Decked Out: ZZ Ward's Onstage Style Evolution
The singer-songwriter hones in on a new color scheme and look for her Love and War Tour.
Nobody can ever say singer ZZ Ward (nee Zsuzsanna Eva Ward) shies away from making a statement. Since landing on the scene with her debut album, Til The Casket Drops, the Oregon native has wooed a devoted fan base with her blues-tinged lyrics and powerhouse vocals, not to mention a magnetic stage presence which she’s perfected over three headlining tours, and at the likes of Bonnaroo and Coachella.
With a second album, This Means War, dropping next spring, Ward is gearing up to hit the road with a slew of new songs off her new EP, Love and War, out Aug. 28, and a new look to match. Ahead of kicking off her tour in Dallas on the same day, Ward dishes on her trademark colors, the real reasons she wears a hat, and why she loves rocking out in heels.
Pret-a-Reporter: Did anyone help you put together this outfit today?
I have an amazing stylist. Her name is Kemal Harris, and she works with Karla Welch. Kemal’s been working with me for about I’d say two or three years now. She’s just really incredible at what she does. She really kind of wants inspiration from the person she’s working with, and I’m sure she could go without that too, but with me, I knew what I wanted to do with my style on the new album. I knew the colors I wanted to use. I knew that I wanted to have things that made me feel a little bit more feminine, a little bit more sexy, and going and finding those things is always a little bit more challenging, you know, there’s a real art to it. So, Kemal helped me put this stuff together. This outfit in particular is something that I’ve kind of planned to wear on my new tour coming up, called the Love and War Tour.
You’ve decided on a red, white, and black color palette for the tour. How did you land on that?
The idea behind my new album, This Means War, is that when you get into a relationship, it doesn’t fix all of those shortcomings within yourself. It only shines light on them even more. Based upon those ideas I wanted to pick a color palette that represented that. It kind of gave me a basis for all of the artwork around the album, and I just felt like red represented love and passion to me, and red, black, and white just were very potent colors, very sincere colors. Those are very powerful colors, and I thought you could do so much within that small spectrum. So, that’s kind of why I felt motivated by those.
Why is your onstage look so important to you?
I want people to come into the show and to just be stimulated not only by the music, but by the vision, by the whole project and by what they see. So everything from what the stage dressing is going to look like, to the lights, to what I’m wearing is just going to be a little bit more thought out than ever before. I’ve really gone to a lot of work with Kemal to really work on incorporating like my artistry through the fashion and through the clothes.
How did hats become such an integral part of your look?
When I first started performing, I’d get nervous and scared on stage. I wanted to be like the blues artists that I grew up listening to like Muddy Waters. So, I decided that if I wore a hat or a fedora that I could kind of resemble them and kind of become a different character in a way. Now I’ve gotten so used to wearing a fedora on stage that I just don’t feel like me if I’m not wearing one.
How many hats do you currently own?
I own about 90 fedoras. Now they’re in storage because I’ve kind of tightened things up a lot from my second album, and I’m only wearing two or three hats.
Do you usually perform in heels?
It’s funny because I never used to. I used to wear boots, and I used to be like, "I can’t wear heels on stage because I want to jump around." But I decided that heels kind of give you this empowering feeling. They just give you a little boost of confidence in the way you carry yourself. I decided I want to wear heels at every show, and now that I started to do that, it’s really interesting to feel myself become even more confident on stage, the way that I’m moving, the way that I hold myself. These are brand new for the tour.
You’ve traded in your signature long locks for a shoulder-length bob. What prompted the major chop?
That was like such a tough thing for me to do. It was probably like six months ago now, and to be honest I felt like I had kind of inspired a lot of people to start wearing hats. I started seeing it a lot more like girls with long blonde hair wearing fedoras which I think is amazing because I love to inspire people, but for the new album I wanted to take it one step further. I want to push my artistry and evolve my style and my look even more. I had really long hair, and the first thing I did was I cut it. I cut it really short, and then I went even more blonde with it which was…it was fun. It was really fun, and I really feel like doing that to my hair, it actually made me want to get in better shape, too. I started working out more because of it because it just really changed my look I couldn’t really hide under my hair anymore.
How has your style evolved between your first tour and this one?
I have a lot more fun with it now. I didn’t put a lot of thought into it before and now I feel very inspired to have a voice through more than just my music. I can have a vision with what I look like as well. Like David Bowie and Ziggy Stardust. There’s so many places that you can take your artistry, and that’s just really exciting to me. I feel like I’m kind of owning that this time around.
Was there a turning point for you when you began to develop your sense of style?
I think the turning point for me was just being committed to it. I think being committed to it with a level of confidence. I think a level of just not being scared, not living in fear of what other people think of you, or having people look at you and wanting to hide, but wanting to shine and wanting to stand out and be confident in who you are. I think people sometimes look at things and they get intimidated like, "Oh, is my fashion good enough?" But I think you just have to rock whoever you are, you know?
1. Hat by Saint Laurent
2. Shirt by Nicholas
3. Skirt by Maje
4. Shoes by Givenchy
Sunglasses by Fendi