It’s no secret that Rihanna marches to the beat of her own drum. At the pop-up store in Paris for a walk-through of Fenty, her debut ready-to-wear collection created in partnership with luxury conglomerate LVMH, she postponed the meeting by one hour, which then turned into a further two-hour delay before she eventually arrived more than three hours late. If this were any other designer, editors would be fuming, loudly staging a mass walk-out. Instead, they were happily shopping. When the fashion world’s harshest critics begin purchasing straight from the rails, it’s a sure sign that Rihanna has another hit on her hands.
The collection – two years in the making and priced from 200 Euros for a white, waist-cinched T-shirt up to around 1,100 Euros for a reversible parka – is a round-up of the kind of clothes Rihanna wanted to have in her own wardrobe but couldn’t find. “I often walk into stores and I’m like, ‘I love this, but I wish it was more like that, or in a different colour or in a different fabric’ – and now I get to do it,” she said, dressed in Fenty’s tailored white blazer-mini dress hybrid. Highlights included strong-shouldered corseted trouser suits sold with matching bum-bags, men’s cotton shirting, and multi-pocketed oversized jackets in Japanese raw denim. “I love strong silhouettes, and for women to look confident, that’s what I want to achieve with this collection,” she said.
The debut extends, too, to accessories, from point-toe strappy sandals in zingy and neutral hues, to statement shield sunglasses, and bold architectural jewellery in polished gold with crystal pave. “I always had a love of fashion and style,” she explained, adding, “I loved everything my mum wore, from her make-up to her clothing…” I ask what her mum’s style was like. “Oh, she was bad ass. She wore a lot of oversized stuff but still very feminine, I just wanted to be her.”
Of course, this isn’t her first foray into fashion. The 31-year-old was creative director of women’s collections for Puma, and she has designed lingerie under the Savage x Fenty moniker. But this is her first experience of working in the luxury sector. “We’re using the best fabrics I’ve ever encountered; everything is so well made. We want the best quality and we want to make something that someone can have forever. I know what’s gone into the making of every single piece.” She’s tried and tested everything herself and says there is big emphasis on fit. “I’m a curvy girl, if I can’t wear my stuff then it just won’t work. I need to see how it looks on my hips, on my thighs, on my stomach – does it look good on me or only on a fit model? It’s important.”
She’s also re-writing the way things are done at LVMH. Fenty represents the first major fashion brand that the conglomerate has founded from scratch – not to mention comprising the first luxury fashion brand helmed by a black woman. And, by offering this collection as a direct-to-consumer retail model with new pieces arriving on a 6-8 week basis, she’s also changing up the fashion production schedule. The first instalment goes on sale on Fenty.com on May 29; the next instalment launches at the end of June.