“I have long-term goals in fashion, but not so much with any one brand.” This is a tidbit of what Rihanna shared with the audience during Vogue’s inaugural Forces of Fashion event in New York last October. The pop star’s discussion followed closely behind her final runway show with Puma for her Fenty collection, and also came on the heels of the wildly successful launch of her Fenty Beauty brand with LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton’s Kendo division.
Now, the multi-hyphenate 30-year old multi-Grammy Award winner is broadening her portfolio and further banking on her proven endorsement track record with a lingerie line. Entitled, Savage X Fenty, the collection dropped in mid-May to fan fury, and rightfully so.
Given the success of Rihanna’s Puma tenure and her wildly buzzy Fenty Beauty line, it is clear that what the singer touches turns to consumer gold. As Puma’s CEO Bjorn Gulden said in a statement last year in connection with the company’s 2017 full-year guidance report, Rihanna had a very real hand in helping to drive demand for Puma. Gulden noted that the Fenty Puma by Rihanna Creeper, for instance, “was repeatedly sold out worldwide within mere hours of hitting the stores as soon as we launched new colorways throughout the year.”
On the heels of the Puma collaborations, as well as partnerships with Manolo Blahnik, River Island, Dior, and Chopard, among others, Rihanna teamed up with LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton’s Kendo division to create her own line of products, Fenty Beauty. As of early this year, the collection, which made its debut in September 2017, on the runway at her seasonal Puma show, no less, and was released exclusively in LVMH-owned Sephora stores, is proving to be a smashing success, as well.
The collection spawned waiting lists at some cosmetics counters, and it said to have brought in a whopping $100 million in its first 40 days of operation, helping to put Fenty Beauty “on track to beat out blockbuster revenues of Kylie Jenner’s Kylie Beauty [which as of August 2017 had sold a total of $420 million products] and Kim Kardashian’s KKW," per WWD.
In some sense, with her Savage X Fenty collection, Rihanna is playing on one of the greatest appeals of the Fenty Beauty line, namely, inclusivity, something that is sorely lacking in most of the market, despite many brands' consistent promises to modernize in order to better cater to the ever-demanding millennial consumer. In the same way that the Fenty Beauty collection – with its 40 different foundation shades – aims to make beauty products available to a range of consumers, the inclusive nature of the Savage X Fenty collection is set to disrupt the largely white-washed and thoroughly size-ist nature of the leading undergarment brands.
For instance, Savage X Fenty debuted underwear in nude hues for a huge array of skin tones, and boasts one of the more inclusive size selections on the market. According to Vogue, the collection "currently offers bras in sizes 32A to 38DD, underwear up to a size 3X, and other lingerie from extra small to extra large." And the company has "stated plans to increase their size range very soon."
Given Rihanna's unapologetic approach to owning her own ambitions, her sexuality, her gender, and her life experiences and how she has opted to handle them, it should come as little surprise that her take on undergarments would stand in stark contrast to the way that the industry's traditional giants, such as Victoria's Secret, have been doing business.
The $7.39 billion per year company that is Victoria's Secret, the dominant lingerie retailer in the U.S., could certainly learn a thing or two from Rihanna in light of its failure to adapt to the changing sentiment about women, bodies and sex appeal, thereby making it so that the retailer continues to struggle to boost its bottom line with any meaningful amount of growth and attract consumers in 2018.
And the company's shortcomings, namely, its failure to offer up an alternative to the most cookie-cutter definition of "sexy" and the notion that lingerie is primarily a tool for women to please their partners, is Savage's strength.
“Women should be wearing lingerie for their damn selves,” she told Vogue, making it clear that the undergarment industry's outdated ideals are not part of Savage X Fenty's MO. The collection – just like its famous founder – demonstrates the sheer power that comes with an inclusive female gaze, and that is sexy.