Having been 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, in more shades than usual. She also had a street named after her in Barbados, featured in a science fiction film Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets and starred in Oceans 13 – with an all female cast it will premier in cinemas June 2018. Harvard also gave her the 2017 Humanitarian of The Year award for her charity work.
This woman and her work ethic has been cemented as a pillar in my ‘tools for inspiration’ because she is so un-apologetically herself, no matter what she’s doing she’s paving the way for young woman of colour to unpack prior notions of not being able to participate in mainstream pop-culture; since reports of her domestic violence incident with Chris Brown in 2009, she’s unapologetically swept the fashion music and beauty scene with a joint in her mouth, pulling both middle fingers in the air, subsequently becoming the mainstream. This month her 2018 Fenty/Puma collection came out and once again she’s being hailed as the pioneer fashion-rebel she is.
“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; I couldn’t justify it at all, so I walked away. As a student these 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. 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 braided seams, pop pants, domes, creepers, fish net textures lending to a sense of bad ass gothic ghetto, motorcross-thick materials, the mix of black and pastels. Over Christmas, I was gifted the Fenty buckwheat creepers from Platypus in St Luke’s mall (on sale) making my 2017 complete.
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 became rampant, Rihanna was a big one. In March 2015, it was announced that Rihanna had been chosen as the new face of Dior; this makes her the first black woman to be the face of Dior. Viola Davis and Taraji P. Hensen were among others vetted in 2017’s pool of black women to be celebrated, because they deserved it. For me, these conversations further cemented my passion and understanding that there is a point to being creative whilst functioning with your heart on your sleeve. Although there are divisions under the umbrella that is ‘Women Of Colour’ all us black, brown, Asian and ‘other’ using identity labels that at the very least distinguish that we’re not standing in European shadows any longer; Third Culture Kids became a new and exciting label to come to my attention. Although I am not black my point here is after seeing women I’ve looked up to be brave and stand up for ‘us’, women who go through similar issues like the need for curvier jean cuts or darker shades of make up, I felt there is still a point and a required demand to push for space in mainstream media and a voice for WOC that’s beyond token or niche, these ideas are still too few and far between in terms of public representation but there are people working hard locally and abroad to change it. Check out my interview with Hannelle Harris and Mia Marama from the Baby Mama’s Club for Ryz FM as well as the behind the scenes video for The Storytellers shoot by Maka Tuwe coming soon. There are also interviews with Amiria Raumati of Hina Potions, Villette’s Instagram, Sharnar’s VICE story and others to check out in the blog.
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 because I believed in the conditioning since primary school, that “You’re different and you can’t play”. Instead of addressing my own lack of confidence during my teenage years 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 I could handle. 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 that despite bigotry remaining a fundamental part of all brown girl’s existence within the hyper-reality that is fashion, I’ve had to acknowledged that the Libra in me wants nice things and that I am destined to toy and wrestle with balance – and myself – everyday. It simply means I work on a budget now, but won’t/can’t give up who I am.
THE PAPER MAG SHOOT – AESTHETICS ARE LIFE
Ri’s Paper Magazine shoot blew my mind and fueled my own passion for aesthetic and material, it pushed me to fight with my consciousness and to stand strong in the conviction that I do love fashion, it’s a part of WHO I am, it’s not only vanity although that comes with it, for me it’s also armour and a need to feel brave enough to face all the challenges I set myself every day, when I wake up, what I put on is the kick-start to my engine. For me it’s expression, a statement – it’s my voice when I’m too tired to keep speaking. It’s also a subject I studied and got A’s in. I can also sew and have been making refurbished jackets with my paintings on them, a lesson and craft handed down to me by my mother and shared with some of my closest friends – it’s one of a few things we have in common. Aesthetic is special to me and not a waste of time as MANY have tried to convince me, this shoot encouraged me to believe nothing I love is a waste of time. I don’t know why humanity often needs a hero first, for me it’s Beyonce, Solange and Rihanna (previously Jay Z, Nicki and Kanye) because they pushed the space for my generation to belong and have a seat at the taste makers’ table. Now I plan to keep begging and borrowing until I can afford a camera of my own. .. Women like this make you realise you’re not as alone as you feel sometimes, and this for many is why their work is so important. Read how Farren Fucci got the styling job for Ri HERE.
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:
One of the styles Fenty released in October 2017 was Rihanna’s pointy creeper. Furthering the gender neutral trend and conversation, she prompt men to get their feet into platform soles too:
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 woman of colour in mainstream spaces I guess this will be another hoop to jump. Although, personally seeing Rihanna in her element like on DJ Khaled’s Wild Thoughts makes me feel proud of my curves.
The Fenty 2018 collection is out now: