Rihanna Feels the Pressure as She Makes Fashion History

Manila Bulletin, May 24, 2019 | Go to article overview

Rihanna Feels the Pressure as She Makes Fashion History


PARIS (AP) -- Rihanna may have looked cool and collected next to the debut collection for her new fashion label, Fenty, donning a brilliant white tuxedo dress and a 1,000-watt smile. But on the inside it was another story.

"It's all a facade," said the Barbados-born star who has become the first black woman to launch a major Parisian fashion house.

"Pressure? Of course... I'm passionate about what I do, so there's pressure every single second. It's not like crumbling pressure, but it's like: 'You better get it good, girl.'"

News of the singer's groundbreaking deal with LVMH, the world's largest luxury group, shook up the fashion industry earlier this month. Rihanna is the first woman, and the first person of color, to create a major brand under the luxury giant from scratch. At age 31, that's no mean feat.

"This is a moment in history... It's a big deal for me and my entire generation," she said.

The collection is named after the singer-turned-designer's last name: She was born Robyn Rihanna Fenty. The ready-to-wear, footwear, accessories, and eyewear are available for sale in Paris' Le Marais area in a popup store from Friday and will debut online May 29.

Speaking in the store amid snapping cameras, she said she felt the time was right to make a move like this. It comes one year after LVMH's Louis Vuitton named its first ever African American designer for menswear, Virgil Abloh.

"Right now, fashion in general has been stepping up a lot and been vocal about issues -- whether it's subtly or aggressively," she said.

While she said Fenty's ambitions are not "political," they're infused with the story of "me as an immigrant moving to America. That was a big journey for me. And to even get here to Paris -- it's something to celebrate and embrace."

The singer already has a track record for embracing diversity in the luxury industry after she featured some 40 shades of foundation in her hugely lucrative Fenty Beauty line in 2017. Many said that revolutionized the makeup industry and plugged a glaring gap in the market for women with diverse ethnic backgrounds.

That initiative was said to have caught the eye of Europe's most powerful luxury CEO, Bernard Arnault of LVMH.

But the launch -- steered by an outsider with no formal design training -- has also been greeted with a dose of cynicism.

Fenty is a recognition that the fashion industry now formally considers a major popstar to have as much to say in design as established figures such as Nicolas Ghesquiere of Louis Vuitton, or even the lauded Alber Elbaz, formerly of Lanvin. …

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