How I Shop: Alicia Keys

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"I love to see people who are really clear about who they are and have no fear about expressing it. I would like to say I'm one of those people."

We all buy clothes, but no two people shop the same. It can be a social experience, and a deeply personal one; at times, it can be impulsive and entertaining, at others, purpose-driven, a chore. Where do you shop? When do you shop? How do you decide what you need, how much to spend and what's "you"? These are some of the questions we're putting to prominent figures in our column "How I Shop."

When you've won 15 Grammys over the course of your career, sung the chorus for the unofficial anthem of New York City and earned countless other accolades (not to mention: living in one of the most gorgeous homes to ever be featured in the pages of Architectural Digest), you don't need an introduction: Alicia Keys is a legend, a creative force that has provided a soundtrack to our lives and influenced so many with her work — and her style.

On Tuesday, she's launching a collection with Athleta, her third since she first announced a partnership with the brand in early 2022. The 13-piece capsule is timed for peak spring, with the bright and colorful swim, performance and everyday pieces that go with the season.

"We're calling it 'Summer of Soul,' which I completely adore and love," she tells Fashionista. (Appropriately, Keys also just announced a new tour, dubbed "Keys to the Summer.") The "playfulness with the colors" and bold patterns in the collection reflect this energy, she says, as does the ease with which the pieces mix and match: "You're not supposed to spend too much time figuring out, 'How am I gonna look great?' It's meant to go on you, and it's meant to fit a variety of body shapes and styles. That's my favorite thing about Athleta — it's all about body positivity and consciousness, really allowing how you are and whoever you are to feel good in what you wear."

Alicia Keys for Athleta.<p>Photo: Courtesy of Athleta</p>
Alicia Keys for Athleta.

Photo: Courtesy of Athleta

Unsurprisingly, Keys is the best ambassador for the collection. It's not just because she co-designed it: You'll often seen her wearing it out, on Instagram or in her every day, mixing pieces from previous drops together to fit whatever she's doing.

"I went to my pilates class, and I sure enough took out the first collection, the very vibrant workout piece that we did. Also from the first collection, we had this yellow duster that you can just easily go out with; I also wore that... It was a little gloomy, and I wanted to feel a little brighter," she says. "From holiday, there was that really beautiful burgundy jumpsuit — that's a really great staple for me."

Ahead, Keys talks about the ongoing collaboration, her personal style, her all-time favorite red carpet moment and more.

<p>Alicia Keys x Athleta Spring 2023. Photo: Courtesy of Athleta</p>

Alicia Keys x Athleta Spring 2023. Photo: Courtesy of Athleta

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"I, personally, am a color fanatic. I want to wear things that feel bright and beautiful and outstanding and really allow you to lift yourself up through the energy of it. That's definitely been a theme throughout, but each time you'll notice that it's different.

"I love this color palette. It's very brave. It's very beautiful. It has the teals, the greens, the bright yellows, pinks and purples, which I think are special. Purple is one of my favorite colors. It was a bit of the nature of coming into springtime, where you can see it in the sky, the water, all around you, and the energy that goes with it. It's been winter, you're in black all the time — which, I wear black every day, anyway, it doesn't matter whether it's summer or spring — but you're ready for a change, to brighten your mood.

A look from Keys' latest collection for Athleta.<p>Photo: Courtesy of Athleta</p>
A look from Keys' latest collection for Athleta.

Photo: Courtesy of Athleta

"My personal style, I know exactly what I describe it as — I call it 'tomboy chic.' I really understand what I like and what feels good for me. It feels really good to have both sides, of masculinity and femininity, always able to be in touch. I like things that are a little less fussy. 'Wait, is my butt showing here? Is my thing going to fall out here? Is the shoulder going to fall out?' I don't want to feel like that. I want to feel confident. I want to feel at ease. I want to feel like, not only do I look great, but I can relax. There's so much going on in the world that's so uncomfortable; the last thing you need is to stress out about what you're wearing.

<p>Alicia Keys x Athleta.</p>

Alicia Keys x Athleta.

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"I really love the gender fluidity [in fashion right now] — that speaks back to what I was saying, how I do feel there's this masculine and feminine that lives in me, and I really love to explore it. I like to think about it and have fun with both sides of me. I'm noticing that even a lot of men are more comfortable expressing even their more feminine side, and a lot of women are more comfortable expressing their masculine side. I think that's very powerful. We all have both of these natures and energies within us, so to be able to accept them, love them and bring them out of us is a really cool thing.

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"I'm definitely inspired by classic silhouettes and looks. You notice that the great things, they never stopped. They don't go out of style. I'm in love with Maria Grazia [Chiuri]. I think she's incredible, and I really loved that most recent collection [for Dior], how she took this inspiration from the 1800s and brought in the craftsmanship and the work, but really modernized it. I wore some pieces from it that I really love. I love Stella McCartney's playfulness and strength and vibe... I really like the mixture between timeless and modern, and I think that reflects my music and my personal vibe. So when I see people who do that, who play with that, I'm excited by it.

"I love an outfit that I can turn up and turn down. It's the best. It makes it so easy. There are days I might be going to a rehearsal, then a dinner, or I might be going to an easy lunch and then later I'm doing something a little bit more... That has to be able to float and morph. I'm a New York girl, and the type of New York girl that I am has always been about feeling confidence so you can present confidently in the world — but also that tough, cool, easy kind of vibe that I think New York is best known for. I really feel like this collection does a great job at that. This collection is even a little bit more flirty, which I'm also enjoying. We have skirt, which I think everybody's going to love and go crazy for: It has a beautiful silhouette that covers and has a short underneath, so when you put it on, you already have your protection. It's really cute. There's a little bit of a more playful, flirty energy in this collection, yet it's also grounded in that strength.

Keys on stage in Los Angeles during her ALICIA + KEYS world tour in September 2022.<p>Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AK</p>
Keys on stage in Los Angeles during her ALICIA + KEYS world tour in September 2022.

Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AK

"Everything that you get from me on stage is definitely who I am in real life. And I love that because I think that's really important. But I'm definitely liking to fly under the radar in my everyday life. I love to be able to go where I want to go. I want to go wherever I want to go with my kids, and I want them to feel a very normal existence, like every other kid. How I dress oftentimes will mirror that ability to still look great and put-together, but keep it easy — whereas, obviously, my stage looks are going to be super strong. They're definitely going to have a great body shape. You're working on captivating thousands of people at a time, so you definitely want to make sure they feel you, they see you, they're with you... At my show. I'm trying to own the whole place.

"My outfit for the Met Gala last year was one of my favorites of all time. It was so exciting to collaborate with a New York designer and to really be able to hone in that New York energy. That beautiful cape that had the entire city on my back, which I do feel like I hold the city on my back and in my heart, because New York is my heartbeat. It's everything that made me what I am. And I think that it was captured so beautifully and elegantly — and not only did it look elegant, but it also was totally cool and fresh and new. I loved collaborating with Ralph Lauren on that. I loved that look. It felt significant and powerful. And even my husband next to me, with the most beautiful tuxedo and the New York baseball jacket on, it just felt so us, so purely our energy.

Keys wearing Ralph Lauren at the 2022 Met Gala.<p>Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images</p>
Keys wearing Ralph Lauren at the 2022 Met Gala.

Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

"I have been blessed to work with so many awesome people — I think the biggest thing I've probably learned about fashion is that it's an art. It's the art of expressing yourself. And that's what I love about it, and that's what I love about even observing other people's fashion sense. I love to see people who are really clear about who they are and have no fear about expressing it. I would like to say I'm one of those people.

"One of the things I've learned also is that less is more. One of my style icons is Sade: You will catch her in a blue jean shirt and blue jeans, and there's something about how effortless and easy she is, that you're captivated — her hair will be slicked back into a ponytail, and she'll have on a white button-down, and you're just like, 'This is the most beautiful thing I ever saw.' And it's so simple. So, I think that simplicity is something that I also think about a lot, like not overdoing things. Make it a beautiful silhouette. Make it compliment you. Keep it simple, but strong and unique. That feels good to me.

"Fashion inspiration comes [from] so many places. I do love looking at old-school pictures of great artists I love. I'll catch a Diana Ross image or a Grace Jones image — I'll catch certain greats that I'm just like, 'Wow, this is so stunning.' Or, What a beautiful idea. How bold was she to do this?' I also find inspiration just in nature, in the colors. I can see the greens and the yellow accents; I can see the flowers, a purple or even a bright fuchsia. These kind of things give me reminders of color palettes that just belong together. I find inspiration just from perusing, watching people walking down the street or seeing a person in a film, something like that will give me some energy and I'll say, 'Wow, that's sick, how they put that particular piece with that.' That'll inspire me. It's a lot like a song: You can find it everywhere, and you can find it all around."

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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