Solange Knowles: How her visual album puts the spotlight on race, fashion and gender

Solange Knowles' track from her new visual album: 'Don't Touch My Hair'

My social media has been abuzz this week with the news that Solange Knowles dropped her latest album, A Seat at the Table. We are in a musical age where songs are not just songs anymore, and albums are not just albums, the industry has had to adjust and grow with the times. Now as musicians surprise us with albums (we’re looking at you Kanye West) build a suspense and then drop two albums back to back (Frank Ocean); the marketing, but more the message, of each song has never been more important.

This brings us to Solange and her new album A Seat at the Table, which arguably has made the biggest splash in terms of its drop, the visuals and the social message. It is part fashion lookbook, part music album. The context, content and format make you reconsider what a traditional album even is anymore.

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Solange’s album has us listening intently, and more importantly, watching also. How could you not? Her choice of music video for her title track from the album “Don’t Touch My Hair” is an ode to blackness and modern black power, intersectionality, and the future of fashion. 

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Purposefully and gracefully collaborating with Los Angeles-based fashion house Phlemuns, fronted by creative director and founder James Flemons, Solange chose some key looks to bring to the fashion world’s table. While singing lyrics about the modern, multi-faceted identities of black women in America, she rocked a gender-neutral brand created with the purpose, as stated on his website, of “striv[ing] to create clothes that people will want to wear and hold on to forever”. This is a bold statement from a young designer in our current ‘moodboard-to-market-and-repeat’ industry, given the prevalence and domination of fast-fashion. Phlemuns proposes a very different future, a slower and craft-based one, all while serving looks that can compete with the best and biggest fashion houses.

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This important collaboration shows that mainstream society is slowly changing: celebrities are no longer left out of contemporary political discourse and are often the ones propelling it forward, bringing once underground movements like Black Lives Matter to the forefront. Given the United States extremely turbulent history of racialised violence, one can’t step onto social media (or the streets) without taking notice of the ever-fluctuating current political context. From the Black Lives Matter movement to mainstream media and music, society is finally starting to notice that something just isn’t right and fashion brands, musicians, and cultural influencers are no longer staying silent on the subjects that matter. 

Solange’s lyrics in “Don’t Touch My Hair” address the objectification and perception of black women by mainstream society, while her collaboration with Phlemuns is a statement of her solidarity with young designers, the future of fashion, and a boost up from one black creative to another. If this is the sound of the future (and I truly hope it is), sign me up. 

Check out the video below, and check Phlemuns’ masterfully curated Instagram for more looks.

Curious to know more about slow fashion, fashion and politics, or the rise of unisex collections?

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