Of the three hoodies featured in the #DKNYStateOfMind campaign—the Risk Takers, the Work Ethic, and the Hustle—it’s the Work Ethic hoodie that musical duo and DKNY’s holiday partners Chloe and Halle keep returning to. Emblazoned on the front is a quote that reads: «Do not be fooled by this hoodie. There is nothing ‘business casual’ about my work ethic.» But really, any of the three sayings could apply to Chloe and Halle. We might not all have the same 24 hours as Beyonce, but the superstar’s work ethic and dedication to her craft have clearly rubbed off on her two protégées. After all, no one has had a busier year than the sister duo.

In the midst of an unusual year marked by tragedy—cries for social justice, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and a tumultuous presidential election—Chloe x Halle dropped their sophomore album Ungodly Hour in June. The girls decided to push it back a week to direct attention to the death of George Floyd and countless other Black people. Ungodly Hour signaled a new era for the duo, powered by lead single “Do It,” which saw them experimenting with a melange of sounds and exploring more adult themes than on their debut album The Kids Are Alright. Their once angelic, ethereal imagery was traded in for metal, latex and chains. Who else can sing, «You must got me fucked up,» and make it sound so delicate? Make no mistake: The kids are alright, they’re just grown as hell now.

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“This year has really taught me how precious growing is,» Chloe told ELLE.com over the phone. «How you have to be uncomfortable to grow and how you can turn some of the lowest moments into some of the greatest. It all depends on your outlook and how you choose to flip it.» The duo’s growth wasn’t only evident in their music, but in the accompanying performances for their new album. Instead of wallowing in sadness when stay-at-home orders forced the artists to rethink how they would present Ungodly Hour to the world, Chloe x Halle introduced the third star of the group that would quickly become the MVP of their quarantine experience: a backyard tennis court.

Sans any backup dancers or supporting band, there stood Chloe and Halle belting out their acrobatic vocals in harmony in front of clouds (Today Show), in a rocky forest similar to the video for “Do It” (2020 BET Awards), and under frantic strobe lights (YouTube’s Dear Class of 2020), with the help of creative director Andrew Makadsi. With many people feeling crushed under the weight of the compounding crises that have heightened with each passing month, Chloe, Halle, and their tennis court have offered us a momentary respite from our daily woes, demonstrating inventive ways to turn lemons into lemonade.

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Even during a period of stillness, Chloe and Halle have shown they are not pressing pause anytime soon. For their next trick, the sister duo is partnering with DKNY for its #DKNYStateOfMind hoodie collection for the holidays, where all proceeds of sales will be donated to the sisters’ charity of choice, Save the Children, through December 31. Ahead, Chloe and Halle talk about their new DKNY partnership, entering a more mature era, and their handy-dandy tennis court.

What was your initial reaction when DKNY came to you with this opportunity?

Chloe: We were super excited about this opportunity with DKNY because we feel like it’s always been a part of our duty as musicians, as young black women to give back and do whatever we can in our power to constantly support the ones who need it the most. We’re two young black girls and we’ve been inspired by black women who have paved the way for us. And so watching how they move really inspires us to always put our best foot forward and remember that we are still blessed with what we have and remember to always give. I truly feel like the more you give, the more it’ll come back to you; I believe in karma and good positivity and putting out love and happiness and positive vibes to the world because you get it right back to you.

What was your own personal interpretation of the collection’s message and how does it align with your own?

Chloe: In my room, I have a bunch of quotes that help keep me motivated and inspire me to keep going. Seeing these hoodies reminded me of the little sticky notes and the flashcards that I write my quotes on. I took a picture in one of the hoodies that say something like there’s nothing business casual about my work ethic. That quote represents my sister and me because none of this is easy and we work really hard; we put blood, sweat, and tears into everything that we do because know the value of hard work and see first-hand how you can manifest nothing into something great.

How did you find your unique style in both music and fashion?

Halle: There are so many amazing artists like Nina Simone, Nat King Cole that I really gravitated towards growing up and realized that I’m really influenced by them. I like more vintage sounds and I do like to wear a lot of vintage stuff sometimes. And then, because I’m a huge fan of Lenny Kravitz and his whole worl, I love the whole Boho vibe as well. My style is a melting pot of everything I love. So I think it’s cool to have these different kinds of versions of yourself where you can kind of be free and play in every way. That shows up in our music as well.

Chloe: For me, I’m learning that I like to be over the top with my fashion. I think because internally I’m very to myself and sometimes I don’t have as much confidence as I portray. I use fashion as my outlet to feel like a superstar and feel the best version of myself. It completely changes my mood and confidence level. I love the tightest outfit that shows off my curves and just appreciating what God has given me. Going over the top gives me a sense of peace and extra confidence boost.

Ungodly Hour carries a different meaning when put in the context of 2020’s events. What’s the story behind the name and how has its meaning changed to you both since dropping it in June?

Halle: We were very surprised when we realized that the album we were about to drop was very with the times of what was going on. We always find that with our albums, we believe in divine timing. Whenever they’re released, they’re always at a specific time that we know we will remember. 2020 is a year we will never forget, this was the year that was crazy ungodly. When we were making these songs, it was our version of our ungodly hour, a time where people don’t see our insecurities, all of our hardships, the beautiful times of being in love and out of love. It’s the story about what happens when you’re young and trying to make things work, and then what happens when you grow up in today’s age of social media and you start comparing yourself to other people and what you think your supposed to be as a young woman. All of these fears and insecurities and doubts were poured into this album. That’s truly why we felt it was our own ungodly hour because we were letting people see what they never see. These are the things that we think about late at night when it’s 3:00 AM and we can’t sleep. It’s the time of the night when your mind won’t turn off. It’s your most honest hour.

2020 was just one thing after the next. The death of George Floyd was just truly heartbreaking because the week we were supposed to release our album was actually the week of his death. We decided to ultimately postpone the release of our album for about a week because we were just not in the right head state. We could not dare to think of celebrating when we were mourning collectively as a community. The one thing I think about 2020 is that even though it has been this whole ungodly hour, I do feel like finally, there may be some change to come out of this.

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Did you both have any reservations about exploring more adult themes on the new album, especially as young black artists in an industry that’s quick to criticize Black women?

Chloe: I wasn’t worried at all. And my sister is so fearless. When we were creating the music, we removed any outside opinions or what we thought people wanted to hear from us because that’s what will hinder the creative process. I’m 22 and my sister’s 20 years old, so the music will have to grow with us as we are growing as young women. It was very exciting and fun and exhilarating to expose true parts of ourselves. Some of these songs are the result of conversations Halle and I have when we’re updating the other about what’s going on in one’s love life or how the other one might feel discouraged and very insecure.

We needed this album to feel honest. You know, it wasn’t called Ungodly hour just to reveal the seemingly perfect parts of ourselves. I know on The Kids Are All Right, we didn’t cuss that often, but on this one we do. We would be doing a disservice to ourselves by not showing and portraying our full being throughout the music. The songs were therapy for us as we’re going through heartbreak and learning about love and learning to appreciate ourselves as we’re growing into young women, knowing that it’s okay to not know what the next move is going to be. All of that came into play and created this album.

What would you say you guys discovered about yourselves during this process?

Halle: I learned vulnerability. Most of the songs we make start off by us gossiping or having therapy time with one another, it’s a very private thing. But when you have to release that music for the world to hear, you have to be prepared for people to accept your vulnerability. And then also, perhaps not accepting. There’s a whole other level of being out there with your heart on your sleeve. The response has been mind-blowing.

Chloe: I agree with Halle. This process taught me to be more open. There was like a two-month period where we were working on this album and we weren’t staying true to ourselves. We didn’t necessarily have writer’s block, but there was some sort of blockage happening where our true thoughts and feelings and the collection of sounds were being stifled in a way. I think that was because we were consumed internally with the thought of what people wanted from us, what we thought the label wanted to hear, if we could create hits, how we could elevate ourselves from The Kids Are All Right. The main thing I learned about myself is that it’s okay to trust our instinct.

During that two-month period, was there a song that made it on the album that you guys were unsure about? Or it almost didn’t make it?

Chloe: Yes, Rest of Your Life (ROYL). We continued to go back and forth on if we wanted that on the album and our little brother heard the record and said, You guys are crazy if don’t put this on the album. It’s so experimental and fun. Some people may not get why it’s on there but it was really important to keep it on there. Since the beginning, our little brother was fighting for that song to remain on the album.

How did the tennis court become the third star in the group?

Halle: [laughs] We definitely had to try to find new ways to perform from home and in a way it’s really been a great exercise for us because we’re going back to our roots. When we started on YouTube, we had to get creative at home when we had barely anything to get creative with. Now that we have more resources, it’s a lot more fun. We noticed that we could convert the tennis court into whatever we want. You can put backdrops. Our director, Andrew Makadsi made it work. It’s been a beautiful opportunity to be able to perform these songs from our album, even from home.

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What’s on your 2021 mood board?

Chloe: I wish for endless happiness and to continue to grow as a human being and grow in my career and continue to make great music with my sister. As long as I grow, I’m happy, and I keep God first, then I’ll be okay.

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