The brand ambassador for Puma since 2014, Rihanna now brings us her 2018 Fenty x Puma collection contrasting motocross and stilettos on a palette of eye popping, wallet hurting pastels. In 2017, an extension of that brand FENTY BEAUTY was named one of the 25 best inventions of the year by Time Magazine. Why? Because it’s inclusive to all women and carries more shades than other mainstream brands. She also had a street named after her in Barbados, featured in the science fiction film Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets and starred in Ocean’s 13 . Harvard gave her the 2017 Humanitarian of The Year award for her charity work. And (significant to a Kiwi girl) Ri hired choreographer and dancer Parris Goebel to work on her New York Fashion Week show with art director Phillipa Price.
Time magazine wrote in their review: “Leave it to Rihanna to stage one of the most memorable moments of New York Fashion Week”
Ri told InStyle magazine: “My mission is just to have women all over the world feel comfortable and sexy and have fun with lingerie and tonight was just one of those experiences where I wanted them to feel that energy. I wanted them to feel all the different body types and different women at different stages of their womanhood”.
Another highlight of the show was Slick Woods who went into labor just as the show wrapped up. Talk about the universe and divine timing.
Ri explains “Savage is just, that different woman – she’s powerful, she’s in charge and she’s taken ownership of all the choices she makes”.
Throwing a spanner in the mainstream, small minded and outdated notion that fashion and sensuality only looks good on a six foot, skinny, white girl*, Ri has used her platform to reveal the truth to the masses that this is the new stat quo. They are thankfully, taking it in.
*(It’s like Tupac said “I was given this world I didnt make it.”)
Ri’s Clara Lionel Foundation, named after her grandparents, announced it will give $5 million to help fight Covid-19 . Proceeds will go towards helping those on the frontline as the world fights the disease.
Justine Lucas, executive director of the Clara Lionel Foundation, said in a statement: “Never has it been more important or urgent to protect and prepare marginalised and under served communities – those who will be hit hardest by this pandemic.”
“All women enjoy being fun and flirty and feeling comfortable and I wanted Savage X to be a place to feel safe in finding that”. Un-stitching generations and whole life-times worth of self-hate-conditioning, Rihanna hits the nail on the head when she said ‘safe’. Influencing that space with her legacy of music, dance, fashion and more, it’s an umbrella many women are embracing with open arms – and lets face it, their wallets were already open, now they can enjoy inclusivity while they spend.
Vogue interview : Rihanna had to address why there’s so few brands catering for women of darker shades. When it comes to foundation she acknowleged she wasn’t the first to ever do it by any means – other brands just haven’t had a chance to have their moment, she offered.
She did say she was touched by women feeling included in the spectrum of mainstream beauty and for that she felt grateful to have been able to make a difference:
“I wanted it to be something that girls love, women love, I wanted it to be respected by professionals and I wanted to do something that felt like me — something reflective of things that I love and make up that I genuinely wanna wear.
“We’ve had this amazing emotional connection with customers who’ve never been able to find their shade of foundation before, I mean women crying at the counters and it’s crazy to even think about because when I started creating the brand and the foundation it wasn’t that deep for me.”
“The first woman that I ever saw put make up on her face was a black woman, that’s my mom..so when I’m thinking of my customer that is one of my customers and I wanted everybody to feel they can come and be a part of the Fenty beauty moment and the new generation in my words.” – Ri, Vogue interview
In New Zealand, I found it so hard to get my hands on Fenty anything, or know where to go to even look at a piece. I did find a crop top on sale for $350 at the Puma outlet store, down from $500, in Dressmart at the Base in Hamilton. But as a student and solo mum at the time, I couldn’t justify it at all, so I walked away. Looking back now I wonder who in Hamilton, in its demographic could afford it.. As a student those types of designer items aren’t realistic but what I fell in LOVE with was the sports-chic, the exploration of sports materials layered with slick, heavy, industrial but feminine textures. It took me back to the innocence of being 12 when I played sports and only wore orange Adidas tearaway pants (because that was the only colour I didn’t have to hem up without losing the logo at the ankle). I actually think it was a size boys 14, purchased from Stirling Sports at the center in Porirua.
In 2017 Top Shop on Queen St was stocking Ivy Park and so brown women reclaiming the sportswear space was another reason to celebrate being a young WOC in 2017. The Fenty ‘good juice’ was drawn for me through the incorporation of braided seams, pop pants, domes, creepers, fishnet textures which lent to a sense of bad ass gothic ghetto, motorcross goodness.
That Christmas, my boyfriend bought me the Fenty buckwheat creepers from Platypus in St Luke’s mall, making my 2017 complete.
In March 2018 Snapchat made light of Rihanna and Chris Brown’s notorious domestic incident after the Grammy awards in 2009. She subsequently told her fans to uninstall the application and the Snap Inc. shares dropped nearly five per cent on the first day, then fell another two per cent the following day, before rebounding slightly for a total two-day loss of 4.7 per cent, according to a Forbes report. Posting on her Insta she stated: “Now Snapchat I know you already know you ain’t my favourite app out there! But I’m just trying to figure out what the point was with this mess! I’d love to call it ignorance, but I know you ain’t that dumb,” she wrote. “You spent money to animate something that would intentionally bring shame to DV (domestic violence) victims and made a joke of it!!!”
‘I STAY WOKE’ :
2017 was about staying woke. Online, editors and taste makers searched for mainstream faces to co-sign the woke movement to their brands. The inclusion of coloured women everywhere developed to a sometimes quite segregated space. For an Asian writer it was a relief to feel inequality wasn’t just a black and white fight. In her 2020 speech for the acceptance of the president’s award, at the 51st NAACP Image Awarss she said:
“Imagine what would happen if we all worked together”.
In her speech she was referring to black people, but she made sure to acknowledge other races, sexes and religions in the fight against injustice and opression.
In March 2015, it was announced that Rihanna had been chosen as the new face of Dior; this made her the first black woman to be the face of Dior since the label began in 1946. For me, these conversations further cemented my passion and understanding that there is more social justice work to be done globally. Although there are divisions under the umbrella that is ‘People Of Colour’ – still black, brown, Asian and ‘other’ are using identity labels that at the very least distinguish that we’re not standing in European shadows any longer. In 2018 Third Culture Kids became a new and exciting ‘label’ to work its way through social media.
UNPACKING EXCLUSION AND SOCIAL CONDITIONING
Living in the decade that is my 30s I would love to be able to claim that I have worked through enough self-awareness to firmly say that my own battle with consumerism and having ‘things’ in general has been retired, that I have understood the amount of waste and self-destruction I’ve chosen to buy into over the years by having often low self confidence thereby allowing mainstream messages to convince me I am lesser-than.
Instead of addressing my own lack of confidence as a teenager and the need to go for a run instead of buying more shit to cover myself up with, I spent my formative years as a brown immigrant girl being afraid of my body and my curves, scared to go outside and run or swim or try ballet for the fear of wearing a leotard and being more naked in public than what I was taught was tasteful.
In 2018 I’ve had to make peace with fashion and material things being a particle of the fibre which makes up who I am and Rihanna was a catalyst for this transition. The humanity in looking to role models is an area I would like to explore more in my writing – espescially when it comes to celebrities, because for me that worked all the way through my 20’s. It drove me to create and explore the corners of myself and be comfortable in that space. These are some shoots I produced while in that space:
THICK WOMEN, WE’RE ALL HERE FOR IT:
The other thing I found myself noticing, Ri let her body be as it is, thick. Making womanhood and her 30’s look thoroughly sublime:
In September Rihanna’s SS18 FENTY PUMA runway show included a motocross spectacle. 2017 also saw Fenty model Slick Woods get known online as the ‘chick with the gap’, she also made the Fenty pants TO-DIE-FOR on Instagram:
FENTY/PUMA 2018 COLLECTION
FENTY/PUMA 2018 COLLECTION OUT NOW: The only criticism I could find of Fenty clothing was from plus sized model Ashley Graham who said last year’s release was cool but it would have been good to see curvy models on the Fenty runway. As we continue to push space for women of colour in mainstream spaces I guess this will be another hoop to jump.
Looking at Ri’s catalogue now – Any exclusion of women of different make ups seems to be have been amended.