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Portrait of Zerina Akers by Mariah McKenzie.
Beyoncé styled by Zerina Akers, courtesy of Zerina Akers.
Beyoncé styled by Zerina Akers, courtesy of Zerina Akers.
Portrait of Zarina Akers by Mariah McKenzie.
Fashion

Zerina Akers Uses Fashion to Focus on Representation, Authenticity, and Storytelling

By Eliza Jordan

January 7, 2022

The morning after the BET Awards, Zerina Akers joined us over the phone. The Los Angeles–based celebrity stylist and designer was still reveling in how her clients that night wowed the crowd with fashion glory, like Beyoncé in Alessandra Rich, Chlöe Bailey in Maison Valentino, and Megan Thee Stallion in Jean Paul Gaultier. Her prowess for dressing powerful women has garnered her much acclaim, yet the fusion of representation and reimagination is where Akers’s real work shines.

She also grew into a businesswoman, creating a safe space for Black creatives with an online platform named Black Owned Everything. The website and marketplace features an array of Black creators, ranging from photographers and fashion designers to chefs and spa owners, to increase the visibility of Black-owned brands. founded a nonprofit organization, the Akers and Akers Foundation, to promote business literacy and provide resources for budding creatives. Additionally, in September, she scored an Emmy Award for her costume design work in the film Black Is King.

With an honest and intentional voice, Akers shared with Whitewall why she remains dedicated to fashion and how she’s helping others realize their creative potentials.

Open Gallery

Portrait of Zerina Akers by Mariah McKenzie.

WHITEWALL: Between growing up in Maryland, attending the Art Institute in Philadelphia, interning in New York at W and Women’s Wear Daily, and working with the stylist Ray Oliveira on commercial projects, you’ve said you never truly saw yourself represented in the fashion world. Is it important for you to now create the type of voice you wished to see?

ZERINA AKERS: Representation from a very young age was very important to me, even before I knew what it was, because I wasn’t raised by my mother. I was raised by my aunt and my grandma.

Last night, Queen Latifah was honored at the BET Awards, and she is my childhood icon. What I didn’t realize then is that I connected with her because she was unapologetically herself. When we watched Living Single, all of my cousins and I would say, “You’re this person! I’m that person!” We were finally able to see ourselves in the characters.

It’s simple yet so important that I get to be that representation. It’s surreal and humbling because I put my head down and just worked. There’s been such a shift after the last year or so, with starting Black Owned Everything, that I realize I get to be that June Ambrose that I looked up to and wanted to be like.

WW: What does Black Owned Everything mean to you?

ZA: Black Owned Everything is kind of out of this world. It’s so much larger than me that the responsibility is so profound. We’ve become a go-to destination for discovery of Black business and generally beautiful things. I wanted it to be a window into our culture. Finding new things, and buying them, is a screen shot away. Everybody needs something that not everybody has. But it’s about supporting new designers and giving them visibility. It’s been tremendous, and it’s changed the trajectory of many of these brands’ businesses.

When everyone was talking about cancel culture, I was asking, “What about celebrating what we’re actually doing?” Let’s talk about the person who made this amazing purse. Let’s give people a place to come and feel supported. I intentionally wanted it to be a positive space because we’re bombarded with negativity on a daily basis.

WW: In 2014, when Ty Hunter was still dressing Beyoncé, you were added to the team to maintain her day-to-day wardrobe and style Instagram shots. Who were some new or emerging designers you added to her closet, like Kujta & Meri, A-Morir, Alon Livné, David Koma, KNWLS, and Natalia Fedner?

ZA: Some of these brands I’ve been watching for a long time, but I just didn’t have the space to give to them. Demestik by Reuben Reuel, who was working with African prints, was one of the early ones. We got together, picked out all this stuff, paired it with something she already had, and had fun. It was very innocent at the time; wanting to find people to work with. Then I realized I had a big platform.

Sarah at Tongoro Studio gave me a few looks, and she said she went from employing seven people to fifty. You never know the reach! For people like Sarah—imagine how many others are affected, how many families are taken care of now. That’s power, and that’s how to use power. That’s the definition of real influence.

WW: What designers are you loving right now?

ZA: I’m really loving Brian Blackwood. His bags are iconic, and I’m so happy for the way he’s pivoted his brand. I can’t help but to appreciate Kinsley Van Keshen’s unapologetic devotion to creating genderless and inclusive pieces. He’s growing in such a way that’ll be profound. I’m big fan of Fe Noel, who is still underrated and makes clothes that are stunning on the female body. When you put her things on, you feel like you dance across the room. It’s beautiful how she’s worked with gorgeous prints and collaborated with amazing artists. Sammy B’s been at this for a long time and will make you the most fabulous little two-piece set out of nowhere. Comfortable and cute sweat suits with feather detailing around the wrist and pant hem. The chicest things! And L’Enchanteur—its designers, Dynasty and Soull Ogun, are twins. The way they make  jewelry, they’re just creating, they’re barely designing. They are creating different moments—very special, one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry.

WW: How would you describe your personal style?

ZA: Experimental, severe, ever-changing, and twisted.

Open Gallery

Beyoncé styled by Zerina Akers, courtesy of Zerina Akers.
Winter 2022 Experience IssueZerina Akers

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