By Ellen McGirt
May 29, 2019

Robyn “Rihanna” Fenty has arrived, again.

Fenty, Rihanna’s new luxury clothing line with LVMH, debuted in Paris on May 24 and opened its doors to the online masses today.

The multi-hyphenate star is now the first woman of any hue to launch an original brand at the fashion titan, and the first black woman to run an LVMH House. Fenty is also the first LVMH brand to be developed from scratch since Christian Lacroix was founded in 1987. She reportedly has a 49.9 percent stake in the venture.

“Designing a line like this with LVMH is an incredibly special moment for us. Mr. Arnault has given me a unique opportunity to develop a fashion house in the luxury sector, with no artistic limits,” Rihanna told Business of Fashion, referring to LVMH Chairman and Chief Executive Bernard Arnault. “I couldn’t imagine a better partner both creatively and business-wise, and I’m ready for the world to see what we have built together.”

One of the most impressive things Rihanna has built is a brand that includes everyone, and no, not just everyone who can afford a $1100 suit and fanny pack combo.

It may have been her influential message of no-nonsense inclusivity (remember her size-inclusive lingerie line, Savage x Fenty?) that persuaded LVMH, better known for their preoccupation with heritage brands, to step boldly into the Rihanna orbit. It may also have been the money. Rihanna’s first alliance with LVMH, the radically welcoming Fenty Beauty line, generated more than $550 million in its first year.

“Rihanna’s track record [with LVMH] is a clear indicator that her global influence, driven, in part, by her message of diversity and inclusion, may be worth doubling down on,” reports BoF’s Laure Guilbault and Lauren Sherman.

Rihanna is not a casual player in the inclusion arena, so expect plenty of doubling-down in her latest venture.

She personally tapped 67-year-old model JoAni Johnson to be one of the faces of her new clothing line, as one example. And this spectacular thread from fashion expert and podcaster Shelby Ivey Christie shows how closely Rihanna considers her aesthetic choices.

“Rihanna spoke about how the ‘60s ‘Black is Beautiful’ movement inspired the imagery for 1st Fenty Collection,” she tweeted. “Kwame Brathwaite popularized ‘Black is Beautiful’ + captured black beauty + culture through his images. His work appears as the backdrop on Fenty.com .”

Christie explains that Fenty’s campaign imagery was inspired in part by the Grandassa Models, a black modeling group who advocated for inclusive beauty ideals and helped launch the “Miss Natural Standard of Beauty Contests” based in Harlem, New York City. Best I can tell, the contests happened each year on Marcus Garvey Day from 1962 to 1979. Click through for some spectacular side-by-side comparisons.

Unfortunately, we still live in a world where important firsts are still coming, and this is one for the record books. Rihanna continues to use the platform she’s created to make art and marketing that inspires as well as informs.

So, tip o’ the $180 “no cap” to Rihanna, the fashion icon we need, and if we’re very, very lucky, will also deserve.

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