Rihanna Wants You To Buy Her Clothes, and Her Message
If the singer-turned-mogul launches a luxury fashion line with LVMH, she would become its first black female designer, and—with 6.7 million Instagram followers—extremely powerful.
Rihanna knows what you want to buy—more of her.
After scaling the heights of pop stardom before she was legally old enough to drink, the singer went on to collaborate with Puma, essentially invent millennial pink as we know it, reinvigorate the beauty industry with her lauded 40 shades of foundation, and drop an equally inclusive line of lingerie. This year, Rihanna shows no signs of slowing down.
On Thursday, WWD reported that the multi-hyphenate is in talks to launch a luxury ready-to-wear line with French fashion conglomerate LVMH, whose portfolio also includes Louis Vuitton, Dior, Fendi, Givenchy, Marc Jacobs, and Céline.
Some fans might shrug their shoulders and tweet, “OK, but when are you making more music?” (The answer: an album is reportedly set for later this year, to coincide with the line’s release.)
Whether or not we get a follow-up to the certifiable banger that was 2016's Anti, pop’s prodigal daughter is content making fashion history. Not only would her proposed line be the first LVMH title created—as opposed to purchased—since 1987, but Rihanna would be its first black female designer.
The cultural significance is not lost on many. In The New York Times, Vanessa Friedman wondered, “Is Rihanna the Coco Chanel of the 21st century?” (“Rihanna is the Rihanna of the 21st century,” one tweet clapped back.)
One month shy of her 31st birthday, Rihanna occupies a near-universally beloved position. To fans, she’s @BadGalRiri, a meme-posting, pot-smoking, just-like-us-only-better celebrity. Some of Rihanna’s bold fashion moments—think: dressing up as a bedazzled Pope for the Met Gala—cast her as a bright spot on sometimes bland red carpets.
Old guard fashion institutions, too, have succumbed to her breezy charm. Though the pop star takes risks with her fashion, she herself is not a risk for brands: after all, this woman has had 14 number one hit singles, and boasts an army of 6.7 million Instagram followers, all ready to double-tap her British Vogue cover. Hiring Rihanna is a way to appear edgy in a safe way.
“Rihanna offers a model for older designers and institutions like Vogue who do have a little bit of trouble reaching younger audiences and feeling modern and fresh,” Elizabeth Way, assistant curator of costume for FIT, told The Daily Beast.
It makes sense that a company like LVMH, which is usually prefaced with the word “luxury,” might want to snatch up a designer known for her fusion of high and low styles. She has enough clout to draw in customers, even during shaky times for the retail world.
“People at LVMH know that the lady buying the expensive handbag or getting couture is not necessarily the future,” said Charcy Evers, a fashion and retail trend analyst. “By working with Rihanna, they’re grooming a new set of customers. My 12-year-old daughter knows who LVMH is now, because of Rihanna.”
Even if the clothes Rihanna ultimately designs for LVMH are not groundbreaking—such as the oversized sunglasses Internet sleuths are convinced might be a prototype for the line—the collections will certainly be memorable.
The woman formerly known as Robyn Fenty knows how to put on a show. In 2017, she staged a motorcycle extravaganza for her Puma fashion week show, and one year later her models performed a moody, interpretative dance.
Both events injected some much-needed liveliness into fashion weeks that can sometimes feel overly choreographed, where spontaneity goes to die in long lines outside Spring Studios.
As Way said, “There are a lot of brands out there already, so if you have a message and offer something new, even if it’s just a way of marketing the clothes, that sets you apart.”
But spectacle will only take you so far. (See: Victoria’s Secret.) Rihanna has aligned herself with an attractive marketing ethos. Fenty products from bras to makeup are designed to make customers feel good about themselves, which goes against the grand tradition of fear-based advertising.
Her lines are inclusive for the sake of inclusivity, not because some fashion editor put “representation” on their list of 2019 “style trends.”
As Rihanna told Refinery29 in 2017 at the launch of her foundation line, “I [wanted to make] things that girls of all skin tones could fall in love with. That was really important to me. . .You want people to appreciate the product and not feel like: ‘Oh that’s cute, but it only looks good on her.’”
So yes, Rihanna has found success selling people want they want: her. More specifically, she’s hawking goods that enable customers to feel that covetable confidence.