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The Business of Dressing Beyoncé (and Other Pop Stars)

Creating stage costumes provides designers with a fantastical creative outlet and the potential for global exposure – but designing a musician’s look isn’t easy.
Beyonce sits atop a giant glitter-encrusted horse while wearing a silver bedazzled outfit on a concert stage.
Beyoncé on the opening night of her Renaissance world tour in Stockholm wearing Coperni. (Coperni)

For the thousands of fans who gathered for the nearly three-hour Stockholm performance that was the Beyoncé Renaissance world tour premiere, it was an exhilarating night. The space-cowboy themed show was filled with elaborate visuals, impressive choreography–at one point the popstar danced alongside robotic arms–and of course, her renowned vocals, including a medley of hits like Alien Superstar, Love On Top and Break My Soul.

But the moment that arguably won the night was the show’s close, when Beyoncé jumped on a giant, glitter-encrusted horse that was hoisted into the air above the throngs of fans. As confetti rained down, she herself was then lifted up flying through the air, showcasing a silver bodysuit and long cape swaying behind her.

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That costume was made by the brand Coperni. The Paris-based brand is no stranger to spectacle – last autumn, it went viral for its runway show that spray-painted a dress onto Bella Hadid. But the Renaissance show was on another level.

“She’s dancing and performing so she has to wear specific underwear, tights, bras,” said Coperni co-founder Arnaud Vaillant, adding that the Parisian atelier spent a month working on the silver corset and cape with a team in Mumbai who did the 100 hours of embroidery. “You have to have precise zippers so that it’s easy to take it down and take it off. There’s so many people, it’s not just one stylist … It’s a big, big process.”


Few designers would turn the opportunity down though. Music can be a powerful platform. Concert dressing manages to offer unique creative flexibility–radical, one-of-a-kind looks and couture-level creations are the norm. And while an actor might pose for a few minutes on a red carpet, a pop star will showcase their costume through tightly crafted choreography, physical stunts and spectacle, night after night.

Combined with addictive melodies that ensure endless replay in TikTok audio loops, a concert look can have incredible staying power in the public’s mind. Designers can see their global profile amplified by their connection to a musician, whether it’s Madonna’s coned bras by Jean Paul Gaulthier or the sky-high Alexander McQueen armadillo shoes Lady Gaga wore in her music videos.

This year’s concert touring schedule is packed with potential for the fashion industry. Although many live events returned last year, this is the first summer where pandemic restrictions have been fully lifted in all major markets. Earlier this year, Swifties crashed the Ticketmaster site attempting to snag tickets to Taylor Swift’s Eras tour. Fans will also be vying to catch acts like SZA, Katy Perry, Madonna, Janet Jackson and dozens more in the coming months.

“There’s almost a demand that we’re not able to cover,” said David Blond, creative director of fashion label The Blonds, who has worked with artists like Lizzo, Ke$ha and Ava Max. “[With] the resurgence in live events, the industry is exploding with new talent.”

Getting the Call

It’s often a stylist connected to a pop star who taps a brand to create concert costumes, especially when it’s an emerging designer.

For Coperni, the initial reach out for the Beyoncé tour came from Julia Sarr-Jamois, a stylist and the fashion director at British Vogue.

When Yueqi Qi, a Chinese designer who was a semi-finalist for this year’s LVMH Prize, was asked to dress Lisa from the girl group Blackpink for her performance at Coachella last month, she “wasn’t sure at first if it was a real request,” Qi told BoF.

She quickly dropped everything to work on the outfit, which needed to be completed in a few weeks. She created the outfit — a laser cut dark grey and silver bodysuit with side cut outs — at cost, eager to have the chance to dress one of her personal idols.


Lisa from Blackpink in a Yueqi Qi outfit.
Lisa from Blackpink in a Yueqi Qi outfit. (Yueqi Qi )

“When I watched the video of the performance, I couldn’t believe it. I cried,” said Qi.

Nicolas Di Felice, the designer at Courreges, was also asked to develop looks for the Beyoncé tour, but didn’t know if his work would be used until the show in Stockholm began. He was in the audience at a play when his phone began blowing up.

“You never know when you work on such a huge project,” he said. “We worked on three variations of the design. There were three lengths and different colours.”

Beyoncé in Courreges.
Beyoncé in Courreges. (Courreges )

For bigger brands, the collaboration may be more direct. Designer Fausto Puglisi, creative director at Roberto Cavalli, dressed Taylor Swift for her current tour but under his own brand has also had a long history of working with stars like J. Lo, Madonna and Michael Jackson. For Madonna’s Rebel Heart and Madame X tours, he was invited to rehearsals to finetune the wardrobe.

Worth Their Weight in Sequins

Even while Beyoncé was still performing in Stockholm, many of her looks started trending online. There was the Loewe jumpsuit with strategically-placed hands prints, the Mugler bee costume, a reference to her fanbase the Beyhive, and custom looks from David Koma, Alexander McQueen, Balmain and more.

Beyonce in a custom Loewe bodysuit.
Beyoncé in a custom Loewe bodysuit. (Loewe)

For fashion brands, an event like the Renaissance or Eras tour is the kind of culture-shaking performance, globally viral moment that comes along only so often. They’re often willing to invest considerable sums to be a part of it.

“Costuming is a marketing expense, and it’s not required to be profitable,” said designer Phillip Plein. Known for his over-the-top runway shows, he has dressed Snoop Dogg, Offset and Jason Derulo among others, and keeps a dedicated celebrity and talent team to manage the requests.

The actual return on investment may be hard to pin down. Google searches for the term ‘Renaissance tour outfits’ surged by 658 percent over the past week, according to Nasty Gal, one of many online retailers hoping to capitalise on the show by curating a tour-inspired looks section on its homepage.


There may be only so many people who can pull off a silver cape, however. But a cameo on a popstar can lead to sales in other ways. Courreges’ Di Felice attributes the brand’s traction in South Korea, now a top five market for the label, to outfitting K-pop girl groups like Blackpink and Le Sserafim.

He recalled how much his own style has been shaped through the medium of music, and said the emotional moment that can result from on-stage performance fashion is unmatched.

“I didn’t have access to fashion as a kid,” he said. “I grew up in a Belgian village where you couldn’t find Vogue or things like that. I was really interested in the fashion and the look of the brands on stars I was seeing on MTV.”

More Than Costumes

Fashion brands are developing deeper ties with musicians outside the arena. In 2019, Pharrell and Chanel teamed up for a collection, a prelude to the N.E.R.D frontman being tapped for the Louis Vuitton men’s creative director job this February, the ultimate marriage of music and fashion.

After dressing Dua Lipa several times for her Future Nostalgia tour, Versace will be releasing a line co-designed by the artist timed to release with the Cannes Film Festival on May 23.

Puglisi, who collaborated with stylist Joseph Cassel on looks for Swift, said celebrities have figured as a significant part of his business over the years and more lately in his bid to reinvigorate Cavalli. But the designer notes that it has to be rooted in an authentic relationship with the stars.

“I consider them a big inspiration. I respect them so much so I never wanted to use these works to sell,” Puglisi said. “It’s important that Cavalli has huge artists to support the brand ideas but I never wanted to use them to re-propose the same pieces to real customers. It’s something much more unique.”

Taylor Swift in Cavalli looks for her Eras tour in March.
Taylor Swift in a Roberto Cavalli look on her Eras tour. (John Shearer/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management)

Being “strategic” in live performance dressing can seem like a dirty word but “it’s part of our generation and obviously you have to show it in the best way on Youtube, Instagram, everywhere,” said Vaillant of Coperni. ”The clothes are the most important points but you can’t just have the clothes anymore today. It’s such a competitive environment you have to stand out.”

Malique Morris contributed to this article.

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