How Rihanna is redefining the way celebrities influence style

Image via Rihanna/Facebook
Words by Bianca O’Neill

A new kind of starlet has emerged.

Celebrity collabs aren’t a new thing, particularly in the age of social media. While social superstars command huge followings on Instagram and the like, brands will always be looking to catapult their latest product into the feeds of their loyal followers.

Recently, however, a new kind of starlet has emerged; one who is taking her influence and using for good, bringing a unique voice to fashion, and breaking tradition with huge profits in tow. Her name is Rihanna. And she’s here to change the game with her own rules.

Fashion media were abuzz in January with the rumours Rih would be joining the ranks at LVMH. However, this is no ordinary collab; reports tell us that she will be getting her own fashion house, modelled after her current Fenty product lines.

If this happens, Rihanna will herald a new era, one in which a luxury fashion house can be headed by a black woman – a woman untrained in traditional fashion design, and a woman who commands a significant presence on social media.

And perhaps, most interestingly, a woman who hasn’t tried to reinvent herself as an ultra-chic fashion designer à la Victoria Beckham or the Olsens – admired by the industry for casting off their previous lives as entertainment fodder.

Rihanna, on the other hand, keeps on keeping on; she is in no rush to reinvent herself as a pseudo-Central Saint Martins’ graduate.

Think about it: Rihanna as head of a LVMH luxury brand. Don’t be mistaken about the impact of such an event – this will fundamentally change the luxury fashion game. Celebrity and high-end fashion houses have, thus far, only been good bedfellows for the purposes of promotion, or lavish marketing campaigns. The appointment of a celebrity to the top of her own luxury fashion house, in her own name? It’s unprecedented. Particularly with a few well-heeled designers out of a job at the moment.

The luxury fashion industry desperately needs this kind of ‘upset’ to help them look outside their usual blinkered worldview.

The market has been solidly lacking of late, following out-of-touch PR fails like the recent D&G debacle and lagging sales worldwide. In a new world of social media influence, it’s no wonder we’re seeing someone like Rihanna elevated to such a high post.

Rihanna’s brand is decidedly on point for a modern audience that expects more than racist DM tirades à la Stefano Gabbana. A new kind of designer for a modern age, Rih’s all for inclusion – and she delivers it in spades. Her Fenty beauty range features 50 inclusive shades of foundation, while her Savage x Fenty lingerie range also delivers several ‘nude’ shades and plus-size options. She also puts her money where her mouth is, hiring size and colour diverse models for all her Fenty campaigns.

Perhaps this awareness of the modern consumer is the reason that Fenty Beauty is on track to overtake Kylie Jenner’s Kylie Cosmetics brand, after raking in a €500 million profit for LVMH last year

Everything Rih touches turns to gold; her successful River Island collab in 2013 delivered Paris Fashion Week runways, which she converted into a Creative Director position at Puma. There, her designs (including the return of the iconic pool slide) frequently sold out worldwide. In fact, her designs became so popular, she took Forever 21 to court over alleged knockoffs.

We might not know much about her impending foray into luxury fashion, but if her resume says one thing, it’s that whatever she designs will likely rake in even more profits for LVMH.

It’s a new world in luxury fashion – and if the imminent success of LVMH speaks to one thing, it’s that the other brands better jump on board. Before they miss the train entirely.

Follow Bianca’s fashion commentary over at @bianca.oneill

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