How Black Cowboys & A Calvin Klein Campaign Inspired The Visuals For Solange's When I Get Home

Photo: Brian Ach/Getty Images.
The Black yeehaw agenda is alive and well. But for Solange Knowles, it’s more than just an aesthetic. It’s a genuine lifestyle she showcases for the world on her latest album, When I Get Home, a love letter to her hometown of Houston, Texas.
The LP is accompanied by a visual component, a 33 minute film set to the songs on the album, shot by mostly Texas-based collaborators like her husband, Alan Ferguson, Terence Nance, Jacolby Satterwhire, and Ray Tintori to bring to life certain aspects of life back home that the musician had trouble describing otherwise.
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As it turns out, the inspiration behind it all arrived a year and a half ago with a Calvin Klein campaign.
“I did a Calvin Klein campaign which centred around Americana,” Beyoncé's younger sister shared on Sunday during the screening of her visual at Houston's Shape Community Center, where she often hung out as a child. “I remember getting the mood board and seeing interpretations of Americana. Not even on any controversial shit, it was just funny to me because all of the cowboys I know were Black.
The campaign centred around the idea of family. “The overarching message of the campaign has family at its centre, a display of unity between strong individuals, further emphasized by the symbolism of the traditional American quilt,” a statement from the all-American brand read in 2017, when the campaign was released.
Solange curated the campaign, choosing R&B singer Kelela, previous collaborator Dev Hynes (a.k.a. Blood Orange), plus Caroline Polachek and Kindness (a.k.a. Adam Bainbridge) to appear alongside her in branded Calvin Klein undies and denim. But that was just the start for Solo.
“Growing up here in Texas, in Almeda, you’re just going to see Black cowboys on the street. I don’t know John Wayne. I don’t know his story. I really don’t,” Knowles says. So it was important for her to show Black cowboys exist. “We’ve had to rewrite what Black History means for us since the beginning of time,” she continued. Her visual component to When I Get Home is meant to express the culture that sharped who she is as a person. “It’s not just an aesthetic, this is something that we actually live.”
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The CK campaign was Knowles ‘AHA’ moment, which helped her understand what Western culture has meant to broader America and the world, really. Antwaun Sargent, a writer and critic who interviewed Solange after her film’s debut for Sunday’s live-stream on Black Planet, made note of the rise in the ‘Black Yeehaw aesthetic on Twitter with a now-viral thread. Sargent tells Paper magazine: “I think what people are responding to is the fact that the Black cowboys and cowgirls have been erased from the pop imagination. This has kind-of been in the culture for a long time, but now people are celebrating it. It had been something had been purposefully erased from African-American culture.”
Pyer Moss and Telfar expressed similar sentiments, bringing the stories of Black cowboys to the fashion forefront. For Kerby Jean-Raymond’s Pyer Moss fall 2018 show he told the story of an underrepresented group of Americans: the original cowboy. Particularly, as he explained in a release in February 2018, “The phrase cowboy, which was meant to be demeaning and derogatory is being re-seen as regal and spiritual. Our hope is to continue to challenge traditional narratives of minority groups in this country and tell uplifting stories within our work, which encourage inclusion.”
Last month, during New York Fashion Week, Telfar Clemons reminded his showgoers we are all a little bit country. Janet Jackson’s “Anytime, Any Place” and Curtis Mayfield’s “Jesus” were remixed into country songs while he showcased his designs on a stage resembling a tattered American flag. “A lot of the shapes are classic American,” Clemens tells the Cut, “like a bell-bottom pant or a polo shirt.”
For Solange, spotlighting cowboys and giving a main stage to yeehaw is coming home again — but it seem Black fashion designers are right there with her, ready to redefine Americana.
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