Some artists are made, but when Erykah Badu appeared on the scene in 1997 following the release of her debut album Baduizm, she arrived fully formed. From the sound to the clothes, it was clear this was a woman who had a concrete sense of self. Music critics crowned her the new face of neo-soul, fashion hounds leapt on her carefully percolated style comprising of bohemian, afrofuturistic and Rastafari inflections. No one could place her, which is a sign we'd landed on something wholly original and unseen.
Born in Dallas, for Erica Wright (her government name) fashion has always existed in tandem with the music. And yet, Badu has never hired a stylist in the two and a bit decades she's spent in the public eye. The musician sees no distinction between the clothes she wears on the street and those she dons onstage. There's no alter-ego, it's all just her.
Over the years Erykah Badu has traded in her body-skimming dressed for clothes pulled straight from the men's section. What's stayed a constant, however, is her appreciation for accessories. In an interview with Vogue in 2015, Badu told the publication that she tours with a black body bag brimming with jewellery, including Yoruba and Maasai beads and the kind of jewellery that makes music when she walks. There's also a hat box big enough to fit six hats, which tracks as the musician is rarely seen without a head garnish.
“I’ve always enjoyed dressing my head, whether it’s head wraps, hats, or wigs, I’m not sure why,” she told Vogue. “I think that’s just where my mojo lives.”
She's acted as a muse to Tom Ford and Riccardo Tisci during the latter's reign at Givenchy and later Burberry. And her own style influences are a mix of Chaka Khan, David Bowie and legendary funk bassist Bootsy Collins.
As we sift through Erykah Badu's old outfits and make our way through her more recent style contributions, say that 2022 Marni Met Gala look, we're reminded of what a joy it is to grow old and evolve. Alongside icons like Diane Keaton, Erykah Badu is all the evidence you need that style only gets better with age.
Image: @erykahbadu; pinterest