Earlier this month, Rihanna revealed to the world (or, rather, the small sliver of it that happened to catch her appearance on Ryan Seacrest’s radio show) that she is currently “pursuing a fashion line.” Fashion press, ever weary of such pronouncements, responded with a collective eye roll and a handful of well-aimed barbs at the 24-year-old star.
Celebrity designers are hardly a new phenomenon – P. Diddy debuted his Sean John label in 1998, Gwen Stefani launched her L.A.M.B. line in 2003, and Jessica Simpson founded her now billion-dollar fashion empire in 2007. All of these, however, fall under more under the category of celebrity-as-licensor than celebrity-as-designer.
One driving force behind all of the media ire surrounding the “serious” celebrity designer is the fact that we are now living in the post-Kanye West era. For the past two seasons, editors have flocked to West’s shows at Paris Fashion Week, propelled by a combination of curiosity and schadenfreude. And for the past two seasons, these shows have been critically panned: The Daily Beast’s Robin Givhan called his debut “dreadful,” citing the “unflattering” silhouettes, lack of focus, and look after look of leathers and furs – for Spring; “Good thing Kanye has a day job,” jested The Wall Street Journal.
His sophomore effort was a modest improvement, with sharpened tailoring and now-seasonally appropriate fabric choices. West, however, refused to invite any criticism this time around, barring all editors from conducting interviews or previewing the collection. Want an interview with the superstar? Not without the promise of a four-page fashion spread you don’t.
All this, despite the vast sums of time and money the rapper claims to have invested in the line. Not even Donald Trump could so deftly put the “ego” in “misbegotten.”
It is highly unlikely that Rihanna will invite the same kind of high-fashion fanfare with her own collection. For starters, it will not be her first foray into the world of design – her affordably priced capsule line for Emporio Armani is in its second season and she attests that thus far it has been “very, very successful.” The collection is fairly basic: tee shirts, jeans, leather jackets, and lingerie. Nothing to write home about, but also nothing that could ever be subject to accusations of dreadfulness.
Nevertheless, Rihanna claims to be taking her future in design very seriously. “I’m working with designers,” the pop star says. “Designers that I respect, and companies that I respect. I want people to really trust me before I just say ‘Buy it, because it’s mine.’”