Rihanna's stamp on sportswear

Rihanna offered a collection that mixed Puma's sports heritage with something more like street-wear (above).
Rihanna offered a collection that mixed Puma's sports heritage with something more like street-wear (above).PHOTO: NEW YORK TIMES
Rihanna (above) offered a collection that mixed Puma's sports heritage with something more like street-wear.
Rihanna (above) offered a collection that mixed Puma's sports heritage with something more like street-wear.PHOTO: NEW YORK TIMES

The singer's first show as brand ambassador of Puma stood out for its sound and fury

NEW YORK• Trees, stark and faux in black and white, grew out of the floor and into a ceiling tiled with mirrors.

At 23 Wall Street, the former House of Morgan was converted into a forest from a digital-age fever dream - the Black Forest, one might almost say, since the stage had been set by Puma, the German sportswear behemoth, for the showing of its new collection designed by pop idol Rihanna.

Even during a New York Fashion Week dominated in its early days by celebrity spectacle, with Kanye West's Yeezy presentation-slashalbum-release still ringing in attendees' ears, Rihanna's show - her first as women's creative director and brand ambassador of Puma - stood out for scale and scope, sound and fury.

"They were willing to let me be creative and express myself in whatever way I wanted to," Rihanna said of Puma. "They wanted a change. I just had to uproot it. I had to go from the ground up and say I'm just going to go there. Whatever works, works."

Her appointment has turned attention back to Puma, which had slid behind rivals such as Nike and Adidas in the competition for fashion credibility.

It has also brought to the label the marketable buzz of celebrity.


Rihanna (above) offered a collection that mixed Puma's sports heritage with something more like street-wear. PHOTO: NEW YORK TIMES

Naomi Campbell, Chris Rock, Foxy Brown and Travis Scott all came to see the show.

"We couldn't miss it," said Brown, the rapper and Rihanna's former labelmate on Def Jam. "It's our girl."

Down the runway, the models stomped (Gigi and Bella Hadid among them), over smoke and under mirrors, laced into corsets or swooning in oversized, sleeve- trailing sweats, transparent tops and floor-length track-jacket dresses, many of the pieces lavishly printed with Japanese characters. (Translation: "Puma" or "Fenty" - Rihanna's rarely used surname, used as the label for her collections.) If it felt like a sister to collections by voguish labels such as Vetements and Hood by Air... well, Rihanna wears both of those. It looked like her.

"I just wanted things to reflect me, what was on my mind, how I feel and what I want to wear right now," she said.

It was not business as usual for Puma, whose usual performance footwear had been alchemised into thigh-high lace-up boots, stilettos and chunky wedges, whose sweatpants had been bisected with garters. But change, according to Mr Bjorn Gulden, Puma's chief executive, was exactly the point.

He said: "Two years ago, we sat down and asked what we could do to freshen up the brand, especially for the female consumer. The research we did clearly pointed towards Rihanna. I think we kind of fell in love a little bit. She was what we needed to get a new direction."

To see people wearing the collection, Rihanna said, is the dream. "That's a big deal," she said, "Like somebody buying your music. But better. Because they have to do it in public."

No one will wear it more publicly than Rihanna, who appeared to take her bow in a printed grey faux-fur hoodie that stretched down to her mid-thighs.

After the show, she called these hoodies, which appeared in the collection in several variations, among her favourites.

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 15, 2016, with the headline 'Rihanna's stamp on sportswear'. Print Edition | Subscribe