The Style Evolution of Erykah Badu, the New Face of Givenchy

erykah badu for givenchyAndre 3000, Common, and Jay Electronica have all waxed poetic about the first lady of neo-soul Erykah Badu, and now Riccardo Tisci can be added to that list. The designer has tapped Badu to be the face of his next campaign — and it’s a choice that’s as refreshing as it is unexpected.

“Erykah, she’s an icon—come on!” Tisci told in an exclusive interview. “What I want to do with my advertising campaign is spread the love. Already now it’s been three seasons that I’ve been using people that express something—they are great artists, or beautiful women, or stylish women, or models that I really believe in. It’s kind of a family portfolio.”

They were only acquaintances prior to working together, but Tisci admired Badu from afar and cites her as an inspiration for his African and Japanese-inspired Spring 2014 collection.

While Tisci has been one of the fashion industry’s laudable figures to embrace diversity — championing models such as Joan Smalls, Grace Mahary, Dalianah Arekion, and Daniela Braga — the campaign, which only features models of color, will no doubt raise the dialogue about getting rid of fashion’s white-washed reputation. The other ads in the campaign, shot by Mert Alas & Marcus Piggott, features Maria Borges, Asia Chow, and Riley.

“There was a lot of talk this season in fashion,” Tisci said. “Me, I was one of the persons who ended up not being touched by this. I discovered Joan Smalls, I discovered Maria [Borges]. I discovered a lot of black girls, and I’ve been always supporting them. For me, I grew up in a family and I grew up in a culture, an education, that we all are the same.”

When asked if he thinks others in the industry will catch up to his progressive views, his thoughts were mixed.

“I hope so,” he said. “It’s 2013. Everybody’s being so cool about Instagram, about Facebook, any media—everybody’s being so open. At the end of the day, why are not so many black girls or Latin girls in shows? When you have an American president who is black! When I see this happening, it’s quite sad, I think. People can be so avant-garde, so advanced, but actually not, because people are still making differences between skin color.”

Tom Ford White Patchouli Fragrance  Erykah Badu

What some might not realize is that Tisci is not behind Badu’s first foray into the fashion industry. Let us not forget that Tom Ford previously tapped Badu to front his 2008 campaign for his White Patchouli fragrance — a re-imagined take on Patchouli oil, which you’ve definitely got a whiff of if you’ve seen her perform live. In the images, which were also shot by Mert & Marcus, Badu channels Diane Ross with a big head of natural hair that she’s been rocking a lot in recent years. Her willingness to work with luxury fashion brands likely raised the eyebrows of her diehards, and will continue to,  but as longtime fans of Badu and members of the industry, we believe she’s become an integral part to changing the standard.

Politics aside, Badu has had some of the most plucky stage fashion of any artist of our generation. She embodies a style all her own that straddles the line between streetwear and authentic African style no matter how bold the outcome. From the towering turbans of the early 00′s to today’s tailored urban bohemian wares, it continues to evolve and surprise us. In honor of her new gig, we’ve rounded up 18 of our her most memorable Afrocentric looks.

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