Before stepping aboard the simulated Chanel Airlines this morning at the storied French house’s Spring 2016 collection, Janelle Monáe paused before the photographers hoping to capture a snap of the stylish troubadour who has steadily been taking over Paris Fashion Week. Awash in an ensemble of her signature black-and-white color palette, with a small menswear-inspired bow tie gingerly looped in place, it would seem her classic chic uniform was on full display. But a quick scan and one immediately noticed that the “Yoga” singer’s trademark look was also taking flight during Fashion Week.
Gone were the menswear-inspired tailored tuxes and jaunty saddle oxfords that the 5-foot performer would dash across stage in, a blaze of dance, style, and ebullient rhythm. Instead she wore a prim frock replete with front ruffles and a nipped-in waist, atop Oscar Tiye heels; her rockabilly pompadour had been fashioned into a pillowy beehive. Although Monáe’s androgynous stage and red carpet looks have always possessed a feminine tilt, she seemed to wholly embrace femme fashion here in France. What was behind the new look? Was it in line with her new position as the head of her newly minted Wondaland Records?
Maybe, as Monáe reveals to us, in the midst of a packed schedule of front row appearances, it isn’t so much a style transformation as it is an evolution. Here, more from our interview.
It seems like you’ve been all over since touching down at Paris Fashion Week—what have been some highlights so far? Any standout looks from the Spring 2016 collections you already want to wear?
I am so excited about all the black-and-white pieces I have seen! Each designer is so unique and distinguished. I love getting to see everyone’s different point of view and figuring out ways to incorporate it into my specific style.
I’ve definitely seen some great pieces that my stylist, Maeve Reilly, and I have added to our vision board. We have been having an incredible time and are so grateful for this experience.
You don’t seem to be swayed by trends, though, so what do you look for when assessing the new styles on the runway?
I’m swayed by art. I, of course, am looking for iconic artistic black-and-white pieces but when something is striking outside of that palette, I allow myself to wear an honorary color. Red has been catching my eye as of late. I love to see an entire designer’s collection and appreciate each piece they create. I love listening to the music, taking in the platform where the show is taking place, the crowd. It’s all-encompassing. The experience as a whole is what makes attending shows so great.
You’ve also been showcasing your signature capes at the shows. What other wardrobe essentials did you pack with you?
My stylist and I love shoes and accessories, so I packed a lot of those. Some of my favorite shoe designers supported us, like Nicholas Kirkwood, Sophia Webster, Christian Louboutin, and Tamara Mellon. I am in love with my Jennifer Fisher chokers and statement bags from Anya Hindmarch, Kotur, and Les Petits Joueurs.
Recently we’ve seen you transform from your signature menswear-inspired tuxes to a more ladylike showing of skirts, dresses, high boots—and it’s really on display here at Paris Fashion Week. What spurred the style evolution?
Style is all about evolution. When I pick clothes I see no gender. Of course as I grow as an artist, as a woman, as a record label owner, and fashion enthusiast I embrace new and different ways to express myself. The change in style isn’t really a change—it’s just growing, evolving.
What distinguishes Paris Fashion Week for you from the shows in other cities? Does it bring anything out or particularly influence your style?
Paris is incredible—it is the epicenter of fashion. I have a deep and visceral reaction each time I come here. There is no other city I would feel inspired to indulge in new looks and push the limits and experiment a bit. One day I am in Stella McCartney creepers and the next in Chanel couture. It’s just fun and exciting! Parisian women have a kind of elegance about them that is not seen anywhere else. The effortlessness and timelessness that is in effect simply on the streets is unique to Paris.
You have a strong relationship with Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld particularly—what is it about the brand that speaks to you?
I am so excited to support Karl and the Chanel family—they have always been so supportive of my career and he is a style godfather. Karl’s aesthetic is clearly iconic, classic, black and white, and timeless. I am so inspired by him and his incredible eye.
Is there any music you’re listening to to help get you ready for the shows? I feel like music always helps ramp up energy and get people in the right frame of mind when taking on big events like this.
Music is always playing around me and helps to get me in the mood! My Paris soundtrack consists of Jidenna, Roman GianArthur, St. Beauty, and Deep Cotton.
What else have you been checking out while in the city?
I have been eating at L’Avenue all week! I love the escargot and carrot juice. The vibe is super fun. I am hoping to experience some museums, which always seem to inspire me.
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