What's behind LVMH's new partnership with Rihanna?
In a few days' time, LVMH will be hosting an official launch event in Paris for Fenty, the new fashion house created by the French luxury group in collaboration with Rihanna. For the moment, it's still a mystery as to what exactly the event has in store but it's likely to be a grand affair worthy of commemorating the prestigious partnership. The company led by Bernard Arnault has already invested several million euros in the unprecedented project as it looks to expand its reach and cement its position in the rapidly changing and heterogenous markets of tomorrow. And who better to lead this push than the Barbadian singer? She is, after all, one of the most influential celebrities in the world, whose previous incursions into fashion have all been crowned with success.
With its latest project, the company isn't betting on heritage or creative genius, but a 31-year-old woman of colour, who is simultaneously an active feminist, a captivating performer and an astute business woman. With the appointment of Virgil Abloh as the creative director of Louis Vuitton's menswear collections, making him the first black designer to be at the head of a global luxury brand, LVMH already made progress in terms of diversity. With Rihanna, however, Arnault is taking things up a gear, catapulting the company into the future by reaching out to different communities and cultural spheres, as well as to an ever younger consumer base.
Rihanna is the perfect representation of this new strategy. She has consistently promoted diversity throughout her career, gaining millions of fans in the process. On top of this, her strong personality, with its whole spectrum of light and shadow, has only made her appear more authentic and believable to the public, who see her as more "human" and relatable. By developing this new 360-degree fashion project with Rihanna – Fenty will offer ready-to-wear, footwear and accessories – LVMH is therefore looking to capitalise on the singer's influence and recreate the success of the diverse exploits that she has participated in before now.
One of Time's 100 most influential people
Last year the singer graced the cover of Time magazine, which included her in its list of the 100 Most Influential People of 2018. With more than 70 million followers on Instagram, the pop star nonetheless has fewer fans on the platform than rivals Selena Gomez and Beyoncé. On Twitter, however, she surpasses them both with 90 million followers. Her real influence, though, can be be seen whenever she promotes a brand, an endorsement that inevitably leads to explosive sales.
LVMH saw this for itself when it began collaborating with the singer through its Dior label. The brand's choice to cast Rihanna as the face of its 2015 "Secret Garden" campaign was a resounding success. The performer was not only Dior's first black brand ambassador but also one of its most iconic, appealing to a much younger generation than the label's usual target demographic. It was a promising start.
In the same year, the singer of hits including Diamond, Rude Boy and Umbrella began working with Kering-owned Puma. Her Fenty x Puma line allowed the sportswear brand, which was losing momentum at the time, to relaunch, racking up successful product collaborations, from the famous Fenty Creepers sneakers to the fur-trimmed The Fur Slide sandals. The singer was involved at all levels of the creative process, from design to marketing, and could also be seen wearing her own creations and posting about them on social media. The collaboration boosted sales at the German sports brand, which also managed to catch the attention of a new group of consumers thanks to Rihanna's reach and the special link she creates with her fans.
The representation of an authentic woman
Indeed, this very particular relationship that the singer cultivates with her community is one of the keys to her success. Her fan base may not be as big as that of other influencers but it is very loyal and has its roots in a real sense of admiration. Fans also praise the authenticity of the performer, who can often be found replying personally to them through her social channels. All of these values are currently of paramount importance in a luxury market that is seeking to engage with its consumers in new, more direct ways.
The singer has set herself apart from other celebrities thanks to her honest approach when it comes to choosing collaborations. She doesn't throw her name around lightly, having always selected partners that are in line with her own style and desires. Perhaps most importantly, she has taken part in the creative process of each of her collaborations. When she decides on a project, she backs it 100%. It's not simply a case of wearing a product so that it will sell. She puts her all into her partnerships, participating from conception to the moment the product hits the shelves. The services of all kinds of singers, actresses and other influencers are regularly called upon by brands but, up until now, none of them has managed to turn a simple collaboration into a real business in the way that Rihanna has.
Fenty Beauty's juicy profits
Proof of the singer's extraordinary talent in this respect is the unprecedented success of the Fenty Beauty cosmetics line launched at Sephora in 2017. With 40 shades of foundation and 30 of concealer, the label is an ode to diversity that has revolutionised the beauty industry, pushing other cosmetics brands to expand their own offerings. Better yet, from day one the line proved to be a very strong performer for the LVMH-owned beauty retailer, making 500 million euros in revenues in 2018.
"Everybody knows Rihanna as a wonderful singer, but through our partnership at Fenty Beauty, I discovered a true entrepreneur, a real CEO and a terrific leader. She naturally finds her place within LVMH," said Arnault when the upcoming launch of the Fenty brand was announced just over a week ago.
If further argument were needed to justify the luxury conglomerate's decision, it's worth remembering that Rihanna has always been passionate about fashion in a way that goes beyond taking to the streets with the latest "it bag" dangling from her arm. And she has cultivated this passion over the last few years by gaining real professional experience, consolidating her status as a fashion entrepreneur.
In 2018, the singer branched out with a new project, this time the lingerie line Savage x Fenty, produced through a collaboration with TechStyle Fashion Group. An inclusive intimates collection with pieces for all body types, the successful venture has since proved to be yet another string to Rihanna's bow.
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