It occurred to me, just before she answered my Zoom call, that Kelly Rowland has set the soundtrack to my life for the last twenty years.
First, in Destiny’s Child—where she, Beyoncé Knowles, and Michelle Williams taught me how to be an independent woman, how to survive, and how to know when someone isn’t, indeed, ready for this jelly.
Then, after the group’s amicable split in 2006, Rowland’s solo career went on to mark some of the most significant cultural moments of the decade; there was ‘Dilemma’, which underlined society’s growing appetite for RnB, ‘Stole’, which forced global conversations around mental health, and ‘When Love Takes Over’, which became the unofficial anthem for gay marriage.
But music is not why we’re staring at each others pixelated faces today. Today, we’re talking fashion—and veering wildly off-course from there.
Rowland just launched a footwear and apparel collection with membership shopping platform JustFab, following a successful activewear collaboration with its sister company, Fabletics, last year.
“We sat down and had a really great conversation—I felt like we were playing tennis, just going back and forth on everything from womanhood to style, how different pieces forge connections, and it all made its way into this collection.”
The first Kelly Rowland for JustFab collection drops today, with plus-size and wide-width/calf options for select styles, and new styles will be released on November and December 1st.
“We put together a really beautiful collection that I feel exemplifies style, but also doesn’t push you to break the bank. The fabric feels beautiful, the pieces are unique, but they all can stay in your closet for years to come,” she says. “They work for you, and I feel like they do all the thinking for you, which is how I shop, period.”
Though both parties only started working on the collection at the beginning of the summer, Rowland says there isn’t a piece that isn’t perfect.
“My favourite part of the process was being able to see how things came out. Like, you have a certain idea of how something will go in your head, and then it’s funny to see when you’re right and when you’re wrong,” she laughs, suggesting quite a few of her initial ideas ended up on the cutting room floor. “You know what I mean? Just the creativity of it all. The details, for me, really mean a lot.
“I love this one that I’m wearing now,” she says, sitting up straight to show me the sleeves of a soft beige co-ord. “I found myself wearing a lot of sets before I did the collaboration, so when it was time for us to do them, I was like, THIS IS GONNA BE AWESOME!”
It is clear, as she continues to discuss the finer details of the collection, that she is incredibly proud of what she’s created.
“We have this in navy blue, as well, but I also love the animal print sweaters. And then there are—I call them my chocolate bars—my chocolate crocodile boots, which are my favourites, too.”
She hits the breaks on her enthusiasm, momentarily, and smiles. “I wanted it to be like that. If you’re going to be connected or attached to any brand, you want to love every piece.”
The commercial for the collection sees Rowland in a similarly excitable state, trying pieces on out of a JustFab delivery box and showing them off to her friends over Zoom her new single, CRAZY, plays overhead.
How in the world she’s managing to create clothing lines, music, movies, and more during a global pandemic, I can’t comprehend.
“You know,” she starts, looking up at the ceiling for a few moments before collapsing into a giggle. “I—don’t—know. I’m still figuring it out, but I don’t know.
“When you say it like that, I’m like, oh boy. You really figure it out every day and the most important job to me right now is, of course, motherhood. I make sure I’m here to hear the first and last parts of my son’s day. I call in between to see what’s going on, but he’s just—I don’t know, he’s at this really cool age right now and I don’t want to miss anything. When I do,” she pauses to take a deep breath. “Oh, you can’t get me out of bed.”
In 2014, Rowland married her manager, Tim Weatherspoon, in an intimate ceremony. Roughly six months later, she gave birth to their first son, Titan, who will turn six next month, and become a big brother shortly thereafter.
“What I love is that he sees me working, and I tell him how much I love it, so now he’s literally set up in his classroom—” she raises an eyebrow. “He doesn’t call it a classroom, he calls his office. ‘Mommy, do you want to come to my office?’
“I love that. I have an office in the house, his dad has an office in the house, and he’s getting his mind into this space of loving to ‘work’ and be creative. It’s those things that make me really, really happy.”
Still, taking over the world can’t be easy with a young child running around.
“You can’t get a breath!” she shouts in faux-anger. “Oh, it’s so funny. This is the most I’ve been home, ever, so he wants to report everything to me, which I love, but when mama just want a moment just have like some wine and a piece of chocolate…” her eyes widen. “There’s no escape.”
With limited options available in a ghost-towned Hollywood, Rowland had to take over her husband’s “man cave” to edit a movie she’s been executive producing.
“So, I’ll be in there with my chilled drink now,” she looks down at her baby bump, albeit a few days before announcing her pregnancy publicly. “Not necessarily wine any more—but I have my little piece of chocolate and I put my soda water in a wine glass so I can think that I’m drinking—and Titan will come in with his dinosaurs like…” she mimics wild pre-historic roars. “And I’m just smiling, like, ‘Son, can I have a moment?’
“But no, because the dinosaurs want an office, too.”
For a second, I forget I’m talking to one-third of Destiny’s Child. And it’s to Rowland’s impossibly humble credit. But I can’t hang up without asking her about those outfits.
“Those outfits,” she grins. “I think about how fun they were, and I think about how fast my world was moving at that time. Now, some outfits we should actually be charged for because they just did not work on red carpets, but some of those moments were so cool.”
Most of the credit, of course, goes to Tina Knowles-Lawson—Beyoncé’s mother and the group’s matriarch-cum-stylist.
‘Mama T’, as Rowland refers to her, designed many of Destiny’s Child’s signature looks. Somewhat infamously, they were cohesive—almost-matching—yet individual, and regularly covered in sequins, denim and camouflage.
“One of my favourites is the VMAs—I think it was 2000—and we wore these black leather corsets. I think Bey had on a skirt, I had on shorts, Michelle had on pants, and they were encrusted with rhinestones—it’s one of my favourite looks of ours. But also the army fatigues, and there was a cute Dolce moment we had with floral tops and the really loooooooow cut jeans,” she laughs, almost self-consciously.”Those were really interesting moments in that time period and it was special, for certain, for that time.
“But I hope those low rise jeans stay in that time period. High-waisted jeans just run the world,” she exclaims, in a sing-song voice, to the tune of her Destiny sister’s Run The World (Girls). “They make everything better.”
In previous interviews, Knowles-Lawson has said that the clothes she created for her girls—largely inspired by the bold and co-ordinated looks of Motown greats like The Marvelettes and Supremes—would limit the group’s ‘crossover appeal’.
“They were just a little too flashy, a little too Motown, but what they really meant was that they were a little too black,” said Knowles-Lawson. “As an African-American, I know, I’ve always known, that our fashion, our vibe, our style, our swag, has influenced the fashion world greatly.”
By the same token, Rowland thinks it’s incredibly important for the fashion and beauty industry to be representative of the world at large. “I remember, even in Destiny’s Child, there was a moment where, as a chocolate girl, I didn’t feel seen,” she says.
“Everyone’s doing their part to make it better, but whether you are a black girl, a brown girl, an Asian girl, or Middle Eastern girl, I feel like you should be able to see yourself everywhere, whether it’s on the runways or commercials, you should be able to feel seen.
“In that time it was a struggle. It was definitely a struggle. It was a specific body type, just kind of one dimensional. They were trying to change but it was still too early, and now there’s a generation that is forcing everyone to change and I really respect that generation.”
“What Edward [Enninful] is doing with British Vogue is nothing short of amazing, you know. You see other people trying to play catch up, but you have to play catch up in all ethnicities, too. I feel like everybody’s doing their part, but we still have quite a ways to go.”
With growing experience and success in the industry, I wonder if she might consider becoming a force for change in fashion herself.
“I’m getting my taste of it with JustFab and the truth is, I’m loving it. I didn’t think that I wanted to do it because I remember a time when eeeeeveryone was doing a clothing line, and I was like—I don’t want to do that.
“Now, I’m really feeling it. I get in the meetings and I’m just submersed in it. It’s so much fun and, to me, when you love the process, it becomes a passion.”
If true, it seems Rowland loves the process of writing, producing, editing, acting, singing, hosting, parenting, and designing. All at once, even.
“Really, the sky’s the limit. I feel I’m at this place in my life where there’s just so many stories to tell, and to be a part of, whether it’s on film or in fashion, on TV or through song, and I feel blessed to have the opportunity to do so.”