At this point, Beyoncé’s Renaissance world tour is part concert, part extended exercise in seeing just how many custom looks one pop star can commission and pack. Queen Bey has upended the typical stadium show model and turned it into an ever-changing format full of surprises and new looks.
Nearly every tour stop so far—there are 51 dates on the books in total, as of right now—has featured a new never-been-seen look designed by some of the biggest names in contemporary fashion. Off-White, Balmain, Brandon Blackwood, and on and on. What you may not have noticed, however, is that Bey often honors the country she’s in by wearing a designer who calls that nation home: Jacquemus for Marseille, France (the designer’s hometown); Alexander McQueen, David Koma, Robert Wun, and Stella McCartney for the singer’s five-night residency in London; custom Fendi in Barcelona that featured designs pulled from Spanish artist Antonio Lopez. It’s the pop star’s version of fashion diplomacy.
Using fashion as a medium to silently signal a connection and appreciation towards a culture or community is nothing new, but it’s more usually the territory of royals (see: Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle) and political figures (first lady Jill Biden being one great example). But then again, Beyoncé, with over 300 million followers on Instagram, is her own kind of head of state. The full-throated amplification of international voices feels even more poignant in a post-COVID landscape. Only a mere few years ago, such a large-scale world tour, bringing together thousands of people, was hard to imagine happening again.
But such is the sartorial savvy of Beyoncé. She has developed a penchant for pulling multiple looks—in varying colorways and shades—for a single tour, often bringing new custom looks in and out for a specific leg of a tour or a marquee performance. But the Renaissance world tour takes the idea of constant reinvention, long popular among female pop stars especially, to unprecedented heights. There is a seemingly never-ending stream of shiny, disco-era-inflected looks that build upon Renaissance’s ballroom-inspired sonic and visual aesthetic, styled by KJ Moody, Shiona Turini, and Julia Sarr-Jamois. There’s something campy and almost Barbie-like about the sheer scope of the singer’s wardrobe at this point. It aligns with the maximalist, more-is-more theme of Renaissance and its celebration of ballroom culture. In the underground world of ballroom and drag, largely populated by marginalized Black and brown queer voices, there is nothing more aspirational than unbounded excess.
It’s easy for one to get the sense that Beyoncé is changing clothes so frequently and so wildly not particularly because she has to maintain our attention, but because she wants to. It would make sense for an artist, album, and tour squarely focused on self-determination and control. One of the show’s interludes features an emcee, full of boastful sass, poking fun at fans’ never-ending pleas and thirst for supporting Renaissance music videos. “You’ve asked for the visuals,” the voice says. “You’ve called for the queen. But a queen moves at her own pace.” There are no visuals yet, but there has been an effective and fabulous exploration of the album’s world through a plethora of looks, including ones worn in the “I’m That Girl” teaser visual, appearances at the Grammys, and a haute couture collaboration with Olivier Rousteing at Balmain. In fact, the aesthetic has been so well constructed that fans are eagerly replicating and building upon it with their own looks.
There are undoubtedly more custom looks to come from Beyoncé—she has not even made her way through the reported 41 custom pairs of Jimmy Choo shoes she bought along for the ride. It would make sense if the North American section of the tour, which kicks off next month, features even more considered and specific references to cities. Wearing the designs of New York–based designer Telfar while in the New York City area could be fun and meaningful. Perhaps she could wear a gown by Taiwanese Canadian designer Jason Wu while performing in Toronto. There are a lot of possibilities. But then again, Beyoncé has always marched to the beat of her own fashion drum, so it’s possible she has different plans entirely. As she’s told us, a queen moves at her own pace.
Andreas Kronthaler for Vivienne Westwood
This article was originally published on Vogue.com