When I heard the news that LVMH was dropping Fenty (the clothing brand) from its roster and putting it on sleep mode, (or a momentary coma with indefinite return), I flinched, but nothing automatically triggered me. I love me some Rih Rih, but I wasn’t going to have sleepless nights over the first lady of pop music and beauty becoming a little less rich.
However, something didn’t quite sit well with me. For me, it was beyond Fenty.
There was a message there and it took me a few moments to grasp it.
It’s understandable there are those that perhaps feel like her luxury fashion brand didn’t have legs as she is more of a beautiful babe. It’s a fair point. Although her undeniable sex appeal and attention to diversity do sell lingerie (Savage x Fenty heart eyes), she isn’t really a lingerie designer either, right? Nor was she a beauty pro before she launched her sell-out Fenty Beauty range.
So it made me question whether there’s something else going on and whether we should be questioning the landscape of luxury when it comes to Black ownership and where exactly representation fits into this conversation.
One of the arguments for the closure of Fenty is that her core audience is ultimately not a luxury buyer. “I believe that the clothes haven’t done as much as beauty and lingerie, but that may be because Rihanna’s current demographic/core audience is millennial/gen Z Black, men, and women.
” says creative consultant Arrieta Mujay Bärg, 41, who was a former Head of PR and Marketing for River Island and led Rihanna x River Island 13’ collection. “However Fenty fashion house has only been opened for less than two years and it takes time to develop a following when you are doing something different from the norm,” Bärg adds.
The same may be said for a lot of Black designers like the super trendy Telfar Clemens and the super edgy, cool, and monotone Cold Laundry founder Ola Alabi, who often attract a more ‘urban demographic’ for lack of a better word.
By no means is that a bad thing, but of course for sustainable success, there is a need to appeal to as wide an audience as possible. Gaining respect across the board in that space is a hard task, but it’s lazy to assume that consumerism within the Black community or a specific generation is capped at a price point.
Bärg agrees to add: “On the same note. It would be inaccurate to say that her, having a majority Black following is the reason that the brand has failed. Developing a high-quality luxury brand and sticking to it is no easy task.” Barg believes that the same level of grace is not allowed fairly, and that may support the case as to why we see so few successful Black-owned/Black-led luxury businesses.
“Case in point: Edun – the brand fronted by Bono and wife Ali Hewson made LVMH a loss of $28million in a space of five years, and every year they were given the benefit of the doubt and they kept feeding in cash until there was no turning back,” says Bärg.
Written By Sheilla Mamona