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“I’m a curvy girl, and if I can’t wear it myself, it’s not going to work,” Rihanna told me, dressed in a fresh, white, cotton-canvas outfit and spindly stilettos to launch her Fenty luxury brand and its first home – a pop-up store in Paris.
Behind the sexy-but-sporty line-up of dresses and shapely jackets, with shiny sunglasses and glittery jewels, is the singer herself, and she admits that this look, to be followed by an ever-changing digital offering, is all about her. “I want women to look confident and badass,” she admitted. For Rihanna, music and fashion are getting the same treatment.
“I don’t know how to describe it; it’s a carousel of projects and each thing gets its turn but it never stops,” she said. “It keeps going and by the time you’re done with one, the next thing is right there in front of you – that’s how it works.”
Even if it seems unlikely that this master of music, with her powerful and distinctive Bahamian origins, could replicate her performing skills with clothes, she has a powerful supporter: Bernard Arnault, Chairman and CEO of luxury behemoth LVMH, is the investor behind the Fenty brands and he appeared with members of his family at the Paris launch. “Very creative,” was his comment about the fashion offerings, with a murmur of “wait and see”.
This second string to Rihanna’s bow of visual concepts follows her Fenty Beauty range, which has had such overwhelming success at the Sephora multi-brand stores, owned by LVMH. So why not include those tried-and-tested offerings – which reportedly made €500 million in sales from their launch in September 2017 to the end of 2018 – under the multi-award-winning musician’s name?
“Beauty is not here because this is the launch of a new project, and a new brand, so we want to keep the focus on that,” Rihanna explained. “Eventually, when we open our stores, it will be everything that’s Fenty. But this is a pop-up store for the launch of this brand and we want to keep it focused, because we’d probably be over there, trying lipsticks right now, instead of looking at my earrings!”
Also absent from the crisp cotton clothes was anything to do with the red carpet – an area where Rihanna knows how to make an entrance. But her flashy wardrobe has previously been a display of famous fashion names, including Maison Margiela, Vetements, Tom Ford, Gucci, Dior and Nina Ricci among a plethora niche and boutique brands.
“Yes, yes, yes! I am very much a red-carpet girl and I am going to be designing something for that at some point. It all depends on which red carpet, because you could probably wear something in this collection right now.“
Fashion design has not been short of famous names, and it is as hard to find someone who has lasted the course as it is to imagine a top-class designer who has performed on stage.
What is different here is the quality that LVMH is able to bring in terms of fabric and know-how, and equally how to make and to sell. This is a start-up with a big boom, ultimately offering the clothes online in 14 different countries with a change of products every four weeks.
“Obviously, for me, if LVMH calls you and says they want to do something, you’re not ever going to say no – unless you’re stupid?” Rihanna said. “It’s such a huge opportunity; it’s the biggest thing I’ve ever done in terms of the fashion industry and my work in it so far. Especially it’s great that they believed in me in this way, and I’m just going to do my best and make them proud.”
As a performing artist, she already has a loyal team that design and style her look, but this launch is significant for reasons far beyond the fact that someone with 71.1 million Instagram followers is likely to give a mighty push to her fashion connections.
Rihanna is the first woman to create an original brand at LVMH, and hers is the first new house created by the group since Christian Lacroix in 1987. If she succeeds on a major level, she will also become the first woman of colour to make it in the high-fashion league – and she appreciates the importance of that possibility.
“Especially right now, people need to see that it’s possible – not just that it hasn’t been done before,” Rihanna said. “With me finding that out, I still didn’t believe that it was a real step. I was like, ‘Hold on, you sure? Please research that, because it can’t be!’ I so hope to see many more young women of colour – immigrant or not – doing their thing wherever they want do it, however they want to do it.”
See more of the Fenty collection at Fenty.com