Brisbane, Australia — The black-and-white bodysuit that Beyoncé wears in promotional videos for her latest album, Renaissance, was once a stack of polypropylene stationery folders.
The unique design was handcrafted by Australian designer Bethany Cordwell, 26, who works in the wardrobe department for the Queensland Ballet Co.
Cordwell's avant garde design, built from chips of plastic cut from PP folders, was in a collection featured on an Instagram site called Up Next Designer that is popular with celebrities. Beyoncé's styling team spotted it and contacted her to ask if they could purchase a similar bodysuit.
Cordwell had no time to create a new one, so the original item was freighted to Los Angeles. Fortunately, the sizing was correct. Cordwell added a pair of matching plastic earrings, also made from chips cut from PP stationery folders, and she is delighted that they, too, feature in the album's promotional material.
Cordwell won't reveal how much Beyoncé paid for the body suit. "It's a price I am very happy with, that's all I'm saying," she told Plastics News in an interview.
Her inspiration came from a part-time, casual job in a large Australian stationery chain where she worked while studying for a four-year Bachelor of Design, majoring in fashion design. She graduated in 2018.
"I love thinking of different ways to repurpose materials. If it can go under my sewing machine or be sewn by hand, I can transform it," she said.
Cordwell liked the shiny finish on PP folders so she progressively purchased about 100 for her eight-piece collection that included the bodysuit.
She hand cut scale-shaped shapes, each about 2 inches square, from the folders, with about 12,000 separate pieces going into the bodysuit alone.
It took a month to hand cut all the pieces and sew them together.
"I don't do things the easy way. But plastic is surprisingly good with the sewing machine, it's not too thick," she said.
Cardwell initially thought the email from Beyoncé's team was a hoax. But she was excited once she realized it was genuine.
The black-and-white range that features on the Instagram site was made at her home, the promotional images shot at home, and the materials were all "things you can buy cheaply and experiment with".