This week’s #akommendedquote is by fashion and multicultural pioneer and Founder of Black Owned Everything, Zerina Akers. Akers represents a vivid take on contemporary fashion itself. Visionary, daring, multifaceted; three words often overused and hardly justified in their usage. And when applied to individuals, even rarer. However, when speaking of multifaceted stylist and designer Zerina Akers, it isn’t easy to find any other words to describe her. Most known for being the creative force behind some of Beyonce’s most iconic outfits and overall style representation, Akers has been able to initiate, maintain and define cultural attention to her work (with the superstar) in terms of style, the perception, and the acceptance of it, in multiple ways and representations.
Always artistical and culturally driven, Zerina Akers was known to organize fashion shows during her high school days. While in college, Akers initially pursued a degree in design at the Art Institute of Philadelphia. However, she soon concluded that designing clothing wasn’t her destination. At the time, she recalls, “I realized I didn’t have a passion for constructing garments.” As a result, she pursued a change of pace and landed an internship with W Magazine. While there, Akers found her niche and made personal developments in her understanding of what clothing meant. For her, “to see the most coveted items off of the runway firsthand, how it moved, the fabrics, the construction. On the flip side, it took away the value of merchandise … to see a pile of designer shoes … It felt like it was a dime a dozen. They were just things”. From this perspective, Akers saw that clothing was material and, while it was pleasant, it did not stop it from just being that. It would take a lot more personality to give meaning to the clothing, which would stay in her mind for future work.
At the same time, Akers also became conscious of the position she found herself in as being one of the two black women at the publication. It became evident for her that there were differences that differentiated her colleagues. “I remember being in that space and not being myself or a lot of women who came from similar backgrounds. Many people either came from money or had married up”. Nevertheless, these differences wouldn’t stop Akers from moving on to bigger and better things. She became an assistant for stylist Ray Oliveira and garnered industry experience working in Avon and Tj Maxx commercials. Soon after this experience, Akers found work with Brooks Brothers’ catalog team. However, things would take a more significant turn when she assisted B. Akerlund in one of Beyonce’s photoshoots. Akers had an Epiphone during this shoot and inspired her to pursue creative endeavors with her work. In an interview with Vogue, she enthusiastically remembers that “It was a cool way to be back in this world of luxurious high fashion fantasy without submitting to the hierarchical society where you can’t speak in the room, and only one person’s voice matters.”
Since 2014, Akers and Beyonce have collaborated. It started with Instagram posts and contributed to Beyonce’s music videos from her album Lemonade. Some of her outfits made their way into the music video for “Formation.” However, it would be pale compared to the centurion level of effort when it came to Beyonce’s album, and film Black is King. From many outfits and collaboration with various people in the industry, it became a project layered with a rainbow of crafts. The African influences and the black business emphasis transcended the mere expectations of indulgence. For Akers, it represented so much more than a simple music project. “At the end of the day, we’re making something that will outlive us all … Truly, it’s an honor. I shed a tear when the babies are learning the dances and recreating the looks.” Indeed, the images presented and ideas around the celebration of blackness are one that brings people together. Her recent project, Black Owned Everything, goes an extra mile to convey and celebrate her culturally driven passion.
“Black Owned Everything will serve as a content hub for creators to virtually connect with designers through immersive storytelling and activated experiences with the idea of becoming a destination for Black-owned excellence,” Akers shared in a press release.
This truly is only the beginning for Zerina Akers, who personifies as an inspiration to other young black creatives to work hard and aim for the highest ceilings.