Rihanna announced this summer that she would take her next Puma x Fenty runway show to Paris Fashion Week after making her creative directorial debut for the Kering-owned sportswear brand during New York Fashion Week in February. Speaking of her Spring/Summer 2017 offerings, Rihanna said the collection channels "Marie Antoinette if she was going to the gym and needed something to wear."
Since being named the creative director of Puma, Rihanna has helped increase sales at the German athletic company. On the heels of the Grammy winner’s debut, Puma said strong demand for shoes it launched as part of a partnership with Rihanna helped drive better-than-expected sales growth in the fourth quarter, making the German sportswear firm optimistic for a better 2016. In the first quarter of the year, Puma's net profit was up 4 percent, with footwear sales up 3.7 percent.
As for the designs themselves, Melissa Battifarano - a Fashion Institute of Technology graduate and an alum of Polo, Fila, and most recently, Tory Burch - who worked on the F/W 2016 collection is still onboard. According to Battifarano’s LinkedIn account, she was enlisted to "work directly with and report directly to Puma’s 2014-named creative director of women's, Rihanna - to design, create and conceptualize the inaugural Fenty X Puma by Rihanna range, which debuted at Fall 16 NYFW." More recently, Battifarano noted that she was responsible for "designing and developing Spring 17 range [for Fenty Corp, where she is the design director] which we will be debuting at Paris fashion week in September 2016."
As for what Battifarano’s "design director" job entails, she is the one who actually designs the collections - because Rihanna is not a designer, of course. Battifarano is happy to remain behind the scenes, though. Speaking of the F/W 2016 collection, she recently said: “It’s [Rihanna’s] collection, so it’s all about her. She always gives the right input. It’s clothing that I’ve designed for her, but it’s really her vision. But it’s been a very collaborative process. I’ve worked with her for the past year on this, so I really know what pieces are important to her so we can style them out.”
As for the design process, Battifarano said on the heels of the F/W 2016 show: "Ri has a really busy schedule, as you can imagine. Initially, I designed a few collections that were more sportswear-inspired, meaning things that you could wear to the gym. She said, 'This is not me. I want something more luxurious. I want more fabrics.' I threw those collections out the window. We upped the fabric content and looked to Italy and Japan. We found really beautiful fur in Italy, so that’s how the whole range of fur in the collection happened. We have really beautiful bonded velvet, grey heather jersey, and the fur really held those full shapes."
UPDATED (7/12/2017): Rihanna and Puma will return to New York to show the Spring/Summer 2018 Fenty collection in September.