Rihanna beats Kanye West on the runway

Rihanna's runway show focuses on her designs; West's show had too many distractions

NEW YORK • Fashion brands frequently tap celebrities, specifically musicians, to partner on projects small (a limited-edition shoe design) and large (a full-fledged ready-to-wear collection).

It helps the brand find a new audience, keep up with pop culture and even re-invent itself.

For example, this New York fashion week, I've seen partnerships between Ciara and Keds, plus Asap Rocky and Guess.

Most famously, Kanye West and adidas held a fashion show-slash- album release in Madison Square Garden last Thursday. And last Friday, pop star Rihanna unveiled a ready-to-wear collection with sneaker brand Puma, called Fenty Puma by Rihanna.

The last two examples were contrasts in execution and success.

(From left) Lamar Odom, Khloe Kardashian, Kylie Jenner, North West, Kim Kardashian and Vogue editor Anna Wintour at Kanye West’s Yeezy fashion line presentation. PHOTOS: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY, REUTERS

Muted colours such as black and grey dominated Fenty Puma (above), a collaboration between Rihanna and sneaker brand Puma.

Both aimed to make a splash with an over-the-top production to get attention in the press and fashion industry.

But in West's case, the reveal of the third season of his Yeezy fashion line (a collaboration with adidas), the ticketed event at Madison Square Garden held too many distractions to be effective to market the clothing.

More attention was paid to his album The Life Of Pablo, which he simultaneously released, and the presence at the venue of the Kardashian family and its ailing adjunct, Lamar Odom.

The clothes were tattered, form-squeezing to the point of unflattering and hard to categorise. When would you wear them?

The next day, Rihanna debuted her Fenty Puma collection in a former bank located in the heart of Wall Street. She has been working with the athletic wear brand since December 2014.

The collection was inspired by Japanese street culture, but had gothic overtones, muted colours and exaggerated silhouettes.

The presentation was focused on the clothes, although Rihanna was present, and as a result the outfits shone.

As a stylist, I could not help but think of how much better of a fashion event it was and here are some reasons why.


As a designer, you want to create something unique, different and yet wearable.

Like West, Rihanna presented an urban streetwear collection, but instead of using saturated colours such as orange and red - which West did in his Yeezy Season 3 collection - Rihanna used muted and subtle colours such as black, white and grey, which make the clothing a bit more wearable despite the design.

Sure, the styling and make-up was way over the top, but most of the clothing (sports bras, track pants, hoodies and varsity jackets) were items that Puma buyers and Rihanna fans would actually wear.


If you are opting out of showing your collection at Clarkson Square, the official venue of New York Fashion Week: The Shows, then go with a venue that is similar and does not drown out the clothing.


Yeezy Season 3 show was mainly about the music and less about the clothing, and it showed.

The album was being played louder than usual, not performed by West, and what should have been a five- to 10-minute fashion presentation was really a two-hour show of West and his friends frolicking by the DJ booth, while about 40 models and a bunch of extras were standing in the centre of the room.


During the Yeezy extravaganza, there was no wireless or Wi-Fi access in the venue and a planned Tidal livestream of the event failed.

What else would you expect when 20,000 people are trying to Instagram and Snapchat at once? In an effort to get more out into the world of social media, the adidas planners got in their own way.

On the other hand, Fenty Puma had under 400 people attending the show, which did not clog the Internet. Also, the show had its own Snapchat filter.


Surprisingly, not one of Rihanna's chart-topping hits was played during the show, not even a tease of We Found Love, Diamonds or her latest single, Work, featuring rapper Drake. It reiterated the point that the musician was putting her energy behind the clothes this time.  

And there were no distractions like an army of reality stars dressed like furry angels to pull focus. (We won't name any names.)


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 18, 2016, with the headline 'Rihanna beats Kanye West on the runway'. Print Edition | Subscribe