6 Ways Rihanna Rewrote The Rules Of Fashion – For Everyone

Rihanna’s impact on the world of fashion can scarcely be overstated. Not only is she as well-dressed while boarding a long-haul flight as she is on stage in front of thousands of fans, but, with Fenty, she is the first woman of colour to launch a luxury fashion brand (backed by LVMH, no less). Proudly political (her recent speech at the NAACP Awards illustrated how dramatically engaging she can make activism) and savvy as to her impact, she has channelled her immense influence into a unique set of projects. Here are six ways in which she’s changed the fashion game – for everyone.

Fenty Is The Very Definition Of A Modern, Boundary-Pushing Fashion Brand

Fenty distills Rihanna’s various qualities into a single, easily consumable brand (a smart move if ever there was one): it makes everything from loungewear to cocktail dresses look fabulous, drops outside of the conventional fashion calendar, and suits all manner of sizes. “If I can’t wear my stuff then it just won’t work,” she once shrugged. “I need to see how it looks on my hips, on my thighs, on my stomach – does it look good on me or only on a fit model? It’s important.” But, besides the fact that her designs work for a range of bodies (a point illustrated by her e-commerce pictures, where they appears modelled by different shapes and sizes), Fenty is also boundary-pushing by virtue of its being the first brand created from scratch by the luxury conglomerate LVMH since Christian Lacroix, in 1987, not to mention the first LVMH-backed house created by a person of colour. And a woman of colour, at that.

Fenty has championed creatives of colour since its inception

Rihanna’s Bajan heritage has directly informed some of the best Fenty pieces she’s created – last summer saw the debut of tie-dyed wrap skirts and saturated dresses inspired by the country’s sunsets, as well as collaged T-shirts printed with the word “immigrant” – and she’s also used her brand to champion creatives of colour since its inception: the brand’s hotly-anticipated debut positioned Jack Davison’s photographs alongside Kwame Brathwaite’s 1960s imagery of the Grandassa models. She has since enlisted the storied photographer Liz Johnson Artur to shoot tailoring on the streets of Peckham and the rising star Ruth Ossai to capture portraits of women wearing ornate up-dos bedecked with her Cameo collection. She’s opened the doors to a new generation, too, collaborating on a capsule with young British designer A Sai Ta of Asai, employing Conner Ives to work as part of her team (“my guardian angel… an absolute dream,” he gushed on Instagram). And she’s showcased the likes of trans visibility activist and poet Kai Isaiah-Jamal and the founder of Sunu Journal Amy Sall in her campaigns. Basically: it looks good, and it’s backed up by those whose modus operandi is changing the status quo. Top marks.

Savage x Fenty Has Set A New Standard For Sexy

Remember when women’s lingerie appeared almost exclusively designed to appeal to men? That was essentially the industry norm until 2018, when Rihanna launched Savage x Fenty: a brand that was designed to appeal to the female gaze. With an expansive size range and an inclusive set of ambassadors, the Savage x Fenty debut instantly made the tired, stock rhetoric of traditional lingerie brands appear entirely irrelevant. “There are a lot of women out there who are feeling in the dark, invisible. ‘I can’t try that on because I’m not made like that,’” Rihanna said, after her game-changing fashion show last September, which starred everyone from Bella Hadid to Lauren Wasser and made everyone appear equally fabulous. “This is where you feel safe, right here at Savage.” Even better: Savage x Fenty has prompted a surge of similarly-minded lingerie brands to succeed, both those which were flying under the radar before its inception, and those which have been established in its wake. Sexy means something different in Rihanna’s world – and that sentiment sells.

She leads by “thicc” example

In an industry that has long prioritised the white-washed and rake-thin, Rihanna’s unofficial day-to-day role as a style icon for millions has offered a more expansive model of representation. Ample thighs and spilling cleavage rippling beneath Asai’s neon tie-dye (look back to October on her Instagram feed for the sexiest slo-mo ever); skin-tight Fenty corsetry cut to highlight her curves; vintage Galliano kimonos left open to bare plenty of flesh: “I ain’t no sample size no more… I’m a curvy girl,” she told reviewers, when she launched Fenty. Or, more bluntly: “I’m thicc,” as she beamingly told Edward Enninful when he interviewed the mogul for her September 2018 British Vogue cover. To have a woman commonly acknowledged as one of the world’s most beautiful jiggle a little when she walks is a lovely thing. And it means that those looking to magazine covers and music videos for inspiration can have more than just a green juice and a yoga class for lunch.

She Makes Loungewear Look A Million Dollars

Rihanna descending from an aeroplane still has the Vogue team Slack channel exploding. Hers aren’t the awkwardly glamorous sorts of full looks that you can imagine some stars anxiously changing into in the first-class toilets before facing the paps at the arrivals gate. On the contrary, these are comfy travel clothes (oversized fleecy tracksuits, baseball caps) with perfectly practical accessories (Off-White Rimowa luggage, Dior’s embroidered Book tote, the new Celine cabas) and the occasion addition of something fun, like a sparkling Bottega Veneta or metallic Manolo Blahnik heel (which we can’t imagine she wears to travel long-haul, but makes our day to see, nevertheless). During a time where we are all spending a lot more time in loungewear, she offers a wealth of inspiration.

She’s Happy To Support Her Industry Peers

Plenty of creative directors are loathe to support other fashion houses – and even less inclined to invest in their wares. But Rihanna loves to shop. If nobody else bought Bottega Veneta for a season, they’d probably make good off her habit alone. Equally, she could be a poster girl for Alexander Vauthier’s micro-mini brand of glamour, or Balenciaga’s cult cool. She loves limited-edition Louis (she’s got bags featuring designs by Takashi Murakami and Frank Gehry, and took a football-shaped, monogrammed bag to support Juventus in Turin); Molly Goddard tulle; Givenchy couture. It would be easy for one of the world’s most photographed women to use her platform simply to drive Fenty sales, but this is Rihanna. “I often walk into stores and I’m like, ‘I love this, but I wish it was more like that, or in a different colour or in a different fabric’ – and now I get to do it,” she told Vogue last year. But if she loves it, and it comes in the right colour – well, then she’ll have it.