Rihanna: a portrait of Puma’s trump card
If Rihanna has reached the summits of megastardom, it’s through a combination of musical talent and an innate sense of style. Artistic director of Puma since 2014, she’s just launched her own clothing line, Fenty x Puma.
For fall/winter 2016, she’s offering a built-out ready-to-wear roster fully programmed with her own personal dressing codes, which also happen to be thrillingly on trend (begging the question: did Rihanna start the current upgraded streetwear fad?). Think oversize hoodies, cut-up and slogan-printed denim, high-heeled boots, sports bras for night-time and 90s-era chokers. Lexi Boling − a fellow, albeit smaller profile, bad bitch in arms − opened the runway show in a big black sweatshirt, football-laced at the stomach, with upper-thigh-grazing white boots stamped “PUMA” in a shaky gothic font. Boling could very well have been the Barbadian herself − rarely do we see fashion people creating so expressly for themselves, given that, usually, they need to think of the wider market. “I design things… a little selfishly,” says the star with a flash in her eyes. “I’m a selfish designer.” But so is Rihanna’s gravity: she has created her market, and a powerful one at that, born and fed from her aggro-chic tastes and her zero-fucks anti-conformity. Other highlights from Fenty x Puma include extra-large faux-fur jackets, nylon overalls bunched at the ankles and a “tracksuit robe to the ground” (one of Rihanna’s favourite pieces). And while there are airs of Hood By Air’s gender-dissolving tenacity and Alexander Wang’s street mash-ups in her début, Rihanna’s creative vision appears solid, even if only as a reflection of her own confidence. Fenty x Puma, so far, is consistent and will predictably sell with the fervour of fellow hype-beasts like Yeezy, Supreme and Palace Skateboards.
There are some in the industry who are sceptical, if not wholly against, the latest crop of celebrity designers storming the catwalks (the other main name being Kanye West). The argument is that the famous take attention away from the “real,” younger and, frankly, poorer labels who need all the distraction-less exposure they can get. While Rihanna’s New York fashion-week show did take place at the end of the day (unlike Kanye’s, which became an all-afternoon event), it was still on everyone’s mind going into the night. But critics need to remember that the game has changed: the intersection of fame and fashion is as highly trafficked as ever, particularly so in regards to the rap and R&B world (remember when Drake wore a Moncler puffer jacket and an ACNE Studios grey turtleneck in his video for Hotline Bling? The pieces all but sold out soon thereafter). Furthermore, the way people dress has shifted, the stylish having no problem mixing the upmarket with the high street, the classic with the new age. Soon you might very well see a Fenty x Puma hoodie worn over a filigree Gucci dress and Vans slip-ons. So if Rihanna wants to design, let her. She’s a force that can’t be ignored, and, thus far, her clothes have palpable appeal.
By Nick Remsen