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Beyoncé is having a week in recent news, none of which is her fault. Last week, a video from the NBA Finals showed Beyoncé visibly uncomfortable as the Golden State Warrior’s majority owner’s wife hollered over her to Beyoncé’s husband to ask him for his drink order, which sent the Beehive in to a ridiculous online bullying campaign that Beyoncé’s own publicist had to address to quell her frantic fans' online rage.
Days following, Vice released an article attacking Beyoncé’s fashion design skills, entitled “Beyoncé Is Great at Everything... Except Designing Clothes.”
As Vice’s Taylor Hosking, writer of the article, says, “The mediocrity of her new merch may come as a surprise to some who are still enjoying their 'Homecoming' Nefertiti-inspired merch or happily sipping tea from Lemonade mugs that read "BOY BYE." But for those of us who remember a few of Beyoncé's previous fashion endeavors, like House of Deréon and the original Ivy Park, it seems like designing fashion lines may be the one arena where Queen Bey has yet to be the trailblazer she typically is.”
Hosking continues on, slamming Beyoncé and mother Tina Knowles’ “House of Deréon,” which to be fair, was discontinued in 2012. However, anyone with curves knows the glory of sliding into a pair of Deréon jeans that felt tailored to all of your assets unlike the popular brands of the 2000s. True, some pieces were the intense type of styles one would see on stage or in a Vegas show, however, women, especially Black women, loved those Deréon jeans.
And Ivy Park? Sis, folks go up for Ivy Park. Hence why Beyoncé’s purchasing the brand back from TopShop (which even when they had ownership, sold and sold well) and establishing her helm driven collaboration with Adidas as a relaunch is drawing more than whispers of excitement.
Hosking seems to demand something out of Ivy Park that she didn’t out of Deréon: rebellion. She says, "The line's so-so athleisure wear was modeled largely by skinny white girls in sweatpants and sliders. There was no radical social commentary about beauty or athletics, though its name did reference a park where Beyoncé learned her signature self-discipline. But Beyoncé is clearly aware of the way sports can be used to challenge racial politics."
But isn’t that radical enough, to be a Black-owned brand that is just that, a Black-owned brand? Hosking seems to want Black Rage expressed in atheleisure form. But I think the real radical nature of brands owned by Black people is their ability to transcend the constant “woke” wheel popular culture attempts to keep them on for the sake of garnering trendy rage pieces in order to just be a brand, period. Beyoncé is plenty woke, that we see in her Super Bowl performance where she had dancers in afros and black berets reminiscent of the Black Panther Party; hell, her Beychella performance, an ode to HBCU life and art before Coachella’s typically very white audience, was probably one of the “wokest” things an artist could do. Is she not allowed to also create pieces that just speak to comfort and movement that athletic wear does?
What Hosking fails to realize in her avid criticism of Mrs. Carter is that Beyoncé is our time’s tastemaker.
Think about Beychella. That a full year later, there are numerous think pieces and articles still digesting the cultural significance of that history-making Coachella performance. Suddenly, marching bands have a cool factor (which interestingly enough, always existed in Black culture, but with Beyoncé’s exposure is suddenly cast in a positive light for popular culture that quite frankly simply didn’t exist before). They appear everywhere, including in a very reduced, flavor-free fashion during the Billboard Music Awards performance by Taylor Swift. I am not saying that we must wear or listen to or do everything Beyoncé says or does. But to ignore her ability to see trends and either shift them or take them and create new ones would be foolhardy.
Another element Hosking may not have considered; just because certain pieces don’t appeal to you, doesn’t mean they're not appealing at all. Certain styles just aren’t for everyone. True, this particular merch release is indeed minimalist, however, it does feature all of the aesthetic sensibilities of a different generation. Generation Z to be specific. Beyoncé’s beyhive bodysuits and tube socks scream younger hive energy while the Nefertiti and pro-Black pieces are millennial and up. This drop, while we can surely wear it, simply was not for us.
Hosking also makes a comparison to another major tastemaker of our time, Rihanna, saying, “We might be judging Beyoncé unfairly, or setting the bar too high, now that Rihanna has made it clear what Black fashion entrepreneurs can do, between catering to women of all skin tones and body sizes with her beauty lines and weaving Black fashion history lessons into her Fenty clothing launch in May."
This unfair comparison pits two very different artists together simply because of one thing they share in common: they are both Black women. By comparing the two, Hosking instantly negates the individuality that they both bring to the cultural table. Sure, both are musicians and designers in their own right, but outside of that, the similarities end there. In a move that was surprisingly made by another woman of color, Hosking reduces Black women entrepreneurs to a monolith, something that is too easy and quite dangerous. Both Beyoncé and Rihanna are enjoying creative success in their own realms doing a few similar things with different results because they are different individuals. And that is that.
At the end of it all, we are all entitled to our own opinions. If you don’t like the merch drop, just say that sis. You are allowed to not like things. Things are allowed to not resonate with you. Things are allowed to not be created for your sensibilities. All of that is fine. Beyoncé is a creative who has established the pinnacle of creative success. Not everyone is going to like it, but ask Beyoncé how she feels about it, I’m sure she will simply flash that genteel smile she has come to be known for, shrug her shoulders and go back to being the tastemaker of our times.