Rihanna Fenty: The New Pulse of The Fashion Industry

When the Fashion Industry became void of personas that captivate and awe, in comes Robyn “Rihanna” Fenty to take the helm.


It’s April of 2011. The fashionista’s in New York City are putting on their most chic outfits and blazing the mazes of subways and cabs that make up our urban jungle. They hit the corner to get their vanilla chai fix at the local Starbucks and head straight to the news stand to see Rihanna on the cover of their bible.

Fresh of the cusp of one of the most scandalous moments in mainstream Hip-Hop, Rihanna began 2011 with her single “Only Girl In The World” from her “Loud” album going number 1 in various countries and her first Vogue Magazine Cover.

For her first placement granted by Anna Wintour, we see Rihanna sporting fire engine red hair and lips with a plunging sheer floral Chanel gown that would make Ariel eat her heart out. Not only did she blaze the cover, and bring a fresh audience to such a prolific brand, but it was only fitting that the great Annie Leibovitz was the one to capture the action. This was just one of the major fashion conscious moves made by the artist. In the same year, Rihanna included Mel Ottenberg as her personal stylist. Mel Ottenberg was at the time one of the most talked about magazine and fashion week stylists in the industry. When asked about his decision to work with the artist, Ottenberg states

“I saw potential there… I could take that and really do something with that.”

Such a simple response but if you look at the way high fashion has rejected the complete immersion of the hip-hop culture even though their essence shares the same vein, you’d understand how important this comment was. It was here that “Rihanna” the Def Jam starlet becomes the pop icon and fashion’s beloved princess on the verge of her coronation.


Following her first Vogue cover, we see this blazing icon on almost every major fashion periodical. Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Rolling Stone, British GQ, and that’s just before she switches styles again within the same year with the release of her sixth studio album “Talk That Talk”. Fast forward to 2014 and we see her image transcend into mainstream pandemonium once again when she adorns the cover of LUI Magazine. Talk about going viral, the images of the revealing shoot were plastered everywhere before the issue was released and the bare body of Rihanna became the hottest topic since Prince William married Kate. When you think it can’t get any worse, Instagram deletes her account and when I say worse, I meant for the company because the backlash from this maneuver sparked a movement that questioned the censorship of the female body and increase the already frenzy of fans that came to her defense. Even the fashion legend Tom Ford had to attest

“Customers don’t care any more about reviews or hard-copy publications. They care what picture Rihanna just Instagrammed while she’s naked in bed, what new shoes she has on, how she’s talking about them. That’s what they respond to.”
“It doesn’t mean I don’t care about reviews, but today, a lot of people who are reviewing are bloggers… there’s no longer the hierarchy of an editor in chief on top who hires people with a knowledge and a history and an ability to write and disseminate that information to the rest of the population. Everyone has a voice now, so the person with the loudest voice is the one people listen to.”

and the loudest voice was Rihanna’s from taking the least politically correct route in her career. In 2014, amidst all the controversy that seems to be as much apart of her career as her music (often not by her own choosing),

Rihanna receives the CFDA award for style Icon of the year. This being one of fashion’s most prestigious awards nights, we see the songstress among the likes of Alexander Wang, Maxwell Osborne, Raf Simmonds, and in iconic fashion she is draped in nothing but 230,000 Swarovski crystals in a dress that has been immortalized in pop culture. According to the CEO of the CFDA, Steven Kolb when asked about Rihanna that night, he called her

“fashion’s most exciting ambassador in recent years.”

This comment coming behind the recent attacks in the court of public opinion when various news outlets began reporting on the industries lack of diversity and connection to the middle class who support the industry and make up it’s foundation. Rihanna brought to the fashion world, the views, the emotions, and the uninhibited character of her fans which in a lot of cases didn’t find a place to call home within the upper echelon of the fashion community.


We arrive to present day 2016. Rihanna has completely commanded the music industry with the much anticipated release of her ANTI album that had one of the most interactive marketing campaigns surrounded by fan engagement and social media interaction fueled by Samsung Ltd. Simultaneously, the fruition of a deal made in 2015 with the icon and Puma began to take shape. In 2015, the international athletic brand Puma signs Rihanna as their new creative director. This decision shook the world because we have seen fashion companies sign artists to endorsement deals and creative collaboration deals, but what we haven’t seen is an artist cross over into a position that permits them to control the brands image.

The effects of Rihanna’s involvement as creative director of the brand has taken it to heights that the brand previously haven’t touched. Before her addition, the mainstream media covered the likes of Adidas for their Nigo, Pharrell, and Kanye West additions, Reebok because of crossfit, and Nike because of their various celebrity athlete endorsements. After her addition, Puma’s earnings almost double from the previous year, the brand’s extensions have evolved into pop culture staples, and it is now being seen as a higher fashion brand than it’s competitors since it’s premier at New York Fashion Week.

With more than 10 Vogue covers under her belt in almost all of their country affiliations, multiple GQ covers, multiple Esquire covers, multiple Cosmopolitan covers, a CFDA award for Fashion Icon of 2014, the Women’s Creative Director of Puma, the muse of designers everywhere, Robyn “Rihanna” Fenty’s fashion acumen can no longer be put to question. She is the Icon that Mel Ottenberg and Anna Wintour saw in 2011. She is the Icon that completely stunned the MET Gala in 2015 wearing a hand made Guo Pei dress. She is also the same Icon posing with Manolo Blahnik on an upcoming Vogue issue to commemorate their collaboration. This is just the beginning for the cultural Icon that is “Rihanna” and I for one can’t wait to see her Magnum Opus; maybe after she becomes the creative director for Dior. No rumors have circulated yet but we all can dream can’t we?

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