When the behemoth of luxury LVMH announced that it would be collaborating with Rihanna on more than just cosmetics (the conglomerate currently owns Fenty Beauty), it made sure that the artist would be the first black woman to run a major luxury fashion company. Not that Rihanna is averse to making history – in the last couple of years alone, she has prioritised inclusivity with the brands she has developed. First came Fenty Beauty, which transformed the cosmetics industry thanks to its 40 different shades of foundation, followed by Savage x Fenty, a size and gender inclusive approach to lingerie. In one fell swoop, Rihanna drastically altered the landscape of two of the least diverse elements of the fashion and beauty industries.
Fenty, Rihanna's latest foray into clothes, footwear and accessories, officially launched in May this year but has already made such waves in the industry that it just won the Fashion Award for Urban Luxe, beating the likes of Marine Serre and Moncler Genius (responsible for the enormous puffer gowns seen on the red carpet).
Janet Jackson presented Rihanna with the award, telling her 'You're loved for your style, your boldness and your strength as a woman. You're respected as a successful artist, fashion designer, activist, entrepreneur and for being the first black female at LVMH. Congratulations.' Taking to the stage, Rihanna said 'Thank you so much to the entire British Fashion Council. I want to thank Mr Bernard Arnault (the CEO of LVMH). Thank you so much for believing in me as a young black woman and my talent. Thank you for giving me this wonderful opportunity to prove what I want to do.'
The Fenty collection is comprised of Rihanna's inimitable mix of traditionally masculine tailoring and softer design elements. A sharp-shouldered blazer, for example, comes in sugary pink, while there are puff-sleeved stripe shirts and oversized denim jackets. There's an interesting mix of materials, too, with denim, leather and a fabric called 'Weapon', to which Rihanna referred in a recent interview with the New York Times:
"One of the fabrics is called Weapon.19 That’s what we ended up making our suits in. Even making clothes in luxury is different. All the techniques are, like, ridiculous. I use myself as the muse. It’s sweatpants with pearls, or a masculine denim jacket with a corset. I feel like we live in a world where people are embracing every bit of who they are. Look at Jaden Smith,20 Childish Gambino.21 They dare you to tell them not to."
Rihanna also spoke of the inclusivity of Fenty Beauty, saying: "In my own household, my father is half black, half white. My mum is black from South America. I was seeing diversity. That’s all I knew. Growing up, I wanted to be darker, always. So, making makeup, it wasn’t even a thing I had to think about. I didn’t even really know how bad it was, the void in the market for dark foundation, because all I’d seen was black women put makeup on. I don’t even think 40 shades is enough! And so I added 10 more recently, and we’re not gonna stop there."
Similarly, Rihanna has ensured that Fenty is more size inclusive, as most luxury brands fail to cater to sizes much bigger than a UK 14: "I’m thick and curvy right now, and so if I can’t wear my own stuff then, I mean, that’s not gonna work, right? And my size is not the biggest size. It’s actually closer to the smallest size we have: We go up to a (French size) 46 (the equivalent of a UK size 18). We’re saying we can meet you at any one drop that we put out."