If you haven't yet experienced Beyoncé's powerful Afrocentric visual album, Black Is King, we'll give you a minute (rather, an hour and a half) to watch it now. The pop queen dropped the companion to 2019's The Lion King: The Gift on Disney+ at the end of July, and the stunning film features cameos by her family (including Blue Ivy Carter), Kelly Rowland, Naomi Campbell, and Lupita Nyong'o as well as collaborators (Pharrell Williams, Wizkid, Tiwa Savage, to name a few), and the cast of The Lion King, among many others.
The fashionable film was styled by Zerina Akers, who tapped designers from across the globe to create gowns, costumes, jewelry, and more pieces. The stylist recently told Harpers Bazaar that process involved constant creativity: "[We were] calling designers at midnight, like, 'Hey, can you meet me at 8 a.m. and let's design this thing together.' A lot of the L.A. designers were constantly making things for us as we were going."
Those local talents included L.A.-based fine jewelry label Haati Chai, which scored a coveted spot on Bey's lobes during scenes of the song, "Brown Skin Girl." Co-designers Ali Heiss and Stella Simona dreamed up 12 different pairs of custom pearl and gold earrings, which they were able to create in just four hours. The design that was ultimately selected was a sculptural chandelier-style creation with one-of-a-kind baroque pearls from the South Asian Sea, Simona tells WhatRivaWore.
Founded in 2011 by Simona, Haati Chai is also the sister label of minimalist-luxe line Amarilo, which was founded the same year by Heiss. The duo merged their brands in 2014 and are now co-creative directors of both lines.
Although Beyoncé's bespoke accoutrements aren't available to purchase, the designers say they used pearls from the same strand in Haati Chai's Mukta charm ($375). Amarilo also offers other pearl-adorned pieces, such as these Mini Nora Pearl Hoops ($210) and this classic ring ($250 and up).
We recently sat down with Heiss and Simona to learn more about how Haati Chai landed in Black Is King, what the design process was like, and what's coming down the pipeline for both of their brands — read on below.
How did you get involved with Beyoncé and her team? Did you know about the project in advance?
Stella Simona: One of the individuals on her styling team is a close friend of ours. When it comes to custom designs especially ones they need quickly she often reaches out to us as this type of work is not easy for many jewelry designers to whip up quickly.
AH: We were told the song was going to be "Brown Skin Girl" and the lyrics go like so: "Brown skin girl; Your skin just like pearls." We immediately knew wanted to use pearls once we knew the song we would be a part of.
What the design process was like? Who did you work with directly?
Stella Simona: The earring was custom, we had all creative control. Ali and I quickly handmade around 12 pieces and the first pair we freestyled (Ali created one from the pair while I created the other part of the pair) ended up being the one Beyoncé wore. We worked directly with her stylist, Zerina.
What was your first reaction after seeing them on Beyoncé?
SS: Ali and I were overwhelmed by seeing the pieces on B and to be a part of such a beautiful message. And me personally as a darker-skinned woman, I felt she really spoke to my personal experiences.
What else is coming down the pipline for Amarilo and Haati Chai?
SS: Ali and I have come along way as women, specifically as POC. In the last few years, we have sat down and really began to address the reason why we started it all — inclusivity, to speak to the women who have been underrepresented for so long. Our customer base is broad but one that both our lines have in common is that our pieces are for women who want to feel comfortable in their own skin.
AH: With that in mind, we are working on several launches with different artists in the coming year. The first one up is Amarilo x Ashley Blaine Featherson which will be launching August 17.