NEW YORK — “Two days ago this show was a hot a–, funky mess,” declared Solange Knowles, who had spent the hour prior performing at the Guggenheim on Thursday night as part of Red Bull Music Academy’s New York activations.
Two days ago was also when she met Telfar Clemens, the New York-based designer who outfitted her along with 60 other people for “An Ode To,” which was described in the program notes as “an interdisciplinary performance piece on meditation examining themes from ‘A Seat at the Table,” the critically acclaimed album she released last September.
Knowles looked to Clemens for help with executing her vision for the night, which included an audience dressed in all white sans cell phones — they were checked at the door — and a powerful ensemble of supporting dancers, musicians and background singers all dressed in Clemens’ reworked basics. Knowles and her backup singers wore similar styles: cocoa-colored cotton bodysuits with double-layered pants constructed out of T-shirt fabric, while the dancers were dressed in all-white sweat suits. Here, Clemens talks about what it was like working with Knowles.
WWD: How did this come about?
Telfar Clemens: She’s familiar with the brand and we’ve been talking about working on something for her tour for about a month. She sent me what she was interested in and the Guggenheim was the right time for us to collaborate. So luckily enough we were able to get together a couple of days before her show, and then I got to watch the dress rehearsal to see what the show was going to be like and we went from there and made some custom stuff.
WWD: What was the thinking behind what Knowles and the performers wore?
T.C.: Solange basically sent me an entire Telfar mood board with the pieces she liked from the recent and older collections and we worked from there based on the performance. The dance moves are intricate and tied into the story, so we wanted to enhance that and make each person look beautiful.
WWD: What about the color choices?
T.C.: Solange was really specific about colors. She would say “I love this color and I love a lot of white.” We pulled together a lot colors and saw what color would be good on a specific person. She literally dressed everyone. She had her eye on each person. She would say, “Let’s do this for them and maybe do that for them.” She knows exactly what is supposed to go where. It all just really gelled.
WWD: How do you think the themes you explore in your collections connect to the ideas she presented in “A Seat at the Table?”
T.C.: I think we are saying the same thing. When I heard the album I felt like this album is about me and it’s speaking to me. It was an honor to be asked to be a part of this experience. I mean that album was the best album of last year and this year. It was just a really honest album that actually is for us. Last night was really about displaying our talents as African-American people and just displaying our beauty and owning that.
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