Solange literally means “angel of the sun,” so it should come as no surprise that she may be one of the most ethereal beings you might ever meet. And yet somehow she’s also one of the most down to earth — we were happy to learn this ourselves upon meeting her at the Reebok Classics Crib during Coachella.
The festival itself was stacked with a three-day lineup ushering in thousands upon thousands of people to the desert of Indio, California, but Solange graced only about 30 people with an intimate concert set against the backdrop of the Crib’s backyard lake while wearing an angelic, all-white ensemble complete with the Reebok Classic Leather — and it was ever bit as majestic as you might think. After performing A Seat at the Table, her most introspective and emotionally stirring work to date, she opened up even more with us and got real about the album, art, fashion and style.
1. A Seat at the Table took “a long fucking time” to finish:
It was straining at times, and I lost perspective and context many times. And I’m also a mother, so I don’t have the luxury of just saying, “Oh I’m gonna go away and write this album.” I had to be conscientious of both at that time. And so, sometimes I’d spend 2 weeks in it. He’d be there. And that also is something that I wish more female women mother artists would talk about. That balance is really difficult. And I would have to take breaks and come back and feel free and start again. It was quite a journey, and it wasn’t until maybe actually about only 3 months before the album came out that I actually felt like, “Okay, I have an album here.” And I think as creators and artists, sometimes those voices are in your head and they’re discouraging. And they are going wild. So I really had to silence myself, because of what this album was about. To tell myself it’s okay if it’s mad, it it’s sad, if it’s messy, if it’s vulnerable. That took time to get to.
2. She’s not afraid of failure:
3. Living in New York actually strained her style:
From a performance standpoint, it’s really interesting because moving to New Orleans, people are so 100-percent distinctively themselves. If they like crushed velvet, they will wear it head to toe, everyday. 100 degrees or not. Whatever the style is, they’re committing to it in every facet. And so that really gave me the courage to express myself in ways that in New York I was maybe a bit more self-conscious about. It’s been really fun to evolve into that. After three years of that, I just wanted to wear T-shirts everyday. I’m kinda easing into this minimalist phase where I think I’m so focused on my work and my craft and my artistry that style has kinda just eased into the whole aesthetic of the project. And that’s okay. I’m having fun with it. And it’s really nice to style the band and experiment through looks with that. Style is so important. It’s our DNA. It’s what makes us, us.
“It feels so much more fun now that I’ve gotten to that place where it’s just fucking clothes.”
4. She uses Instagram to find new fashion brands:
I had a stylist once who could not fathom why I wanted to wear these brands I found on Instagram; just random shit that I find when Dior and all these people are like, “We’ll dress you! We’ll create something for you!” That’s such an honor and super flattering, but there’s a time and a place for everything. It feels so much more fun now that I’ve gotten to that place where it’s just fucking clothes. I mean still try on my three looks and do my dance in the mirror.
5. She went through a gothic phase in high school:
Actually one of the girls in my band, Michelle, we went to junior high school together. We decided to be goth for like a month. Actually a teacher pulled her to the side and was like, “Black girls don’t be wearing all of this black shit. You gotta take this shit off.” And of course that made us go even harder. I kinda created this at a super young age where I was like, “I’m a style icon.” And I looked a mess half of the time. It worked out. Just playin’.
6. Originality isn’t really original in her opinion:
The older I get, the more I realize there’s nothing new under the sun. And I’m okay with embracing that a little bit more, especially “Junie” is actually a lot about — it has like 10 different meanings — but one of them is actually about originality and how as young black creatives, often times we’re pegged against one another and the conversation is often, “This person copied this person, and this person copied this one.” There’s this idea as young black creatives, if you are onto something alternative or left from the center then certainly you had to get it from someone else. “Junie” is really about accepting as you get older, if someone is inspired or influenced by your style, what are you gonna do when they come after that? Open up yourself as a vessel to explore and share.
I think the more and more I wrote this album, the lighter I felt. Just the load that I was carrying alone everyday and the burden and the nuances of it feeling so insular. I think one of the most powerful things that I think we as people of color can experience is someone telling us we’re not crazy when we go through these things everyday; these microaggressions and these expressions. Just someone saying, “Yeah, we all go through them. Let’s open a dialogue. Let’s try to finding and solace in them.” It’s been really wonderful for me as a human to get that out in the world and to experience the benefits of feeling lighter because of it.
8. She struggles with being “strong”:
I think that we as women, we face a lot of challenges on a daily basis where we really have to stand firm in our walk and our intentions. There are absolutely times where that weight feels too heavy and it feels a little bit like I can’t do it. I think that I try to work through that in my work and through my art and whatever medium that might be.
9. She believes timelessness trumps being classic:
I am a little bit more conscientious of creating something a little bit more classic, but I think in the same way, we get to redefine what classic means and we get to define that on our own terms. For me, it’s just about authenticity. That’s classic to me…But I think that creating something timeless has more and more important, even when it’s something silly like going to the Met Ball.
10. She’s optimistic about how the fashion industry is changing:
I’m really excited that it seems to me that the fashion industry is evolving and is changing and is doing a much better job in representation – whether it be women of color, women of different shapes and sizes and creeds and religions. I’m seeing more of that. I think that it’s been a long time coming. I think that some things might have had to happen to wake people up a little bit. But I definitely think there were issues with tokenism; issues of misrepresentation. I think I’m optimistic that I see a change and evolution and just the conversation that these archetypes gotta go. We can be very political and have long weaves down our asses. We don’t have to check off these boxes. And that feels really good to see. I’m really really excited about that.