No One Has Creative Input On What SZA Makes — Except SZA

But the singer is learning to “magnify other people’s purpose” through her new collaboration with Quay.

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SZA is in summer mode. In the midst of the Australian and New Zealand leg of her SOS tour, the singer is making time to sightsee, visit some waterfalls, and pose between the two tallest amethyst crystals on Earth in Byron Bay. It’s her first prolonged stay on this side of the planet, and she’s finding the experience to be different but beautiful, she tells NYLON over Zoom.

If you’re a regular on SZA’s social media channels, you’ll know the superstar has a particular affinity for nature, as she’s somehow always near a beach, a waterfall, or touching grass. Now, in a new collaboration that fits that outdoorsy theme, SZA has teamed up with luxe sunglasses brand Quay to unveil eight frames, out now. Below, we caught up with the hitmaker to get all the details on the partnership and hear her takes on all things summer, from what she’ll be sipping and listening to in the upcoming months, to her tips for the perfect Instagram photo dump.


Congratulations on this new collab with Quay. How did you put this edit of eight unique sunglasses styles together?

I just picked what I would generally wear. My mom always told me that wearing sunglasses blocks people from seeing your energy and from connecting with you. I didn't grow up wearing a lot of them, but now they're so fun. I'm learning how to accessorize them, how to add them to my personality. I tried to basically pick ones I would generally wear.

What are you drawn to in a pair of sunglasses?

I love ones that are easier to see through, and if they're really big on my face. My favorite pair from this collab is the visor [“On Set”]. They're so cute. I [also] feel like a classic Inspector Gadget, like a slim, black pair, that's another great shape where I feel it's fire for day and night. You can go formal, to secretive, to secret agent, to also sexy. It's divine.

In putting together a collection, do you feel there are any creative similarities to making music?

Product and music are so different, because music comes 100%. There's literally nothing that anyone can say, have any input on what I'm doing musically, creatively, any of that. It's like the purest form of an expression of myself. The products are usually more of a collaboration, which is also beautiful, and I love creating with other people. It's definitely more an exercise in exploring other people's creative prowess and removing my own personal boundaries that I would normally be. I don't work with writers or anybody like that, so I'm not used to being creative in a group. It's teaching me just to stay open-minded and see what other people are trying to bring forth, and how I can help magnify that, other people's purpose.

[This collab with Quay] is something I feel made a lot of sense. I never did any sunglasses prior, because I just didn't connect to them. Now I just feel like I wear sunglasses more than I ever have in my entire life. It's also partially because I am trying to duck off and hide a tiny bit.

What's a fun way you've been accessorizing sunglasses recently?

The other day when I went to Jummah [Friday prayer] with my dad in New Zealand, I wore glasses with my hijab — I loved the way that looked. It was so fresh. I love the way [Isha Foundation head] Sadhguru wears his glasses. They're the same kind of gas station, but pump gas station, [glasses you’d see]. I love accessorizing glasses with things that you normally wouldn't see them with. I put them on my dad. They were so cute.

“Now I just feel like I wear sunglasses more than I ever have in my entire life. It's also partially because I am trying to duck off and hide a tiny bit.”

What’s your song of the summer going to be?

I don't know. Only because I've been on tour this entire time. I haven't even had a chance to rest and understand what to listen to for leisure. I was listening to a lot of Cleo Sol. I really haven't been listening to anything. I think when I start recording and being outside, I don't listen to music, because I have too much in my brain already.

Do you have a drink of the summer?

I'm really into tea right now. Iced and non-iced. I love teas and how you can infuse different herbs and feelings. I feel refreshing, and I'm into carrot juice a lot. That's my beverage this summer — and water. Everybody should be drinking more water, because everyone's angry, and I feel like if everyone drank more water and minded their business, we'd have a better summer.

Everyone's permanently dehydrated.

We must quench the streets.

For tea, are you a milk and sugar girl? Are you straight up?

Depending. I respect a straight cup of tea, but no honey, no nothing. Especially if it's a strong flavor, like a ginger, but real ginger root, or cardamom, or hibiscus, or a really high-grade green tea. I was on a plane in Japan once, and they gave me the best tea I've ever had in my whole life. I've never had tea like that again, it was so refreshing. There was no bitterness. I think it was green, but it was so delicious. It was like floral a little bit. I'm an almond milk and a stevia girl too, though. Depending on the type.

Do you have a style trend you'll be trying this summer?

I don't, but I'm always kind of ahead of whatever is happening, by accident. Maybe my algorithm or something randomly throws me ahead. I'm really just wearing whatever makes me feel good at all times only. I'm generally going for lots of color. I'm staying away from black right now. Lots of mixing and matching energies. Literally from day to day, it just changes completely on how I feel. Yesterday, I wanted to go Indiana Jones, Crocodile Dundee. The other day I wanted to go athletic, super casual, didn't know if I wanted to use a charger cord for a belt or shoelace.

Charger cord? Like a phone charger cord?

Oh yeah, charger cord is that girl, because she's strong. She's strong. To hold up baggy jeans, because I guess we use shoelaces a lot, but that charger cord is that girl, don't sleep. It's things like that when I'm just like, “What is the least amount of brain space I can muster?”

I feel like you're a vacation queen. Every time I go on social media, you're somewhere beautiful. Do you have any fun vacations planned this summer?

I think I'm on tour this summer, but I'm going to try to make time for myself in between any off day. If I got three days in a row, I'm getting on a plane somewhere beautiful. If I got two days in a row, I'm getting on a plane somewhere, or just hiking where I'm at and taking in the beauty. I'm going to try to get out today if I can, but I also kind of want to rest a little bit. I'm going to see what my body's talking about.

“I'm really just wearing whatever makes me feel good at all times only. I'm generally going for lots of color.”

Finally, I would love to know your thoughts on the photo dump. I feel like you’ve perfected the formula.

You got to just feel it. For a second, I wasn't feeling my dumps. I was just kind of dumping, and I was overwhelmed by my life, so I couldn't dump properly. That was for four dumps in a row. The other day, I think yesterday, I did a dump and I took the time. I stayed up until 5 a.m. in the morning and I was like, "Just try, put some energy into the dump." I tried to collect photos that generally made me feel anything. I feel like back to myself on the dump wave. I lost myself for two seconds, but I'm back now.

It sounds like the dump is very spiritual.

It is so spiritual. You have to connect to the things that make you... I don't know, it's like the reason why you're doing it can't really be like, "I look so pretty here." It's got to just be like, "This feels crazy." That's a difference between what's fire and what's just like, "Oh, this was cool." There's pictures that are pretty and edited and with a digital camera with my photographer, and no one cares about those.

They want to see your real life.

Exactly. They want to see my little crappy cellphone pics, and I love that. It keeps me connected to life instead of just being like, "Ah, I'm just trying to put out content for no reason and it's not good." I never want to get stuck in that hamster wheel. I'd rather be dead silent than ever put out something I don't feel.

This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.