Rihanna and LVMH may be making history with fashion deal

Is Rihanna (right) the Coco Chanel of the 21st century? LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, the parent company of Dior, Givenchy and Fendi, apparently thinks so.
Is Rihanna the Coco Chanel of the 21st century? LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, the parent company of Dior, Givenchy and Fendi, apparently thinks so.

NEW YORK • Is Rihanna the Coco Chanel of the 21st century? LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, the parent company of Dior, Givenchy and Fendi, apparently thinks so.

It is in the midst of a deal to back her in a fashion brand, making her the first female designer of colour at the world's largest luxury conglomerate.

Neither LVMH nor Rihanna would comment, although the singer has recently been photographed wearing a "mystery" pair of oversized Fenty-branded square sunglasses, hinting at what may be to come. While the details of the agreement remain unclear, it is a turning point in fashion and fame.

The combination of Fenty and LVMH will be the clearest expression yet of how celebrity, social media and influencers have redefined the power balance between culture and consumption, changing the way brands of all kinds relate to their audience.

It is not insignificant that despite the number of well-known and respected designers unemployed in the fashion world, including Alber Elbaz, Stefano Pilati and Peter Copping, the dominant luxury group decided to put its money where a pop star was.

Robin Rihanna Fenty, one of the defining musical artists of the millennium and a multi-hyphenate talent, has no formal fashion training. What she does have are a clear vision for her own image, 14 No. 1 singles on the Billboard 100 chart and more than 50 Top 40 hits, 67 million Instagram followers and an ability to disrupt the status quo.

Now that the elite fashion world is in disarray, splintered by the rise of the street, direct communication and a growing awareness of its lack of diversity, there is little wonder that LVMH would see in Rihanna a potential way forward.

 
 

Unlike most new designers, however, she has a public profile that is as fully formed and global as any heritage brand.

Other celebrities have made the move into fashion, using the red carpet as a springboard to legitimacy. But what has set them apart, whether it is Victoria Beckham or Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen at The Row, is that they have done so in part by renouncing their low-culture past and humbly pledging their troth to design.

By contrast, Rihanna, who starred in last summer's Ocean's 8, appears to understand how her various platforms and outlets for expression can complement one another and shows no interest in abandoning any of them. LVMH has presumably not asked her to.

There are still outstanding questions around just what shape her brand will take, where it will be based and how the relationship with LVMH will be structured. Even what it will be named.

But what is certain is that Rihanna's first catwalk show or extravaganza or concert or whatever it turns out to be will be appointment viewing far beyond the often insular fashion world.

And she now has the potential to set not only style trends, but also a trend in what managers, agents, executives and kids thinking about their future imagine is possible.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 21, 2019, with the headline 'Rihanna and LVMH may be making history with fashion deal'. Print Edition | Subscribe