Makeup is big business, lingerie is big business, and Rihanna is a force of nature rocking both worlds. That much was clear on Wednesday night, when the singer and entrepreneur staged a show for her lingerie line, Savage x Fenty, at New York Fashion Week.
It was a lush, surreally Edenic performance piece, in which dancers and models prowled, whirled, and ran, laughing, across a grassy set strewn with fountains, plants growing under fluorescent lights, and geodesic domes. All 17 minutes, which you can watch on YouTube, are mesmerizing.
“Runway shows are an odd tradition. They cost a ton of money, but their appeal is fairly limited to fashion wonks. Much of the clothing doesn’t even go into production. It sometimes seems like a fashion show evaporates the second it’s done.”
But this Savage x Fenty presentation is worth paying attention to because Rihanna has emerged as a leader in the world of consumer products, and has made diversity part of her brand’s DNA, rather than deploying it as a one-off marketing tactic. Her Fenty Beauty collection became a smash hit in large part because it launched with 40 shades of foundation — something that should be standard, but isn’t, as many makeup brands ignore women of color when formulating products. Just a few months later, a slew of major makeup brands had followed her lead.
And with this particular fashion show, Rihanna accomplished a few things. She put inclusivity front and center, by hiring a group of performers and models that was diverse in terms of race and, notably, size. And she offered an alternative to the cheery, homogenous vision of female sexuality put forth by the best-known lingerie brand in America, Victoria’s Secret.
Savage x Fenty pushes fashion in a more inclusive direction
For too many years, fashion shows looked like this: A stream of very thin, very young, very white women solemnly marching in a line. Designers and casting directors have been slow to increase diversity on the runway — despite many calls to do so — but recent years have shown progress. Yet keeping in mind fashion’s spotty track record on diversity historically, not just in fashion shows but on magazine covers, some have wondered how sincere the industry really is, particularly when it comes to race.
Representation of different body shapes is a particularly weak point for brands that show at fashion week. For the fall 2017 season, plus-size models accounted for only 0.43 percent of castings, according to a Fashion Spot tally. Even when brands do put plus-size models on the runway, they don’t always manufacture clothing in sizes that those models could buy.
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