Watch the full interview above, starting at 4:16.
Let’s get one thing straight — Rihanna is more than a pop icon. “I have long-term goals in fashion, but not so much with any one brand. You just never know what’s going to happen,” said the superstar during her in-depth talk with Vogue’s Hamish Bowles at the Forces of Fashion conference.
Rihanna’s dedication shows; with Fenty x Puma, Fenty Beauty and collaborations with Manolo Blahnik, Stance, and Christian Dior, she’s built a fashion empire that extends far beyond merch. As a businesswoman, she’s proved herself capable of being on the pulse of what consumers want and willing to take creative risks others might shy away from. At today’s panel, the bad gal explained the history of her relationship with the industry and why she’s only just getting started.
“I enjoy fashion that’s the thrill and the challenge,” she shared with Bowles. “You can only keep growing and evolving [with each collection] I take it seriously, I have a lot of respect for this industry.”
Here, the best takeaways from the animated discussion, with tackled everything from how she finds the best new designers to why Fenty Beauty’s global launch changed the beauty game.
On Fenty x Puma’s wildly immersive runway shows.
“It’s creating the environment to tell the story of the product and the product in that case was the clothing. I wanted people to feel what I was trying to say and what the clothes were trying to portray by creating an environment that represents the clothes. It’s important that the right clothes are shown in the right place.”
On her current fashion obsessions.
“You know what I’m really enjoying right now, I love the tailored looks that feel fresh and youthful. Sometimes even with sneakers or my hair just up in a ponytail. Fashion always has a way of coming full circle, and now I’m seeing on the runway looks that my mom wore, and I’m like, does that mean that I’m old or that it’s new and fresh? That’s my favorite stuff.”
On her personal style evolution.
“It started with bad style, but you’ve got to start somewhere. You live and you learn and you make mistakes. I’m always up for a challenge, and if I don’t get it right the first time or the first hundred thousand times, I keep going. [I think] really knowing myself, really knowing exactly what my boundaries are. For me there aren’t many boundaries with fashion, really. I want to do everything and in the most extreme way possible, but [my style evolution] started with me knowing myself and knowing what I want.”
On being held to a different standard as a celebrity designer.
“Rightfully so, I would be a fool to expect anything less. I also believe that everyone should be accountable, especially the designer of the brand. What I love the most is when someone who is not a fan of mine walks into a store and loves a piece, loves the product, whether it’s makeup or clothes. That tells me a lot, it means that you genuinely love what I have to offer—I like when things are respected solely for how great they are.”
On her all-star creative team.
“It’s probably the most important part of the whole process. You want people who are better than you at their job. If I can do your job better than you, I can’t hire you, that’s a waste of my time and money. If you have something to offer, I know there is an expertise that I can respect and I put people in place based on what their strengths are. Most importantly, I like people who want better for themselves—you could come and work with me for one day and flop at your job just out of spite. I want people who respect their jobs and the position.”
On Fenty Beauty’s impactful launch.
“I wanted it to be something that girls love, for it to be respected by professionals, and I wanted to something that felt like me—reflective of makeup I love and I generally want to wear. We have this amazing emotional connection with customers who’ve never been able to find their shade of foundation before—women crying at the [makeup] counter, it’s crazy to even think about. The first woman I saw put makeup on her face was a black woman—my mom—when I think of my customers I want everyone to feel like they can find their color, that they are represented as part of this new generation.”
On how she seeks out the best in young talent.
“Being first! The first to find something that no one has discovered yet. [There are] people who are well established and rightfully, so these brands that we all look forward to seeing what they do, but I feel like there are these hidden talents. I love looks like this Tom Ford today—I feel pretty good about it—but I also enjoy fresh perspectives, new perspectives, even if it’s outrageous.”
On that unforgettable “China Through the Looking Glass” Met Gala dress.
“It actually started in Anna Wintour’s office. I was meeting with her for a project on a completely different subject, and she showed me images of the designers who would be a part of the Met exhibit and her words verbatim were, “Please wear something that reflects the culture.” I just started Googling ‘Chinese couture’ and I found this designer I had never heard of before, but her clothes were just amazing. I thought ‘well, I can’t lose with this.’ That first fitting was where I got nervous, it took three people to just hold it on me and if I remember correctly there are stairs! I thought maybe if I can get people to help me up the stairs, I can change in the elevator—which happened actually—but before that is the car ride! I was like, do I have to arrive in a stretch limo, and [of course] I do. We got there but there was choreography involved!”