Everything I have is so colorful, so expressive, says rising It girl Solange… (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles…)
It feels like the coldest day of the year on a January afternoon in Brooklyn. Snow is expected by evening and even the usually unflappable New Yorkers in the area are feeling the chill, clutching the collars of nylon puffer jackets closer to their chests, some ducking into a rustic, dimly lighted restaurant in the Cobble Hill neighborhood to escape the freeze.
Inside, seen through the crowd of neutral tones and wool coats, sits entertainer and rising fashion It girl Solange Knowles, a definite bright spot on a frigid day. She seems to warm up the postage stamp-sized eatery with her colorful ensemble, approachable demeanor and pouf of curly hair.
With her red M Missoni knit skirt, neon yellow Alexander Wang sweat shirt and a leopard print By Malene Birger coat, all punctuated with a pop of MAC So Chaud orange lipstick, it's no mystery why the 25-year-old recent Brooklyn transplant (she relocated from Los Angeles last summer) has become fashion's fresh face. We wanted to get to know her better.
Knowles has been the musical act and DJ du jour at a host of exclusive designer events, appeared in ads for Rimmel cosmetics, signed a contract with Next models this year, walked in Alberta Ferretti's demi-couture show in Milan, Italy, in January and landed a gig blogging for UK Vogue. She has caught the eye of indie designers such as Suno and Opening Ceremony as well as mass brands includingJ. Crew. They have dressed her, invited her to sit front row at runway shows and admired her sense of style.
"The first time I saw a photo of Solange, I remember thinking how beautiful she was," says Jenna Lyons, creative director ofJ. Crew. "Then I met her and I was blown away. She is not only chic and gorgeous, but she is kind, generous and down to earth — with the best hair and smile I have ever seen."
"Solange is a risk taker without ever taking it too far," says Erin Beatty, co-designer of Suno, a label Knowles says she wears often because of its strong prints and well-tailored silhouettes. "She's eager to experiment with colors and different cuts but somehow pulls it all together in an inspiring way."
Last year, Vogue magazine invited Knowles to attend the Council of Fashion Designers of America/Vogue Fashion Fund Toast to Red Carpet Rebels cocktail party, an event leading up to the annual Fashion Fund Gala. For the cocktail party, finalists for fashion fund awards were charged with creating looks for march-to-their-own-beat fashion plates. Knowles was the muse for Suno, which dressed her in a black and white sleeveless jacket with a mandarin collar over a pink, blue and purple watercolor print dress — a daunting combination of print on print for most people. But mixing and layering prints and making it work is something the singer has been doing since she was a child growing up in Houston.
"I had so much fun during the process," Knowles says of working with Suno. "And I was happy that it was with a designer that I actually wear and feel captures the vibe of my style in general."
Knowles started developing confidence early, singing and performing as a child and making a few appearances with sister Beyoncé's group Destiny's Child. She had a few acting roles in movies and on television, mostly before 2004, when, at age 17, she married high school sweetheart Daniel Smith, had a son and then divorced in 2007.
Since then, she's been a working single mom, whose cool, self-assured demeanor is seamlessly translated into her look, whether she's walking her 7-year-old son to school, laying down tracks in the recording studio (she's recently completed her third album, which is full of '70s and '80s soul-inspired numbers) or spinning in the DJ booth during fashion show after-parties and other events.
Her pop star older sister casts a large shadow, but Knowles has tried to stay out of it, forging her own music career as well as a fashion presence that leans more toward downtown chic than Beyoncé's va-va voom. Solange's song "God Given Name" is her anthem of independence: "I'm not her and never will be/Two girls gone in different directions/Striving toward the same Galaxy/Let my star light shine on its own."
Elements of style
Unlike many of today's popular celebrities, Knowles does not use a stylist except for a handful of red carpet events. It's her ability to meld traditional basics in highlighter colors, sporty knits and tribal prints with a refreshingly understated appeal that has drawn attention from the fashion set. When she arrived atJ. Crew's spring 2012 runway presentation last year with her sister, for instance, she wore a sleeveless shocking-pink shell paired with royal blue and gold Jacquard pants — creating quite a contrast with Beyoncé's gold sequin cocktail dress and nude peep-toe heels and showcasing her innate knack for putting together her own outfits.