Although Beyoncé has a team to outfit her from street to stage, she has another expert working in her Beyhive. Fashion stylist Zerina Akers was behind the Grammy winner’s jaw-dropping look — an aqua veil and floral silk organza dress from Palomo Spain’s buzzy debut collection — that caused a social media frenzy in July when the star presented her twins, Sir and Rumi, to the world on Instagram.
Besides working for Queen Bey, the 31-year-old super-stylist also counts as clients director Ava DuVernay (who won Creative Arts Emmys for her documentary, “13th,” last weekend), actress Yara Shahidi and R&B duo Chloe x Halle, signed by Beyoncé’s Parkwood Entertainment company.
Donning an orange-red Topshop jacket and trousers with a striped Balmain x H&M silk shirt, Akers sat down in a suite at Palihouse hotel in West Hollywood (with a lawyer present, as she’s legally prohibited from discussing her clients) to talk about her partnership with Dove, what style trends she’s loving and what she enjoys about Los Angeles. Here’s an excerpt from our conversation.
Were you always into fashion?
I discovered a love of fashion growing up in Landover, Md. I’d dig into magazines and test myself to see if I could pinpoint designers without looking at the credits. My [maternal] grandmother taught me to sew in a straight line, make a shirt and play with patterns. That turned into me making a mess of a bedroom, cutting up my clothes and sewing them back together. I was a fashion Frankenstein, but it resulted in a 70-piece collection in high school called 831 [code for “I love you”].
How did you get into styling?
I shopped at thrift stores and did photo shoots with friends to help them figure out what worked for their body type. In stores, I would help the woman in the next fitting room choose the right color dress. When it came to interviewing for an internship atW magazine [in 2007], I had a portfolio of ideas. … I went on to assist stylists Camilla Nickerson, Lori Goldstein, Puff Daddy’s stylist Derek Roche, Janet Jackson’s stylist Robért Behar and [stylist] Ray Oliveira, who passed me some opportunities, and everything opened from there. In 2014, I decided to go out on my own.
There’s a certain level of pride and confidence that comes through with the people I style.
— Zerina Akers
And why did you sign on to be a spokeswoman for Dove Invisible Dry Spray?
I’m a huge fan of Dove. I really appreciate the heritage they celebrate with real women and real beauty; something I’m happy to be aligned with because I love styling more shapely women and showing the world that everyone can look great.
Do you have style signatures regardless of the client?
There’s a certain level of pride and confidence that comes through with the people I style. I’m not afraid of mixing prints and I like to play with color. Color photographs so well and brings a whole different energy and vibe. Even darker colors like navy velvet or jewel tones — emerald, deep purple, burgundy — can be vibrant and sophisticated. You can start there and pair that burgundy with a hot pink one day.
What are you loving right now on your shopping list?
What [French brand] Y/Project is doing is really ingenious. I love twisted basics, a button-front shirt deconstructed to also button down the sleeves, so you can wear it different ways. Bouguessa is a Dubai designer I really appreciate because she’s maintained an aesthetic for her culture where everything is fully covered, but the full-length blazers and button-down shirts can [be worn] as a dress or with jeans. Italian brand Attico has satin and velvet mini belts you can use as bracelets or around your ankles as an accessory that transforms your shoes.
Where do you look for inspiration?
I really appreciate street style from unexpected individuals — an older woman whose bag matches her shoes [and] matches her dress or the young girls in the street who walk out in a bra with jeans and a jacket hanging off that pays an ode to the ’90s. … I love ’90s street style, and ’70s glam is always a favorite that never goes out of style. Those silhouettes really celebrate women’s bodies with curves, and the colors feel free and sexy.
Are there any items every woman should own?
A duster jacket for sure because it can work for any body type. And a great-fitting pair of jeans. … Topshop’s Jamie jeans with a little stretch are really great for petite women to give them curves and for curvy women to minimize with a flattering shape.
What about flattering swimwear?
Zimmermann and Eres [Paris] make great swimsuits. Look for structure to pull you in and shape the body, and underwire support bras. A ’50s-style bottom gives coverage that’s still sexy. And there are so many cute wrap skirts you can put on to go from the beach to lunch.
Where do you love to shop and hang out in Los Angeles?
I love spending Sundays at the Fairfax flea market.…They always have cool T-shirts, great denim shorts and jackets. I also love H. Lorenzo — they make it a point to support young designers — and Church Boutique. My favorite spa is Wi Spa, [which is] open 24/7. For $25, you can enjoy the saunas, pools, amenities and work.