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Rihanna’s Fenty show was lit, but I don’t know how I feel about it

Image via Instagram
Words by Sasha Gattermayr

The all-inclusive event, available only on an exclusive subscription service.

The Savage x Fenty arena spectacular at NYFW killed the runway and reignited the lingerie show all at once.

The Hadid sisters, Cara Delevingne, Joan Smalls and Laverne Cox last night featured in what can’t be termed a runway, but what was undoubtedly a fashion show. DJ Khaled and Halsey performed, Anna Wintour spectated, and Rihanna herself modelled her new line of women’s lingerie.

With the timely death of the Victoria’s Secret show, Savage x Fenty ushered in a new age of lingerie and the runway show in one.

Unlike Victoria’s Secret, whose runway spectacular showered its viewers in elaborate stagecraft and pyrotechnics in order to mask its casting of overwhelmingly white, hairless Amazonian models that promoted outdated and unhealthy beauty ideals, the Savage x Fenty show was empowering rather than belittling.

With bra sizes ranging from 32A to 42H the line actually makes garments that look and feel good on a spectrum of body shapes.

Last night’s performance only enhanced that brand messaging on a visual scale. It was all about the female body, with tens of models flooding the stage, melting into one symbolic mass to move and dance together. It was an expression of unity, of women who are diverse and different, and of the power of their bodies.

 

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Lets just have a min ? #SAVAGEXFENTY 20 SEPT ?? Tune in @amazonprimevideo ?

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A V formation of models opened the extravaganza atop literal platforms in power stance, immediately underscoring the brand’s commitment to creating lingerie for women of all shapes, sizes, race and genders. Set pieces structured like classical architecture vertically housed yet more models who emerged framed in individual archways like the ensemble of Cabaret. Space had been literally carved out for them.

It was body-positive, sex-positive, and an all-round empowering performance. It’s easy for brands to use words like ‘diverse’ and ’inclusive’ in their campaign messaging and never actually put their money where their mouth is. Savage x Fenty is doing more than that, working in a celebration of intersections to build an image and a community that is genuinely representative.

The visual language we are used to seeing in high-budget lingerie shows are ones designed to oppress women, built firmly with the male gaze in mind and with an image of beauty standards that teach women to conform to impossible standards rather than be individuals. The Savage x Fenty show reclaims that power structure, shifting the women who wear the underwear to the top of the power dynamic.

As Rihanna said when she launched the line last year, “Women should be wearing lingerie for their damn selves.”

 

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#SAVAGEXFENTY SHOW ON @amazonprimevideo SEPT 20 @badgalriri @savagexfenty

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Make no mistake, this was a fashion show built for the screen and stage with performance embedded in every angle. In what has been spun as a radical rejection of contemporary broadcast culture and an effort to preserve the atmosphere of the show, phones and recording devices were confiscated on entrance. Instead, the show will be streamed on September 20 on Amazon Prime, who have secured the exclusive television rights.

With all this in mind, it’s hard not to perceive this as a money grab. Part of me baulks at the exclusivity of it all. One can hardly spruik a message of inclusivity and diversity, while making huge profits from tech conglomerates who are contributing to the demise of small businesses; quietly collecting and tactically using our data; and mandating employment conditions that are leading to workers’ strikes in their factories.

Can there be such a thing as feminist capitalism? No true intersectional feminist will say so. But it’s hard not to see the sands of influence shifting as Victoria’s Secret flails and Fenty charges through the vacuum it has left. Perhaps you have to start the revolution from within.

If empowerment, inspiration and body positivity sells, then I’m kind of okay with it for the minute.

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