Vanessa Friedman asks for The New York Times: “Is Rihanna the Coco Chanel of the 21st century?” Can the multi-hyphenate talent, without an ounce of fashion training, launch a new powerhouse luxury brand?
Bernard Arnault, chief executive of LVMH, thinks so and is in serious talks with Rihanna about launching a new global Fenty brand. Friedman writes that execs at Fenty Beauty and LVMH corporate were astonished over the runaway success of Fenty Beauty, launched in a diverse array of skin tones and with a fan base of 6.3 million Instagram followers. Fenty Beauty was named one of TIME magazine’s 25 Best Inventions of 2017.
Robyn Rihanna Fenty IS a real, live heritage brand with a global reach. No ‘authentic’ story must be created around her image. Rihanna IS the story and she has created it — not with mood boards on Madison Avenues — but with her entire life.
Rihanna comes to the world of luxury brands having made them her canvas for a decade. Luxury fashion has brought her far beyond the limits of the music world. Styled by Mel Ottenberg since 2011, Rihanna has aligned herself with emerging designers and luxury brands like Lanvin and Givenchy. Rather than working with a luxury house exclusively, she used these same brands to suit her purposes.
In 2014, she was named fashion icon of the year at the Council of Fashion Designers of America awards, where she appeared in a sheer crystal-spangled Adam Selman dress and matching cap, a white fur wrap strategically draped around her body, setting off a so-called naked trend in red carpet dressing. The next year, at the Met Gala, she wore a giant yellow cape from the Chinese designer Guo Pei, and enshrined her skill at making an entrance.
Not mentioned in Friedman’s piece, but a key component in the forthcoming Rihanna/LVMH alliance is the social conscience of the new luxury brand. Here there is an opportunity to set a very high bar, and all my instincts say that Rihanna and Arnault understand well global politics and human suffering.
With governments in chaos worldwide, but Rihanna anchored deeply in the lives of everyday people, I fully expect a new paradigm to emerge with a Rihanna-led Fenty house that is an activist house, too. Rihanna is deeply embedded in the obligations that women leaders have assumed in creating real change in the world.
If LVMH is equally courageous and up to the task, we might see a new luxury brand DNA that moves beyond the rarified and exclusive vision of Coco Chanel to one that touches people in big and small ways worldwide. If anyone can jumpstart this new 21st century, luxury brand vision, it’s the combined prowess of Rihanna and LVMH’s Bernard Arnault.