Costume designer and wardrobe stylist Zerina Akers doesn’t want people to think their life is perfect even when she spends her time making sure her customers are.
“I want to dispel the thought that it’s glamorous,” she said of her days, which often include putting ensembles together for her celebrity clientele, overseeing the decor, and maintaining her e-tail site. “Yes, you have beautiful things to do, but you also have to handle all your luggage, make everything look right and walk around. It’s a lot of hard work and heavy lifting. “
And recently she’s been doing all of this on an injured ankle. She mostly wore comfort shoes during the pandemic, but a pair of wedge heels after the quarantine led to her most recent mishap. (“Who did I think I was ?!” she said while describing stumbling during a phone interview.)
Ms. Akers, 35, is the first stylist for Beyoncé Knowles-Carter – the iconic oversized black hat the singer modeled in the 2016 music video “Formation” was her handcraft. She also put together the wardrobe for Ms. Knowles-Carter’s opulent 2020 visual album, Black Is King, which featured designs from both established European fashion houses and independent designers from across the African diaspora.
In February, she took her work of nurturing emerging black designers to the next level with Black Owned Everything, an e-commerce hub with a curated selection of apparel, accessories, beauty and decoration products.
“Last summer there was a huge surge in support for black brands,” she said, describing the widespread demands for inclusivity and representation that rose after the protests against racism and police brutality. That led some people to ask a new question: how long would it take?
“Would it be something that will last and really make a difference, or was it just a trend?” Mrs. Akers said. “I thought it was important not to wait and see how the fashion industry would react. We were able to create something that we own and we will keep it going, ”she said of the website, which has around three dozen brands.
Ms. Akers, a Maryland-born woman based in Van Nuys, Calif., Also recently designed clothes, a throwback to her teenage years creating clothes for school fashion shows. Some of her work – a color-blocked dress, a chain-trimmed bodysuit, a trench jumpsuit – is contained in a capsule collection of separate items for Bar III, the trademark of Macy’s.
We spoke to her in early May when she was pondering ideas for redesigning Black Owned Everything’s website and sorting out the clothes destined for Colombian reggaeton artist Karol G and Chloe Bailey from R&B duo Chloe x Halle .
The interviews are conducted by email, text and telephone, then compressed and processed.
5:55 am I am awake, but I am afraid to get up. It’s almost like staying in bed, maybe I don’t have to worry about all of the things.
8 o’clock in the morning OK, I’m up. I’m awake! (Because my cleaning lady is at the door. She’s an hour early.) I shower, finish my prayers and make my smoothie, then I put on my make-up and put on my wig.
10:30 am Start a Zoom conversation with Brandice Daniel, the founder and CEO of Harlems Fashion Row, as part of her annual designer retreat. We hang out with accessory designer Brandon Blackwood talking about our career paths and giving young people advice on how to make it fashionable. I’m talking about the importance of being financially strong and doing what you love without being primarily “internet famous”.
3:30 p.m. My assistant, Christian Barberena, arrives at my house and we relax in the back yard, go through our next two working weeks and split up the tasks. Usually my team takes care of internet shopping and in-store sourcing of items. Then I will mainly deal with things that are made to measure by designers.
5:45 p.m. I know I’m about 15 minutes late for a Netflix virtual screening event for “Halston,” and Chris and I tune in to watch. You must have seen something like this. Based on what I’ve read about him, it was well cast – and it’s pretty visually stunning.
In business today
May 21, 2021, 3:55 p.m. ET
8 o’clock in the morning I wake up with a little fear because I’ve been trying to figure out how to seamlessly build on the Black Owned Everything website without alerting our followers. I want it to tell a lot more stories, involve more black photographers and graphic designers, and be more than just a general area of e-commerce. I also need to find an entry-level social media manager to make the Instagram account more robust while the website is down.
9:30 am I have an ongoing call with my manager to discuss the income statement for the month, taxes, and paperwork for my employees.
10:41 am I checked some clothes with my New York assistant and lost track of time. Now I’m 11 minutes late for a Zoom call with an app that can help keep site customers informed of our changes.
2.15 p.m. Visit some of the showrooms to see what’s going on. I went to The Residency, Bryan Smith and Brooklyn PR looking for clothes for a photo shoot with Chloe and for a project with Karol G.
4 p.m. For the next hour, I interview social media candidates every 15 minutes. I’ve done the job myself before, but I’m not always interested in being on social media that much. I have the ideas, so I just have to find someone to make them happen. There’s one particular aesthetic I’m looking for that is super indie, slightly European, and with really cool nooks and crannies.
10:15 am I consider which hoodie to wear for my radio interview with The Beat London and discuss Black Owned Everything. They say it’s only audio, but that sounds like a trick, so I’ll put on a long wig and my BOE hoodie just in case. Luckily I did because there was definitely a zoom selfie.
12:15 p.m. I was late for my physiotherapy massage, but I needed to eat, mostly because it was two hours and I hadn’t had breakfast. I prefer to schedule these at the end of the day, but I had to get on where I can fit.
3 pm I’m taking another phone interview with an applicant from the car because my massage has overflowed. Chatting with my massage therapist about new hairstyles, I tried braids for the first time.
3:50 pm I’m late for an early dinner at JG’s The Rooftop with Liza Vassell, the founder of Brooklyn PR. We’re both late, but manage not to lose our table just in time. It’s our first time connecting outside of work. We spent an hour and a half stuffing our faces, discussing our experiences as black women going our own way, and investing in and supporting one another.
6:30 Clock Today was one of those strange days – productive, but somehow I felt I hadn’t done enough. I start mentally checking out by watching trash television.
8:30 am My makeup artist Leah Darcy Pike is coming to prepare a portrait for this column. I decided to put on an aqua blue look from my Macy’s collection.
1:17 pm I call my product development advisor and deliver the good news that I love our new Black Owned Everything candle sample. It’s kind of woody and kind of like patchouli, with those other weird notes. We also discuss possible product ideas that we could bring to market for Juneteenth, such as a summer travel kit.
2:05 pm I open my garage to organize it and then close it again. It’s filled with jewelry, clothes from previous photoshoots, my personal closet overflow, BOE stuff … it’s gone a little bit crazy.
3 pm It’s Chris’ birthday so I’ll run out and get a cake from Sweet Lady Jane and we’ll take a moment.
4:15 p.m. I’m going to a mall in Sherman Oaks to pick up monochromatic sneakers for my weekend shoot with Karol G. I love color blocking, especially red shoes and red bags.
22 O `clock I fall asleep after watching a documentary about Sally Hemings. I am currently obsessed with the tales of slaves. The varied experiences keep astonishing me. I keep them in my brain to remind how resilient we really are as a people.
8:33 a.m. I open the packages for the week one at a time. There are 20-30 – a combination of gifts, black-owned company stuff for us to review, and some celebrity stuff. For the most part, I’m trying to get a few things into my office, but since we’re blurring the lines of the pandemic, I just put them right in one place.
10:45 a.m. Meet Chris so we can set up a rack for Karol G before we head to a faucet. The first thing I usually try with faucets is to see what makes the customer’s face glow. Then I start doing the things he looks forward to the most. Usually the modifications are the hardest part as you want to make sure they will last and last but not damage the garment. Everything went smoothly that day.
5:33 pm After getting a bowl of fried tofu with vegetables and semolina at Souley Vegan, I go to my office to work on a new project with Chris. We’re trying to start a virtual reality character for the site. She will be dressed in the brands of Black and you can follow her day in and day out.
8 p.m. We know we should probably stop working and go home to do a shoot in San Francisco. When I fly I have to have my travel blanket (it’s Burberry right now), memory foam neck pillow, and a sleep mask – I can never stay awake on the plane, even if it’s only an hour-long flight.