Style File

The Efflorescent Music and Style of Zahara

This Seattle Pacific University student is taking the local music scene by storm and redefining personal style along the way.

By Nicole Erickson July 14, 2017

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Image: Abby Coughlin

Besides her trademark curls, the first thing you notice about Zahara (full name Zahara Williams) is a collection of tattoos. Cascading down her arm you'll notice that many of the larger inked pieces are flowers. Her name means flower, explains Zahara, which makes the floral theme so fitting, like the title of her first EP Efflorescence, meaning "flower in bloom." Growth is a key element to the season of life she's in, not just through the success she's achieved since releasing her EP this November, but through the transformation she's seen in her style—and in herself.

At 22, her success is impressive for someone who only entered the music scene this past fall, yet it's no surprise. Zahara, whose roots are in Seattle, started singing in church at the age of seven. Since then, she's had a variety of notable accomplishments, including being scouted by the Voice, and winning a talent show at Seattle Pacific University, where she attends school. 

Efflorescence—produced by Luna God and recorded in Frank Ocean's studio in LA (super casual)—has drawn an overwhelmingly positive response to Zahara's R&B style and soulful vocals. Her lyrics feature themes of heartbreak, growth, and renewal; when a boyfriend broke up with her over text, she wrote crowdpleaser “Sly” in response. Another song, "Rabbit Hole," tells a story of Zahara's struggle with anxiety. Her desire is to use music to help others, through lyrics that remind others that they're not alone. And neither is she. Zahara recalls a surreal moment at Upstream Music Festival, when the packed room of fans started singing her lyrics along with her. "It's one thing to have people you know support you, but an entirely different feeling when complete strangers know and love your music," says the singer.

Now, let's talk style.

Sneakers and crop tops. Culottes and oversized hoop earrings. Big, curly locks and tattoos. This is her signature style on stage. Taking cues from athleisure brands like Ivy Park, Zahara is all about comfort. Vans with the laces wrapped around her ankle are another skate style–inspired shoe choice she often wears; it's one of the small details that people will always point out when she performs. While the core of Zahara’s style remains the same, it does vary, especially at festivals. At Sasquatch! she experimented with pops of color, like a hot pink tank top and a neon orange cardigan from Zara, a departure from her otherwise black, white, and grey closet. Speaking of the annual Gorge music fest, Zahara's first time performing at Sasquatch! included singing the national anthem and opening for the Shins—and meeting Chance the Rapper, whose entire team applauded her performance. You don't forget the moment Chance tells you that you did a good job.

With her second album currently in the works, Zahara's style evolution and blossoming musical career is just getting started.

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