Despite perhaps the messiest album rollout of all time, the queen is back. Rihanna’s first album in over three years – subject to countless delays – features none of the singles she released in 2015, rather all new material and an almost entirely new direction. And the album, which she finally dropped on January 28, might be Rih’s boldest move yet.
Time really flies; it’s hard to believe that 2015 is already coming to a close. And while it sort of feels like everything happened too fast to even process anything, there’s no denying a few major moments that went down in the world of fashion and beyond. The events themselves – from designer switch-ups and new faces to music and celebrity moments – may have been less than monumental. However, the conversations started on topics like gender identity, age, race, and the pace of the industry provided us with a framework of consciousness to be carried into 2016. Unless there’s another groundbreaking moment within the final week of 2015, it’s safe to bring this one to a close.
Guys, can we talk about one of the most epic videos ever? Our favorite badgal is back, and she’s not fucking around. Just like every other single that the singer (apparently now trap artist?) puts out, we all fell in love with Rihanna’s bumping new track when it first debuted a couple months back. And now the infectious tune seems even better, bolstered by something of a short film directed by the star herself. It’s sexual, it’s violent, it’s over-the-top, and it’s kind of everything.
On the heels of our general discussion on awards shows, let’s talk about possibly their worst accessory: the red carpet.
Red carpet coverage has become a breeding ground for judgment, where certain media members are given the platform to tear a woman’s outfit apart. And yes, this type of scrutiny seems to completely bypass male celebrities. Let’s face it, there isn’t much to comment on in general when talking about a guy’s suit, since male celebrities’ red carpet styling is usually only given an extra edge via a boutonnière or a tie bar or another subtle detail to his otherwise stoic tuxedo. And if there is an instance of more austere menswear styles, that male will be commended for his “adventurous” streak.
W just debuted their September cover, the biggest of the year, which features none other than Rihanna. This comes just days after news broke of the superstar’s new trademark, while the undisputed fashion icon has generally been having one hell of a moment. On the glossy, Riri’s seen in tribal-inspired makeup with hair, jewelry, and attire to match. And while the singer looks as stunning as always, the theme has certainly raised a few eyebrows; some are calling the editorial racist and culturally insensitive, with the cover prompt referring to Rihanna as “the wildest style icon.”
It’s not hard to see why people took offense to the spread. For one, the use of tribal hair and makeup and styling pushes the idea of exoticizing indigenous groups, turning cultural practices into stylish trends without much regard for their deeper significance. And the use of the word “wild” doesn’t quite help, either. The term implies being uncivilized, and it only looks worse when this is all applied to a woman of color. Essentially, many viewers argue that W is fetishizing certain ethnic groups while simultaneously executing a racially insensitive concept.
On the other hand, there are always people who deem others “too sensitive.” Though a normally baseless accusation, the counterargument brings up a valid point: what draws the line between being inspired by a culture and cultural appropriation?
To many, a fantastical, often exaggerated version of a concept can be used as a way to show fascination and appreciation towards it. However, the end result can often be seen as ignorant or belittling. The same issue has come up multiple times, as recently as March of this year. In an almost identical spread from Vogue Italia, titled “Wonderfully Wild,” Dutch model Saskia de Brauw donned a variety of tribally styled outfits and face paint that many saw as blackface. It goes without saying that reactions weren’t so great. But it also makes us wonder, how does this current situation differ from what we saw just a few months ago? Is this still cultural appropriation, only hidden behind the shield of a pop-culture icon? Is the W cover acceptable because Rihanna and the stylist, Edward Enninful are both black?
A little controversy can always be exciting, but there’s a difference between an editorial that’s overtly sexual, drug-related, or shocking in another way and a spread like this. It’s safe to say that race and culture are touchy subjects in fashion, with countless examples of controversy emerging in recent years. The division between appreciative inspiration and insensitive mockery often becomes problematic, regardless of how harmless the intentions might be, and it probably wouldn’t hurt for image makers to be a bit more cautious.
Check out Rihanna’s full cover and spread from W’s September issue below, shot by Mert & Marcus and styled by Edward Enninful, and let us know YOUR thoughts!
Is it just us, or has badgalriri been a little less ubiquitous since receiving the CFDA Style Icon Award back in June? But let’s be real, homegirl could never stay out of the spotlight for too long. This time, the news doesn’t come from a hairstyle change or a new single or a barely-there ensemble or any other typical thing you’d expect. Instead, Rihanna’s been making business moves; rumor has it that the iconic songstress recently filed trademark documents under her official last name, Fenty (yes, Rihanna has a last name). This could mean apparel, lingerie, cosmetics, swimwear, and more.
This shouldn’t be surprising, as Rihanna’s definitely grown into quite the fashionista over the years (hence the CFDA award). And let’s not forget about how she killed it at Paris Fashion Week, her role as the face of Balmain, her multiple collaborations with MAC, and her collections for River Island last year. Sure, these rumors aren’t really indicative of anything just yet. But Rihanna as a designer? Into it. We’re thinking lots of cutouts, oversized menswear-inspired outerwear, sexy strappy sandals, urban accessories, and plenty of the other things that Riri does best. Plus, with the probable help of stylist Mel Ottenberg, all of these elements would be perfectly meshed together in a cohesive, super stylish fashion.
Okay, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. While we could hope that this would end up like Gwen Stefani and Victoria Beckham’s impressive design endeavors, there’s always the possibility that things could go a little JLo. And again, nothing’s really set in stone.
All eyes may have been on the runways during Paris Fashion Week, but if anything was noticeable off the catwalk, it was Rihanna’s omnipresence at the hottest shows. “Badgalriri” was taking the phrase, “the world is your runway” quite literally, looking better than ever in some painfully stylish looks. She owned the sporty trend with her sneakers at Chanel and her killer outfit at Givenchy, while she turned up in multicolored furs and luxe leathers elsewhere. And who could forget the provocative, sheer tops she rocked at the Jean Paul Gaultier and Balmain shows? No one else could come to a fashion show essentially topless and look as good, though no one could really pull off anything Riri does with the same level of immeasurable coolness. Whether going sophisticated, urban or overtly sexy, Rihanna proved why she’s been a front row fixture at Paris Fashion Week this season. Check out some of her best looks below!
At Miu Miu, wearing a Prada coat that debuted just days before in Milan. Photo: Getty Images
At Chanel, the sneakers make the look. Photo: Getty Images
Wearing a statement coat at Stella McCartney. Photo: BFA
Showing us all how to do the sporty trend the right way in Givenchy at Givenchy. Photo: Getty Images
Channelling her inner provocative Parisienne at Jean Paul Gaultier. Photo: Getty Images
Matching her look at Comme des Garçons with the inventive styles on the runway via an oversized leather coat and Adam Selman bunny ears. Photo: Stéphane Feugère
Ultra-glam at Dior. Photo: Getty Images
Adding luxury to her masculine-inspired outfit at Lanvin. Photo: Getty Images
Rocking a safari-esque Balmain ensemble better than anyone could ever dream of. Photo: Getty Images
Clever coverage in Balmain at the label’s party. Photo: BFA
Rihanna wasn’t the only songstress who earned a top-tier fashion campaign for spring 2014. While Olivier Rousteing deemed Riri iconic, Riccardo Tisci said the same about the star of his ad, Erykah Badu. He told Style.com, “Erykah, she’s an icon—come on!” And while Rousteing designed his spring 2014 collection with Rihanna in mind, Tisci created his latest African-Anime pieces with Badu as his inspiration.
Shot by Mert & Marcus, the finished product has yet to debut in full, but it carries something far more significant than just a stunning celebrity. The campaign features only models of color, starring Maria Borges, Asia Chow, and a newcomer named Riley. After constant outrage regarding racism in the modeling industry, most recently and notably from the likes of Iman, Naomi Campbell, and Bethann Hardison, Givenchy’s all-inclusive ad is a great step in the right direction. But Riccardo Tisci shares the same sentiments as many others, as it shouldn’t be such a surprise or special occasion to see women of color in advertisements or editorial spreads. The man who champions Maria Borges, Grace Mahary, Joan Smalls, Lakshmi Menon, and other beautiful non-white models ended his interview with Matthew Schneier by stating the obvious yet essential:
“It’s 2013. Everybody’s being so cool about Instagram, about Facebook, any media—everybody’s being so open. At the end of the day, why are not so many black girls or Latin girls in shows? When you have an American president who is black! When I see this happening, it’s quite sad, I think. People can be so avant-garde, so advanced, but actually not, because people are still making differences between skin color.”
Hopefully this same ideology will become more popular in the near future.
If being the “Only Girl in the World” that could pull off wearing a doobie in public didn’t prove Rihanna’s status as a style superstar, maybe the latest turn of events will convince you. The singer may have blown up our Instagram feeds with a slew of Christmas gifts from her designer buddies, but Olivier Rousteing definitely took the cake by making @badgalriri the face of Balmain’s spring 2014 ad campaign. Her own stylist, Mel Ottenberg put the looks together, while Inez & Vinoodh shot the ad.
So why Rihanna? Well, Olivier Rousteing recently spoke to Style.com about the collaboration, explaining their ongoing friendship, which began when she visited (and Instagrammed) his Paris studio. “…When I was working on the Spring collection, I told her she was the inspiration and that I wanted her in the campaign. It all started like that,” the designer elaborates. Rousteing also expressed his admiration for Rihanna’s strength, considering her one of today’s most important fashion icons.
Rihanna’s always making news with her constantly changing hairstyles. She rocked a Michael Jackson-esque jerry curl earlier this year before reviving her pixie cut, trying out a mullet, and recently getting a bob. But it’s her look at this past weekend’s American Music Awards that really made headlines – pun intended. The one and only @badgalriri shamelessly accessorized her two-piece Jean Paul Gaultier haute couture gown with a doobie. Oh, and she garnished it with some pearls, naturally. For those who don’t know, a doobie is the hairstyle (for lack of a better word) created by wrapping and pinning down hair to keep the style in place overnight. Essentially the equivalent to wearing curlers in public, people were obviously a little shocked when Rihanna showed up at a major awards show all doobied up. Was it her way of reminding us how many fucks she doesn’t give? Did she just give up in the midst of getting her hair done? No matter what the reasoning was, the superstar definitely proved she could own the look better than anyone else. Hey, maybe we’ll even start seeing doobies in the pages of Vogue Italia in the near future…