Why it matters that Beyoncé wore two unknown designers at the Grammys

Alexandra Mondalek
Beyoncé (Photo: Getty Images)
Beyoncé (Photo: Getty Images)

For the 2018 Grammy Awards weekend, Beyoncé wore three separate, powerful black ensembles for the occasion. Two of those looks were crafted by little-known designers. The first, a custom-made silk-crepe fishtail gown with sculptural accents, for the Clive Davis pre-Grammys gala. The second, a custom, black velvet gown with shoulder cutouts and symmetrical slits, at the awards show itself.

Not only do the gowns create statements on their own, but they also signal Beyoncé’s fashion philosophy — namely a commitment to elevate relatively unknown designers even when she has every major fashion house at her disposal.

A post shared by Beyoncé (@beyonce) on Jan 28, 2018 at 10:45pm PST

Azzi & Osta created the Lemonade artist’s first look. It took more than 300 hours to create, a labor of love that made the Lebanon-based design duo George Azzi and Assaad Osta feel “honored, proud, happy, and thrilled beyond imagination,” according to an email sent to Yahoo Lifestyle.

For Grammys night, Nicolas Jebran, another Lebanese designer, worked with Beyoncé’s stylist to dress her for the second time. The custom look was created to “reflect a statement of social justice with the Black Panther ’60s movement as reference,” Jebran’s team says.

A sketch of Beyoncé’s Grammys look. (Photo: Nicolas Jebran)
A sketch of Beyoncé’s Grammys look. (Photo: Nicolas Jebran)

While both Azzi & Osta and Jebran have recently dressed A-list celebrities (Kendall Jenner and Cardi B, respectively), neither brand boasts the kind of clout of a more exclusive design house, say Givenchy under Riccardo Tisci, a go-to for Beyoncé’s Met Gala dresses. Take their Instagram pages: Azzi &Osta has but a modest social media following, with 170,000 Instagram followers; Nicolas Jebran’s official Instagram page has 220,000 followers; Givenchy has 9 million.

To most, it might not seem particularly charitable for a megastar like Beyoncé to wear a custom-made dress for an awards show. But to the designers themselves, it can be life-changing. Consider when Beyoncé wore Michael Costello for the 2014 Grammys.

Before the show, Costello and his team designed three exclusive pieces for Knowles and sent her team another eight for consideration, but had no confirmation she’d wear any of them on the red carpet. When she appeared in photos wearing Costello’s white sheer embroidered dress, the designer said it changed his life.

Beyoncé during the 56th Grammy Awards in 2014. (Photo: Getty Images)
Beyoncé during the 56th Grammy Awards in 2014. (Photo: Getty Images)

“I thought, Beyoncé is not going to wear us; she could resurrect Gianni Versace from the dead and wear anything from him. That’s the truth and you know it,” Costello told Yahoo Lifestyle in 2017.

Beyoncé hasn’t always been a designer darling. “When we were starting out in Destiny’s Child, high-end labels, they didn’t want to dress four black, country, curvy girls,” she told People in 2016. “And we couldn’t afford designer dresses and couture. My mother was rejected from every showroom in New York. But like my grandmother, she used her talent and her creativity to give her children their dreams.”

That’s hardly the case for Beyoncé now, but it seems she hasn’t forgotten her roots. The higher she climbs, Beyoncé always seems to keep one hand outstretched, pulling little-known designers up with her.

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