You can’t judge a book by its cover, but an album is fair game. So when Renaissance dropped its main artwork — Beyoncé riding a glass horse and posing in a Giannina Azar dress as a spangled Lady Godiva — the world knew instantly that this record would shimmer and slink through our stereos, our sweat, and likely our dreams. (The world also knew instantly that Renaissance would be not just good, but great, because: Beyoncé.)
Azar got the call from Beyoncé’s stylist, Marni Senofonte, while home in the Dominican Republic. She quickly got to work researching the given inspirations — disco, dance floor, drama — and came up with a recipe for fashion dynamite: 100,000 Swarovski crystals, stitched and hammered together with silver rhinestones. “Marni came to us with disco in mind,” Azar says, “So instantly I thought of Cher's iconic Bob Mackie looks from the 1970's, as well as [Cher’s] incredible looks from Studio 54. Working with Marni is great, as she let me have free reign with the design process and allowed me to create something truly unique for Beyoncé.”
The Dominican and Lebanese designer may be emerging, but she’s not exactly anonymous. In 2018, she dressed Britney Spears for the GLAAD Media Awards; she’s also created crystal ensembles for Jennifer Lopez’s otherworldly El Anillo music video, and for several of Gwen Stefani’s head-turning (or should we say chair-turning?) metallic looks on The Voice.
For Beyoncé, Azar continued her more-is-more aesthetic with dazzling results. The dress took nearly a month to complete, and employed Azar’s technical skills in sewing, metalcraft, and embroidery. “Initially I attended Collegio de Bellas Artes in Santa Domingo to study Fine Art,” she says, then went onto the University of Miami in 2012. The Dominican and Lebanese designer got her MFA in Fine Art and Illustration — which may explain how her initial drawing of Beyoncé in the glimmering barely-there gown was the final selling point for Serafonte, and the pop goddess herself.
Of course, Beyoncé Knowles Carter looks amazing in everything and anything. But the Renaissance woman needed both style and strength to pull of this look, because it didn’t just look substantial; it truly was. Altogether, Azar reports that the Renaissance cover dress weighed in at 29 lbs. — the equivalent weight of about 6 Grammy Awards.
Good thing Beyoncé’s been lifting those for years.