Stylist Zerina Akers on Finding Inspiration, Expanding Her Reach and Dressing Clients Amid a Pandemic
"The vision of how I can shape my future as a young Black woman and serve as a representative for other little girls keeps me inspired," Zerina Akers, who styles Beyoncé and Chloe x Halle tells PEOPLE
Just like her impressive roster of superstar clients, stylist Zerina Akers pushes the creative envelope with everything she does.
Akers isn't just the mastermind behind some of the biggest celebrity looks (Beyoncé, Chloe and Halle Bailey are a just a few of the powerful women she collaborates with): She has extended her reach beyond styling and into design with her own collection with BAR III for Macy's, launched Black Owned Everything (a shopping destination celebrating Black businesses), created a nonprofit to educate and empower entrepreneurs — and she's just getting started.
This month, her work for the jewelry giant, Zales, is being released, starting with the Mother's Day campaign, which she styled. We caught up with Akers to hear all about this impressive new gig, what keeps her inspired, motivated and what's next down the pike.
"Zales wanted to work with a stylist that could create a bold look but could also advise on fashion trends and advice for their upcoming campaigns for Mother's Day, Bridal and the Self-Purchaser," Akers tells PEOPLE of the ads, directed by Dave Meyers. "It was really fun; in the campaign we played a lot with color and the different types of consumers — women, male, brides, etc."
She was sure to capture the essence of every type of bride, whether young and experimental or one who preferred a more traditional look, as well as speak to the consumer buying jewelry for themselves.
"We explored with different trends, colors and silhouettes," she says of her Mother's Day campaign (pictured above and below). "Some of it was '80s inspired which was fun. We tried to mix in jewelry in unique and cool ways."
"For men's fashion, we explored the afro futuristic vibe, cool printed jackets, cropped length trousers, and used different cuffs and sleeve lengths so that you could stack bracelets and watches on your wrist."
She says seeing her work appear with major retailers is still "really surreal."
"I hope to continue to grow," she adds. "It's been a huge learning process. I'm constantly a student. I want to continue to be a sponge and learn but also stay true to myself and my aesthetic."
Part of that exploration will include design. "I'm really enjoying product development. I want to continue to collaborate with different corporations as well as Black creators."
She's recently been expanding in that area through her work launching Black Owned Everything. After starting as an Instagram page, she created a full website and larger medium meant to "create meaningful and long-lasting participation between Black business, community, and excellence. It is not ephemeral, trend-based, or short-lived."
Akers was able to work with owners and designers to create new products, but wants to push even further. "I want to make it a destination for shoppers," she shares.
While she says creating something brand-new that has yet to exist was challenging, she's grateful for the "supportive" people she's been able to partner with.
"Watching these brands partner with other brands or collaborate with celebrities and customers is the most rewarding."
Like so many other people, she took time in quarantine to give herself a rest and recharge from a nonstop schedule. She spent her days cooking, catching up on good shows and literally stopped to smell the roses.
"It was just nice to be home and enjoy my place and see my roses bloom in my rose garden and savor those moments," Akers says. "I even started an herb garden! Like when am I going to have time to do things like that or start a puzzle? It was amazing to have the downtime."
As the world (and her clients) emerged from lockdown, she used the opportunity to get creative with things. "A lot of showrooms weren't open yet or ready to loan, so that forced us to be creative and design garments. We did a lot of custom items where I made things from scratch with my tailor."
Those vintage tees Chloe and Halle wore for their Global Citizen performance? Hand-cut by Akers herself. "I tapped back into things that I used to do — like cutting up vintage T-shirts."
With so many different opportunities coming her way, she sees it as a source of motivation more than anything. "The vision of how I can shape my future as a young Black woman and serve as a representative for other little girls keeps me inspired," Akers explains. "Pushing myself to do things that scare me, such as more forward facing roles that require me to be on camera, is a source of motivation. I got to do a lot of these things with Zales for our latest campaign. It really forced myself out of my comfort zone. But I'm exciting for you to see it!"
Plus, she knows the "more light that is on me, the more I'm able to shine light on other projects or just represent for other women out there." Which includes her nonprofit, Akers and Akers Foundation, which implement programs in the community that helps with résumé writing, financial literacy, entrepreneurial courses, food donations and giving style tips for work or job interviews.
"I want it to be an organic foundation that helps the community," Akers says. "There are some very real things that happen in life and I want to help people with these challenges. We've just been raising organically and hope to scale up to do some cool programs to benefit the community."
If anyone can get it done, it's Akers.
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