For what was easily the most anticipated fashion launch in recent memory, the big reveal of Rihanna’s debut Fenty collection happened without much fanfare. With only a handful of editors and fashion insiders invited to the preview in Paris today, the atmosphere was about as calm as fashion gets. “It’s definitely different from doing a show, with a show there are so many moving parts,” says Rihanna who is the picture of C-suite serenity in an optic white blazer-cum-dress that’s neatly nipped at the waist. “That’s not to say it hasn’t been hectic, but there is something about the intimacy of doing things this way that I love.”
The gallery space, which will serve as a temporary store, has been transformed into a mini Fenty wonderland: plush sofas in the brand’s signature shade of blue are dotted around the room next to vitrines brimming with crystal-encrusted jewelry and Perspex towers crammed with futuristic sunglasses. Rihanna has spent the afternoon here giving one-on-one presentations, floating from rack to rack on her pointy-toe stiletto heels as if by magic carpet, and is clearly proud of her new work. The first port of call on the whistle-stop tour of the new collection is a salmon pink suit, the proportions of which speak to her gender-bending sensibilities: bold in the shoulder and baggy through the leg. “I’ve always loved shopping in the men’s department. I like the swag, the fit of it,” she says. “Plus this suit comes with a matching fanny-pack, so you’re instantly snatched in the waist.” There’s a corset dress cut from Japanese raw denim that she admits might be her favorite thing in the entire lineup. In fact, in the weeks leading up to the launch, she’s been spotted test-driving the frock over jeans (because who loves a Texan tuxedo more than Rihanna?). “Everybody knows my denim obsession is not going to stop. I had them make the dress in my size the moment the sample came in just so that I could see what it looked like on my body—my hips, my curves, my thighs,” she says. “Just like everything, it has to come from me; it has to look good on me—I have to love it with a passion. If that feeling isn’t there, it won’t work.”
As the first black woman to preside over an LVMH brand and the first time the luxury group has launched a fashion brand from scratch since Christian Lacroix in 1987, Rihanna is making history two times over with Fenty. As a CEO who is ready to lean into her colossal power as brand muse—and break every rule in the book along the way—she is uniquely positioned to steer the fashion world in an exciting new direction. The pop star’s track record as a natural born disruptor speaks for itself. Her partnership with Puma gave rise to best-selling and award-winning sneakers. Her makeup line with LVMH upended the beauty industry with an inclusive range of foundation. And most recently, there was Savage, the lingerie label with a thoroughly body-positive and empowering message that redefined the notion of sexy.
Which brings us back to the quiet little pop-up shop in the Marais district, where friends and family have begun to filter in for cocktails and petit fours, including designers such as Olivier Rousteing and Simon Porte Jacquemus. Some, like model Paloma Elsesser, are already decked out in the new wares (the reversible anorak she’s wearing has been a hit all day), though most have come looking to shop before the doors open to the public on Friday. Given Rihanna’s ferocious appetite for what’s new and what’s next, a traditional fashion format of seasonal runway shows was never going to be the right fit. In this direct-to-consumer luxury model, she can drop a surprise collection the way she might a song, while also competing on quality and price. The legions of fans who have been following her every move up until now (the first video snippet of the brand’s campaign has over two million views on Rihanna’s Instagram account alone) will soon have the chance to scoop the brand’s trophy items online, including the futuristic shades starting at $420 and fashion-forward toe sandals at $600. “I started off by being an endorser of brands, lending my likeness and my face to fashion brands, but this is totally different,” she says. “Everything I’ve learned so far has led me to this moment.” So what does it mean when fashion’s most supreme dresser—the woman who every major designer is clamoring to work with—reverses roles and gets to shape the look of celebrity? For the pop queen, it all comes down to harnessing personal power. As the soirée draws to a close, I ask Rihanna who she would choose if she could dress anyone in history. It doesn’t take long for her to deliver the perfect answer. “I’d have to say Nefertiti. She was a strong woman and I have a tattoo of her,” she says smiling. “It would be like returning the favor.”
See every look from the collection