Exclusive: Madonna's Stylist On The Icon Owning Her Sexuality
B. Akerlund’s a fashion activist, costume designer, and the stylist to all who reign supreme in Hollywood’s entertainment industry. Her vision, which can be seen in several Beyoncé, Madonna, and Lady Gaga videos adhere to classic showbiz ideals that never get old, a.k.a studded bodysuits, and sparkles galore. B’s body of work is intense, she’s got loads to be proud of, and a demanding schedule that she dominates without a wince. However, she also possesses a beautiful human trait making her a force that fashion very much needs –it’s the desire to give back.
Assessing the needs of a very hungry market, B. recently launched WHOYOUARE. It’s a platform for designers and stylists to showcase and sell their work, and easily collaborate, making success a bit more achievable to her peers. Wanting to know more about the woman behind most of Madonna’s bad ass performance looks, Milk Made’s Karenna Insanally caught up with B to get the gist of WHO YOU ARE, and what it’s like working with the Queen of Pop herself.
How did you initially get into costume design and styling? You’ve clearly been interested in the field from a young age.
Fashion and clothing are things that I feel like I was born into. My interest in styling started when I would dress up as a club kid and it later escalated into me dressing other people. I started collecting vintage clothing as a teenager and my passion grew into creating outfits and characters for myself.
You’ve worked with Madonna plenty in the past, what’s that been like over the years?
Working with Madonna has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. She has taught me to be a hard worker, to be the best at my game and to never settle for second best.
Madonna’s facing a lot of ageism and sexism these days – why do you think the world is so fearful of an older woman owning her sexuality?
I can’t speak for the rest of the world, but she is one of the only true artists and icons we have currently and she owns her sexuality. Now what is wrong with that? We all can only dream about looking as fantastic as she does at her age.
You’ve also worked on a line called Le Snob – Phillipe Blond was wearing gloves you designed at the [Blonds]( http://www.milkmade.com/articles?utf8=✓&search=the+blonds) show here at [MADE Fashion Week]( http://www.milkmade.com/articles?utf8=✓&search=made+fashion+week) back in February. How does Le Snob fit into your aesthetic?
Le Snob is a passion project I created with my business partner Robert Lussier. It is a dream come true to see it now become reality. Like many things I am involved in, Robert and I collaborated with various designers to create Le Snob. The gloves you’re referencing were made in collaboration with Majesty Black – a designer who is a part of WHOYOUARE and The Residency.
What’s the strangest or most surreal thing you’ve ever designed?
A fat suit I designed for Chris Martin for the video ‘True Love.’
Being Swedish, how often do you find your heritage infiltrating your work?
All the time; being Swedish keeps me grounded and I’m always inspired by my trips to Europe and Sweden in particular.
As someone being based in LA, how has the scene out there solidified who you are?
I’m an L.A. lover and the lifestyle suits me great. There is no other place in the world where you can live in the hills and still be two seconds from the action on Sunset Boulevard.
Tell us a bit about WHOYOUARE, and what prompted it.
WHOYOUARE was created because I felt that there was something missing in my daily routine in terms of finding designers and being able to search for and organize portfolios. I receive requests every day from designers all over the world who want to show me their collections and so many of these requests fall through the cracks. WHOYOUARE is the ultimate app that I wanted for myself and I realized that I wasn’t alone in this need. So many people in the fashion industry have the same problem. WHOYOUARE is about discovering new talent and creating a space for creatives of every level to connect and collaborate with each other.
With the Internet’s oversaturation of content, how difficult is it for young talent to showcase their work?
There are so many different social media platforms out there, which allow users to show their work. What I realized is that most people have more than one talent – they can be designers, illustrators and stylists all in one and WHOYOUARE is the place where these creatives can show the world everything they are capable of in just a few clicks.
You’re spearheading an even tighter community for creatives in your field, why do you think no one has done this sooner?
I think it can be very difficult. This project has taken me many hours of going back and forth on ideas and concepts trying to create the ideal product that isn’t too complicated to use. I am very lucky to have a team of creative and tech savvy people who understand my vision and have helped make it come alive.
Besides WHOYOUARE, what other dream projects do you have in mind?
To influence fashion in a positive and uplifting way.
Check out WHOYOUARE here
Photography by Ekaterina Belinskaya and Tim Walker