Above: Urban Outfitters bra; Chanel purse. Enlarge Image
We recently started seeing Solange Knowles at our favorite bands' gigs, rocking couture bunny ears, a luxe turban, and shoes so awesome, we could barely pay attention to the music—and the more we got to know the singer, the more we fell in love with her songs, her perspective, and—of course—her sensational style. Though she might have a super-famous older sister with whom she shares her Aphrodite-like looks and virtuoso voice, she's definitely her own woman through-and-through. A mother, a sister, a daughter, an artist, musician, writer, and singer…Solange wears many hats, and channeled a bit of love from each of them to create her third studio album, to be released later this fall. We met up with Solange at The Standard Hotel to gain a little insight into how she maintains her inspired style.
Above, left: Boxing Kitten Zou Zou top; Moschino Cheap & Chic pants. Above, right: Vintage jacket and belt; Max Azria silk tank; Zara pants; YSL shoes. Enlarge Image
Who are your style heroes?
"My mom in the '70s and '80s! She was a bad bitch. Sex and the City totally jacked her steez on the camels. I have a pic of her on a camel ride in Egypt in the '80s serving the hell out of that desert! Also, Diana Ross, The Fela Kuti Queens, Björk, '70s-era Chaka Khan, Chloë Sevigny, '90s Erykah Badu."
Above: A portion of Solange's killer shoe collection.Enlarge Image
What's your secret style weapon?
"Shoes! I'm all about the shoes! I order a ton of them online and play with my entire wardrobe until I find the right shoe. Unfortunately, so many people get it right from the head until the ankles. The shoe is very important. I can't even fuck with you if your shoe game is slacking."
Above: Helmut Lang blazer; vintage star dress; American Apparel bike shorts; Christian Louboutin studded oxfords. Enlarge Image
Tell us a little bit about working on the new album.
"I went up to Santa Barbara, found this house on five acres in the mountains and invited a bunch of amazing musicians to come live there with me for a month and just experiment. We woke up around 10 a.m. and made music until midnight, all of course while drinking good wine, picking avocados from the trees outside to make guacamole, and maybe enjoying a joint or two. I left the process a little crazy, but I really feel like I came into my own."
Musically, how is it going to be different from your previous records?
"'80s jams for sure! Early Chaka Khan, '80s Janet Jackson, S.O.S. Band, Prince, and of course the great Michael Jackson! We went extremely natural and raw when it came down to the production. Blowing into beer bottles, playing flower vases, tapping on chairs with pencils, and even recording a house party we had for Memorial Day as a sample. My previous record was extremely inspired by '60s Motown, and was very conceptual and polished. With this record, it was completely opposite. We kind of partied our way through an album. It was all about letting loose, and the boogie was very important."
Above: Chanel purse; Calgel manicure. Enlarge Image
You mentioned being inspired by Janet Jackson's "Pleasure Principle" video. Janet was a famous younger sister who really carved out her own identity and sound. Do you ever feel you have to work harder to differentiate yourself from your older sis?
"If anything, I feel like if I didn't have a sister who was a huge star, no one would think twice about how I look, because they would have no one to compare it to. I would just be another gal who wears loads of vintage or counts Grace Jones as inspiration. But because I'm Beyoncé's sister, I'm an easy target to say, 'There's no way those two had the same parents, and have one be naturally this way...this has to be a ploy for her to appear cool!' It makes me want to pull out pictures of five-year-old me next to nine-year-old her wearing a tutu over polka dot stockings and an old scarf over my head. It would be so much easier for me to put on a little black dress, straighten my hair, and sing about dancing in the club, but it's not my job to prove anything. I'm here to make music, to inspire myself. I'm not selling my likability, I'm sharing my journeys. If you don't like it, believe it's real, or understand it...then keep my name out of your mouth."
Above: Christian Louboutin suede stilettos, a birthday gift from her mom. Enlarge Image
What inspired the bold new 'do? You mentioned you can no longer hide with that hair, has it changed the way you see yourself?
"When I was recording, I was staying in a house with five guys and two showers. I knew there would be a shower wait everyday and with my natural cropped hair, it's mandatory that I wash it otherwise it gets stuck to my head like glue! I wanted to get something that I could literally roll out of bed without looking nuts. I watched so many Chaka Khan YouTube videos and became sort of obsessed with her during the process. I went to my stylist and said 'Give me the fro.' I walk differently now, sing differently; This hair has spirit and soul."
Above: Stella McCartney blazer; Levi's cut-off jean shorts; YSL stilettos. Enlarge Image
You've got such unique style, would you ever consider being involved in the family fashion business, House of Deréon?
"Why thank you very much! It's funny you ask because I initially was involved as the spokesperson, but the clothes just didn't reflect my personal style and I decided to hand that over. That's the great thing about my family. We work together so closely that if something's not working out, we can be honest about it and there won't be any grudges or issues. I wrote a couple of songs on my sister's last album and if there's a line she doesn't like, she changes it and we keep on moving. I will say though, they did just do a bedding line that I am extremely in love with and I was like, 'Can I model that... in my house?'"
Above: Betsey Johnson dress; Elizabeth & James shoes. Enlarge Image
Your nails are always a statement. Can you tell us about the wildest nail art you've tried?
"I went through a phase about two years ago where I had an extreme nail art addiction. I had British flag nails, ice cream cones, gold spikes...the whole nine yards. I still rock my nail art but with a little bit more simplicity now."
Above: Boxing Kitten Zou Zou top; Moschino Cheap & Chic pants. Enlarge Image
Do you have anything in your closet that you could never bear to throw away?
"Oh yes! A few things, but one in particular sticks out: A BCBG short, ruffled, floral, baby doll dress I've had since I was 16. I wore it at my wedding reception when I was 17. The waistline comes up to the middle of my boobs now, but I just can't let go of it. It's so perfect."
Above: Stella McCartney blazer; Aurel Schmidt for Opening Ceremony T-shirt; Levi's cut-off jean shorts; vintage belt. Enlarge Image
What's your best cheap score of late?
"A cream leather belt with a gold buckle I found at a vintage store in Santa Barbara for ten bucks. I wear it with everything now."
Above: Solange's colorful wardrobe on the bed at The Standard. Enlarge Image
You're friends with lots of Brooklyn bands—Grizzly Bear, Dirty Projectors—how do you see those bands inspiring R&B and Hip Hop?
"Well, to be honest, I think we inspire each other. Want to know who re-introduced me to "My Boo"? Edward Droste [of Grizzly Bear]. Who played TLC's "Creep" when I totally forgot what a jammer it was? Caroline Polachek [of Chairlift]. MGMT played Bone Thugs in Harmony's "Creepin On Ah Come Up" backstage after one of their shows and I had total junior high flashbacks. I think so many hip-hop artists are now jumping on this weird electro bandwagon thinking it will broaden their audience instead of doing what made them them in the first place. There's definitely a group of folks in hip-hop like Kanye, Q-Tip, and ?uestlove who know how to appreciate an album like Bitte Orca and see the beauty in it. As for R&B, I'm so bored with it. After being an R&B junkie for years, I actually turned to a lot of indie music because I was just so uninterested. I grew up loving Missy Elliott, Destiny's Child, SWV, Aaliyah, Carl Thomas, Melody... nowadays that substance and style are kind of dead with the exception of a few."
Above: Leaving the shoot with her son Jules. Enlarge Image
If your style were a song, what song would it be?
"For sure Q-Tip's 'Vivrant Thang'."
Shot at The Standard Hotel in NYC. See more of Kava Gorna's work at www.kavagorna.com and imgornagetyou.tumblr.com.
Photos by Kava Gorna/Jed Root