like May­belline New York Color­tat­too 24 Hour Eye­shadow ($8; may­belline .com), in place of primer, then top with pow­der.

Rick Owens blazer, T-shirt, and pants. Jo Miller hat. From Badu’s col­lec­tion: L’en­chanteur hair clip. Parts of Four tal­is­mans (crys­tals), bracelets, and rings. Amulets and tal­is­mans. Mi­col Ragni boots.

Mai­son Margiela trench­coat. Gucci jacket. Chris­tian Cowan wig cap. Gucci cuffs. From Badu’s col­lec­tion: L’en­chanteur hair clips. An­gos­tura rings and fin­ger casts. Into Into nail rings. Watches and bracelets.

Ni­cole Mclaugh­lin vest. Givenchy jacket and trousers. Off-white c/o Vir­gil Abloh dress. From Badu’s col­lec­tion: Gun­ner Foxx hat. L’en­chanteur head­piece. An­gos­tura rings and fin­ger casts. Into Into nail rings. Shirt, watches, and bracelets. Robert Wun boots. Hair: Chuck Amos for Jump Man­age­ment. Hair: Yas­min Amira Davis. Makeup: Frankie Boyd for Streeters. Man­i­cure: Yuko Wada for Ate­lier Man­age­ment. Set de­sign: Danielle Selig for The Mag­net Agency.

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