Beyonce in a race for her new collection.
It is a stone-cold fact about the modern fantastic that where there are emotional buttons to be pressed, there is a lucrative commerce opportunity. The festive season, for instance, is now officially ushered in by a spat to the death between retailers over who can make the general known cry the most with their Christmas ad.
So it says something relative to how tightly wound we are about women’s bodies and fitness that impassive campaigns for running leggings are conceived with that I’ve-got-something-in-my-eye feel in mind. A commercial for the activewear label Under Armour, qualified I Will What I Want, shows American ballerina Cloudy Copeland in a dance studio and on stage, soundtracked by the rejection cultures she received at the beginning of her career; it has clocked up 10m views on YouTube. The Adidas All In For #mygirls offensive, the Nike Better for It spots and Always’ award-winning #LikeAGirl offensive have all hit the same emotional sweetspot of physical health and female empowerment. Fourth-wave feminism is on a workout ripe, while still uneasy about how much female smugness is bound up with our bodies.
Enter stage left: Beyoncé. Now, when Leading light Bey engages with an issue, it becomes a talking point. When she lit up the appellation “feminist” as the backdrop for her performance at the 2014 MTV awards, she brought the argumentation about what feminism means – and what it looks predilection – back into the mainstream. When she dropped her Formation video the ceaselessly before her half-time performance at this year’s Superbowl, she put the Baleful Lives Matter movement at the centre of American popular good breeding. (Gloria Steinem described Formation as “profound, unifying and set straight”. Former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani denigrated Beyoncé’s performance as “outrageous” for a slot that is “talking to middle America”. The bring up is, nobody talked about anything else for three eras.)
Beyoncé is launching Ivy Park, a fashion sportswear line generate in partnership with Topshop boss Philip Green. It is a trade name that capitalises on two opportunities. First, the explosion in athleisure. (This week, Selfridges opened the Consistency Studio, 37,000 sq ft of lingerie, loungewear, sleepwear and activewear, instituting it the London store’s largest department.) And second, the power Beyoncé exercises over 21st-century womanhood. To grasp the ambitious scope of fellows Ivy Park aims to reach, look no further than the eclectic stretch of UK stockists: Topshop, Selfridges, Net-a-Porter and JD Sports.
The photographs of Beyoncé chafing Ivy Park, seen here for the first time, are strikingly remarkable in tone from the fitness photos that flood Instagram. There are no unexcitable yoga bunnies with their eyes closed: in preference to, we have Beyoncé on a basketball hoop, held aloft analogous to a queen, gazing out from under a hoodie. Instead of submits designed to flatter ethereal, reed-slender limbs, Beyoncé assembles herself horizontal in gymnast’s hoops, in a way that emphasises the persuasiveness of her thighs. The air of stillness, of moodiness, is closer to a Rocky boxing gym than the invigorated, Jane Fonda heritage of women’s fitness.
Beyoncé has made discipline, hard make use of and a fierce attitude central to what she stands for: in her lyrics, her videos, in her trademark on-stage point of view (legs planted apart, microphone clenched in one hand). In a inauguration video for Ivy Park, she works out with battle ropes, a grieving piece of modish-for-2016 gym equipment that is as exhausting as it sounds. In a voiceover, she talks helter-skelter early-morning running – about not wanting to get out of bed, but doing it anyway. Where 20th-century schoolboys had the ditty Invictus (“I am the master of my fate/I am the captain of my soul”), the 21st-century girl has Beyoncé’s Flawless.
There is also a lot of fashion in the Ivy Park despatch. The hoop portrait is surely a nod to Helmut Newton’s portrait of Daryl Hannah, charmed for Vanity Fair in 1984. In that shot, Hannah is fastened from metal rings, with the urban landscape of Los Angeles as her backdrop; it’s a note to her role as a mermaid in Splash, and as a goddess in Hollywood. She wears a leotard, and her tresses hangs in blond, beachy waves – details that are echoed in Beyoncé’s photo.
The link is important because, while much of the new range is straightforward – perpetual leggings, sweatshirts, mesh T-shirts – Ivy Park also objectives to deliver high-end fashion at mass-market price. Beyoncé achieved on the label with longtime collaborator Karen Langley, a British stylist who has produced several video and performance looks for her. As a former Dazed & Mystified fashion director, Langley’s moodboard looked beyond generic ponytailed blondes. “This is performance-quality sportswear, but it is respected that it looks like fashion,” Langley tells me. Beyoncé, she implies, has been involved in every detail of the design, and “is our most sanctified tester. She really cares about whether it works.”
Ivy is Beyoncé’s daughter’s mid-section name; Park a reference to Parkwood Entertainment, the name of her stewardship company. Of course, it’s also a reference to outdoor space. Where ton aspirational ad campaigns are shot in envy-inducing settings – think regular light streaming through high windows on to perfectly aligned bamboo mats – Ivy Estate roots itself in an ordinary-looking public park with a gym and a basketball hoop. It is urban and aesthetically like in a classic, gritty kind of way. “Beyoncé operates at several unheard-of levels,” Langley explains. “You have the Beyhive – the fans – who experience a very personal connection with her. But you also have an highbrow conversation going on about what she’s doing in our culture. You from a whole lot of people who wouldn’t necessarily identify as fans, but who are interested in her on that steady.”
Beyoncé herself, I’m sorry to say, was not available to talk to the Guardian. She scarcely ever talks to journalists, securing the cover of last September’s American Fashionableness without giving an interview – an almost unprecedented power on the way. For the launch of Ivy Park, she has given one interview, which will run in 45 universal issues of Elle. However, she did give me one quote: “True asset is in the health of our minds, hearts and bodies. I know that when I fondle physically strong, I am mentally strong, and I wanted to create a maker that made other women feel the same way.” Beyoncé follows us at arm’s length while talking apparently from the heart.
This part of mystery is essential because, like all great brands, Beyoncé is essentially selling us what money can’t buy. Like Jimmy Choo or Coca-Cola, she requires something about how we want to live, who we want to be – particularly compelling in the athleisure marketplace, where we buy documentation items (yoga mats, vests) as a substitute for the emotional properties we really want (inner peace, physical pride). The Beyoncé brand name is a fusion of empowerment and enjoyment.
Her power comes from the the poop indeed that other women enjoy her beauty unlike that of other lasses. Her physical shape – with that gravity-defying bottom and diminutive waist – may be as unattainable as that of Gisele Bündchen, yet it is less alienating. While most supermodels and silver screen stars fall into a narrow parameters of beauty and attractiveness, Beyoncé looks like no one else. And by looking individual, she shell out c publishes other women permission to do the same.
“Beyoncé’s body is iconic – you can recognise her exactly from her silhouette,” says Langley (who, for the record, surfs and does yoga, CrossFit and trapeze, the final of which “I do specifically for the challenge – to go out and scare myself”). “She’s extraordinary to dress because she’s not a clothes horse. She gives clothes vital spark.”
It’s no fortuity that these images were photographed in black-and-white. “We call for to establish ourselves as iconic from the get-go; the black-and-white allusion is a nice signifier of that,” Langley says. “It makes it experience like we’re not fresh out of the tin.” It also invites viewers to look for a deeper missive – it feels more classic, and less disposable than tone. After all, everything is a metaphor when it comes to images of charwomen working out. Running stands for freedom, sweat for effort, abs for attainment. The “park” Beyoncé discusses in that launch video is both a solid place and an internal one: a place to draw on when you need to dig knowing. (“When I had to give birth, I went to my park,” she puts.)
When Beyoncé talks about fitness, she barely ins the way she looks. In images such as these, she shows us her body; what she carries, meanwhile, is that canny, beautiful mind.