Ivorian designer Loza Maléombho on how her work wound up in Beyoncé's surprise "Formation" video
Loza Maléombho's SS16 Zaouli collection (left) featured by Beyoncé. Credit: Robin Harper; Source: beyonce.com
Everyone’s been talking about Beyoncé’s surprise “Formation” release. But what few realize is that one of our favorite designers at Okayafrica actually gets a major co-sign in the unapologetically black and proud video.
If you pay close enough attention, you’ll notice one of Queen B’s dancers donning a look by Ivorian fashion artist, designer and label founder Loza Maléombho. The piece is from the Abidjan-based label’s brilliant Spring/Summer 2016 Zaouli collection inspired by traditional masks from the northern region of Côte d’Ivoire.
Of course, this isn’t the first time Beyoncé has shown love to African artists. In 2011, B introduced the world to the Mozambican dance group Tofo Tofo in her “Run The World (Girls)” video. There’s also the time she gave Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “We Should All Be Feminists” speech the girl power anthem it deserved. Beyoncé’s “Grown Woman” features guest vocals from Guinean musician and FELA! On Broadway actor Ismael “Bonfils” Kouyaté. And speaking of Fela, last year The-Dreamrevealed Beyoncé once recorded a 20-track Fela Kuti-inspired album that has yet to see the light of day.
We asked Maléombho for the full scoop on how her own work wound up in the biggest music video of the year.
Did you know your work was going to be in Beyoncé's video?
Yes and no...
How did the collaboration happen? How was Beyoncé introduced to your work?
One of her stylists reached out to me for samples of different collections saying that they were going to be used in Beyoncé's video that weekend. She sent me images of samples I published on instagram so I guess Beyoncé saw them there? The stylist asked for 2 samples. I am based in Abidjan, Ivory Coast and was just asked on a Wednesday to send samples to Los Angeles for that Saturday. From past experiences I knew that sending samples meant there is only a tiny, "small" probability that they are going to be used. Just imagine how many samples are sent to Beyoncé for a video! I mean, I don't think anyone in their right mind says "No I am not sending samples to Beyoncé, I am busy right now!", so I would never forgive myself for turning down that chance.
There were more challenges than the deadline: She wanted samples I didn't have anymore and I was working on a production order. So I stopped whatever I was working on to custom-make samples for her and sent them all on Thursday, praying that they get to her on time and hoping to get a glimpse of them in the video. Then, I took my mind off it.
Tell us about the design featured in the video...
The sample that made it onto the screen is a look from my latest Spring Summer 2016 collection. That collection was inspired by Djela Lou Zaouli, a Guro Princess from the Northern region of Côte d'Ivoire, who is nowadays celebrated through a traditional mask dance.
What was your reaction when you saw the video?
I watched it 4 times!! You really only see it for a fraction of a second, so although I was excited for the surprise video I wasn't too sure about my samples being in it. I was looking to see them on Beyoncé the whole time. So it wasn't until I saw the image of Beyoncé with dancers posted on her website (One of her dancers wearing my garments), that it triggered a reaction from me. It sealed the deal, and I couldn't believe it!!
What else do you have in store for 2016?
I am working on a Fall winter collection right now and planning to come to New York Fashion week this fall. That should be interesting!
A photo posted by Loza Maléombho (@lozamaleombho) on
Reporting by Sumaya and Alyssa Klein.