Many of our favorite celebrities hit the red carpet last night at the BET Awards 2022, lighting the carpet on fire with their fiery fashions! Despite the abundance of styles to inspire us as we pack for the Essence Festival of Culture (EFOC) in just a few days, one outfit, in particular, caught our attention. Novi Brown in a stunning black, asymmetrical bustier gown.

As she walked the red carpet in an evening gown adorned with cowrie shells, Sistas star Novi Brown gave off regal vibes that deserved a standing ovation. We were totally inspired by the way she completed the look with matching cowrie shell earrings and necklace!

According to Brown, Beyonce and her film Black Is King served as the inspiration for the LaFalaise Dionn couture dress. Additionally, she said that her lovely braids styled by Marquis Ward were a tribute to our people and the freedom they fought for.

For those who are not familiar with Cowrie shells, celebrity wardrobe stylist, Pilar Scratch, tells ESSENCE exclusively that the shells are very significant to the culture. “Cowrie shells are found in the Indian Ocean and distributed throughout various parts of Africa,” she explains. “It was a form of currency in West Africa during the transatlantic slave trade, which can be dated back to the 14th century. It was a symbol of wealth and power.” 

Scratch adds, “I absolutely love her dress! It embodies the empress’s energy and femininity. It’s absolutely my favorite dress of the night.”

Fashion Stylist and Costume Designer Tuesdai Win noted that Brown’s dress represents her being in tune with her spirituality. “As someone who has manifested her life, her dreams, and romantic relationship, it’s not surprising that she will choose to rock such an important African piece,” she speculates.

So, can we anticipate seeing the cowrie shells during EFOC? Is the cowrie shell having a resurgence since the early 1990s, when hip hop proudly acknowledged its Blackness?

“Absolutely! I believe a lot of people are returning to African traditions,” Win tells us. “Fashion is a great avenue to bring forward trends and traditions that were sent to the back burner.”

“Thanks to the digital era, knowledge of self, spirituality, and healing have become so beneficial in our Black and Afro-Latina community,” Scratch adds. “You can expect to see us wearing cowrie shells in our hair, especially our braids (think faux locs, mermaid braids, etc) and fun headbands. You can also expect to see very artistic jewelry during EFOC that incorporates the ancient cowrie shells into modern pieces that are going to be fabulous! I foresee this as a vast trend.”

We couldn’t agree with these ladies more!