"She's a star and once this album drops the take over will begin," stylist Oluwabukola Becky Akinyode says of her friend and occasional client Kelsey Lu, the singer/songwriter/cellist who The Guardian described as "the strings svengali," in a December "one to watch" profile.
With her debut EP, Church, having been released in 2016, the last few years have been spent collaborating with all your faves, including Solange, Kelela, and Sampha in the lead-up to her upcoming debut LP, Blood, dropping this Friday.
Key in developing Lu's image has been her style, which Akinyode describes as funky, sexy, playful, punk and out of this world. The two first met via Akinyode's sister. "We're friends first and only recently started working together," she tells GARAGE. "Sometimes working with people you know can be stressful but with Lu its so easy and so fun. We both love clothes and know how to have a good time and I think it shows in the work that we do together. Most importantly, she and I can't have her out here looking stupid—especially not when there are looks that need to be served."
Below, we asked Akinyode to share four of her favorite looks that she styled for Lu, and the inspiration behind them.
"This was my first time working with Lu and it really set the tone for what was to come," Akinyode explained. "Lu had walked the No Sesso show earlier that week and the jacket she's wearing is from that show. We worked to build an outfit around it. We went to James Veloria and Templo in Chinatown Mall to check out their pieces and ended up getting the stiletto Tom Ford boots— which are very Mary J Blige circa "No More Drama" era from JV and the vintage velvet pants from Templo. We had a blast vintage shopping and by the end of it we became friends with the entire staff." The body suit, according to Akinyode is from her own personal archives, crediting it with helping to give the outfit a sexy goth touch, along with the feather necklace, which says, "really sealed the deal."
"She wanted to dress like we were entering a post apocalyptic world," Akinyode explained of this look which was chosen for Lu's performance at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Shed. "I'm a fan of Shanel, who designed this dress; her collection is so strong. "This dress is giving Victorian goth/Game of Thrones vibes. The fabric is so heavy and while it's a gown, there's nothing prissy about it. I think it's important to use your platform to promote upcoming designers who might not get a ton of press especially designers of color."
Lu wanted to wear a headpiece for the performance, so Akinyode turned to Heather Huey, whom she first worked with in the fashion closet at Interview Magazine. For jewelry they used pieces from Martine Ali, Saskia Diez, Khiry, Robin Mollicone and the Shiny Squirrel showroom. "This look was so much fun to style. We got to work with all these different designers that I'm a huge fan of and it all really came together. Lu performed outside and if you look at the performance footage as soon as she started playing Mother Nature was flexing hard and honestly I felt that the dragons were about to come out."
"I really wanted Lu to showcase an African American designer for this performance," Akinyode says of this look for a series of performances curated by Steve McQueen and Quincy Jones to celebrate the impact of African American music on contemporary culture (Lu performed the second night). "I'm a huge fan of Christopher John Rogers and knew his gowns would be perfect for this," she said. "His pieces are literal works of art; they are vibrant, intricate and unique. I loved his most recent collection especially the dresses made in collaboration with Drake Carr. Also the tulle boa that came with this dress really added to the drama."
With Diana Ross on her moodboard, Akinyode says she knew they had to "up the notch on the glam factor" for this one. "We had pieces from G Sherman jewels, Rainbow Unicorn Surprise and Saskia Diez. Lu really loved these jewel-tone sandals by Pierre Hardy which added a little sparkle to her bottom half. I'm really proud of this particular look. It's super cute and playful but at the same time regal. It's so Lu."
"Lu and I are both fans of Kwaidan Editions; the brand just makes really amazing pieces," Akinyode said. Therefore, when it came time to do a round of press at MTV/BET, they both knew that this suit from the brand's FW19 runway would be perfect. "The fabric is similar to the texture of rubber, and in the full suit she looks like a super badass business woman." According to Akinyode, Lu actually styled this look with her own shoes and accessories (the sneakers are from the latest Converse and JWA collab). Why no shirt underneath? "Obviously Lu wasn't about to wear a shirt underneath this suit. Doing so would have basicfied it," she sensibly explained.