She’s styled Lady Gaga, Madonna and Beyoncé, and last year, B Åkerlund headed to Wellington’s World of Wearable Art to find the new fashion designers deserving of star status.
When you work in the industry of image making, a sentiment often circulated – from cover letters to Instagram bios – is “I live and breathe fashion.” Yet few embody this maxim quite like super-stylist B Åkerlund. “Fashion is something that has been in my blood, and as I got older my love for it grew stronger,” she writes from a holiday in the Antibes, France. “Fashion is important to some and an art form to others, for me, it’s my way of life.
Having just posted a vacation snap in a silk tiger-print Rokins suit to her 100k-strong Instagram following, B might be taking a break from her styling schedule but her sartorial fantasy never stops. “I demonstrate fashion activism by showing constant support to emerging designers, never giving up on avant-garde fashion, and keeping my fashion dreams alive,” she types with yellow manicured claws. The Stockholm native, who already has an Ikea collection under her studded leather belt, foresaw Lady Gaga’s fame when working on the Paparazzi music video, made Beyoncé a queen to tease the singer’s world tour, and welcomes long-time client Madonna over for dinner at her creative Californian home. “I just think those are the types of women that gravitate towards me,” B says. “I am inspired by strong and independent women who have their own voice and I thrive on making their visions come alive.”
The tastemaker learnt to embrace her unique, theme-dressing aesthetic after moving to LA at the age of 14. Yet when starting out, B was told she was “too much” too many times to count. Instead of toning herself down, she built her own brand of uncompromising style. “Being true to myself has given me strength to not give up or change for other people,” she says. “It might be a longer, more complicated road, but by believing in myself, my values, I finally get to do the things I love.”
While many fashion looks are forgotten as quickly as it takes to scroll to the next, B has made a habit of capturing the zeitgeist. Beyoncé’s now iconic canary Roberto Cavalli gown from her Lemonade visual album almost didn’t happen, but B, who worked on the Hold Up video with her influential director husband Jonas Åkerlund, searched the world for that dress and convinced Bey to swap into it halfway through filming. “When you are working on a project you never know what the outcome will be and if people will react or not.” But B is always prepared.
As an extension of her work, she recently co-founded elite fashion showroom The Residency Experience. On the hunt for emerging talent to dress star clients, she headed to Wellington for World of Wearable Art in September. As well as $5000 prize money, the winner of the new The Residency Experience Award will be given the chance to fly to LA and hang up to five designs in B’s Hollywood showroom, an opportunity to rub shoulders with the boldest of pop stars. “It’s my passion to seek out new and raw talent and WOW is the perfect source to discover and meet new designers. [The award] is my way of giving back and supporting talent that should be discovered, but might not have the resources,” she says. “Emerging designers inspire me and they need a voice and support to stay alive. I have never been a slave to big brands, but rather always sought out the creativity.”
You can read what’s on B Åkerlund’s creative radar here.
Words: Jessica-Belle Greer
This article originally appeared in Fashion Quarterly Issue 3, 2019.