Fenty’s existence is historic: Rihanna is the only black woman at the helm of a luxury house, acting not only as its chief creative but also as head businessperson. The first campaign images and videos feature models of all skin tones and ages suited up in Fenty’s blazer dresses and pointy heels. And though the sizing of this first collection isn’t as extensive as what you might find at Savage X, Rihanna’s lingerie line, it’s notable when you compare it to direct competitors in the luxury space: The inaugural drop will go up to a French size 46, which is a US 14. (According to a 2018 report from Fashionista, brands like Balenciaga, Balmain, and Givenchy only go up to a US 12.)
When Rihanna launches something, it’s not just big – it sets a new standard. She did it with Fenty Beauty and its foundations for 40 different skin tones. (Providing so many foundation colours might feel like a more common practice now, but just two years ago it was groundbreaking.) She did it with her debut fashion show for her Savage X lingerie, featuring a beautifully inclusive cast of models that felt like an antidote to the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show’s parade of sample-size women. And when she launches her luxury fashion house, Fenty, she’ll be the first black woman to lead a brand under the LVMH umbrella. (LVMH, the conglomerate that owns Louis Vuitton and Dior, is underwriting this venture.) So yes, expect it to be big.
Rihanna is CEO and artistic director of Fenty, a new high-end clothing and accessories line that opens online today. Though it’s more expensive than her past partnerships, the price point is on the lower end of the luxury bracket: T-shirts start at around £190 and outerwear goes up to £1,050. More important, Fenty is built on and follows many of the same principles that have defined Rihanna’s various retail ventures, with representation at its core.
Plus, Fenty is only the second brand in its history that LVMH has built from the ground up. The first was Christian Lacroix – and that was back in 1987. Rihanna moved to London to build the company, which is based primarily in Paris. The conglomerate knows firsthand the power she can have over a brand: It has a stake in Fenty Beauty, which made nearly 500 million euros in 2018. But as the company enters a new chapter in its relationship with Rihanna, it isn’t following some cookie-cutter formula for financial success.
Another differentiating factor is Fenty’s modern, social-media-savvy approach to distribution: Whereas most brands in the LVMH portfolio will show new, fully formed collections on the biannual spring-fall schedule, Fenty will release products in “drops” every few weeks, each one curated with a specific theme or vibe. (The first, Release 5-19, is sleek, sophisticated, and tailored – big-shoulder blazer dresses with waists cinched by belt bags.) It’ll all go online first – direct to consumer, in industryspeak – which means it can appeal directly to the shopper. This also allows Fenty “to really speak to how multifaceted today’s woman is,” Jahleel Weaver, its style director, told the New York Times.
“We’re thinking about each release as a different facet to a woman’s wardrobe and how she approaches dressing,” he continued. “Luxury has been defined in the past as one woman, one brand: You know who the Saint Laurent woman is, you understood who the Céline woman was when it was Phoebe [Philo]. I don’t think she is just one thing, Rih being the perfect example of that.”
“It’s about creating a style for women that makes them feel strong yet beautiful,” Rihanna told the Times in a different interview.
Though Antoine Arnault, head of communications for LVMH, stressed Fenty’s ambitious scope to the Associated Press, he conceded that the launch represents “lots of firsts” for the company. “It’s the first time we, in fashion, are collaborating so frankly with a pop star. But she’s so much more than that. She’s someone who has a bird’s-eye view on fashion and pop culture, who is at the same time obsessed with details.”
It’s not unheard-of for this type of company to be successful: Victoria Beckham, a former Spice Girl, did it with her eponymous line, as did Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen with Elizabeth and James and The Row – all of them following a successful career in entertainment.
It seems Rihanna’s not trying to simply fall in line with the industry as it stands and be accepted as a designer – she’s working to find solutions to its problem points, to give the customers what they’ve been asking for but haven’t been getting. It’s what made her successful with Fenty Beauty and Savage X. And it’s probably going to be Fenty’s secret sauce.
“If you constantly care what people think, you can sometimes end up hating yourself, so I simply don’t get into it,” Rihanna told the Times. “Ultimately some people will like it. Maybe some people won’t. But it’s just like my albums: The only way it’s getting out into the world is if I really love it and am proud of it. Take it or leave it.”
See the new looks and pieces in Fenty’s first-ever drop ahead, before you shop.