A Major Fashion Moment: Azealia Banks Closes Kim Shui SS/22
The iconic “212” singer was tapped by Shui herself to be the designer’s runway finale
“People will say what they say… whatever.” This is what Azealia Banks thinks about being judged.
When we caught up with the iconic singer backstage at the Kim Shui show, she was beaming and breathless, having just closed out the presentation wearing a custom rose-printed soft pink chiffon dress with a bedazzled corset and matching fuschia stilettos. Banks sashayed luminously down the Spring Studios runway to her own thumping song “Fuck Him All Night,” as the chic crowd cheered appreciatively for her runway moment.
“Y’all know that I’ve been out here for years,” she continued, “working for this music, working for this culture, working for this art. It’s been ten years since ‘212,’ and I’m a seasoned veteran now.”
Banks has every right to bring up “212” even a decade on; that song, which has nearly mythical importance to our cultural lexicon at this point, exploded onto the music scene in 2011. It received extended playtime in practically every club, music festival, and dancehall the world over, and catapulted Banks to superstardom. Her post-”212” album, Broke With Expensive Taste, was one of the most highly-anticipated drops of the decade, and the iconic “212” music video, filmed in black and white, has more than 208 million views as of today. But while Banks saw major successes, her acerbic wit and sharp tongue on Twitter made her into an industry pariah. Banks was getting in hot water for calling out Hollywood figures and mainstream media elites years before movements like MeToo and TimesUp took hold. Her takes on social issues, sexuality, and gender sometimes made her an antagonistic figure with many in the liberal media sphere as well. Her list of famous names that she’s confronted or called out is too long to list here. As has often been the case with women before her, Banks’ penchant for speaking her mind and not backing down has made her into something of a marked woman.
Yet through it all, her ardent supporters have stood by her. A talent as exceptional as hers — singer, songwriter, rapper, creative muse, fashion vivant — is sometimes a burden to bear for a person. And in an industry (and a world) so consistently demeaning and unhelpful to Black women, it’s unlikely that Banks would get the support she needed. So her cadre of loyal fans kept her streams up, kept her views up, and waited for new music, new performances, new work. They got some of that recently when Banks played a multi-night, sold-out run at Webster Hall, and now they’re getting more of Banks as she adds runway modeling to her resume.
“Right now I’m just feeling very grateful,” she told us. “Kim’s given me this opportunity to show my beauty to the world… and ya know, people get so obsessed with the unbeautiful things about me. But with Kim, it’s like, no, you are beautiful. Get the dress on, girl! Get ya life!”
Banks and Kim Shui have been friends for some time now, ever since the singer sat front row for a Shui show years ago. “At that time, less big name performers or artists were really coming to my front row yet. It was still pretty tight-knit back then,” Shui tells us. “Of course, literally everyone knew ‘212,’ and I always thought she was beautiful and super talented. I liked that she was real and outspoken. And I tend not to judge people until I’ve met them in person. I thought it was so cool that she was willing to talk to me directly, since we originally communicated through Instagram DMs. After the show she asked if she could come to the afterparty, which I also thought was very sweet. And she’s very kind… I remember she came to that first show and offered me and my team some of the health foods her team had on hand, because she knew that we hadn’t really had time to eat anything that day and she cared about us. She’s actually very down to earth.”
That admiration is mutual.
“Kim is the realest bitch, ya know?” Banks gushed to us. “She’s the best.”
Shui’s efforts for SS22 include some of the designer’s go-to looks mixed with Country Western elements, producing an interesting refresher for the Shui brand: chaps with qipaos, It-girl silk tops with knee-length leather rodeo boots, and of course, traditionally sexy red-carpet-ready flowing silk gowns, now completed with a diamante cowboy hat. Featured on an entirely API group of body-diverse runway models, the casting was also classic Kim Shui.
“For me, it was about taking these very obviously Western elements and flipping them around from an Eastern perspective,” Shui explains to V. “I wanted high glam, exaggerated Hollywood vibes on the runway, but then redone in a different way. So we played with the scale of the prints, we played with different shades, different fabrics, and we did a lot of embellishment, which was all hand done. A lot of mixed media this season.”
“I was feelin’ my puss!” Banks commented enthusiastically about her closing look and her fierce turn in front of the photo pit. “And that might be dangerous. Seriously! My puss was throbbing! It still is!”
And what’s next for Ms. Banks?
“I just turned 30 in May. I feel the best I’ve ever felt in my life,” she tells us. “I feel better now than I did when I was 20. I feel like life is just beginning. Like 20 to 30years old, it was just a scrimmage, and now it’s for real. And hey, the whole world is just getting their footing back. Even when I was on stage at Webster Hall last week, I was like, oh shit! I forgot how to do this! I had nerves and heebie-jeebies like I’d never had. By the third show I was good, but I had to get used to doing it again. That’s why when things were really bad and there was all this scaremongering and stuff, I was just like, what the fuck I’m doing with my life? If I can’t perform… like, I’m a star, you know? A performer. What was I supposed to do? I’d starve! But now that things are coming back, I think everybody is working their way out of the funk. I’ve always felt hopeful, but now I really feel healthy and strong… and focused.”