Rihanna Is Ruining Fashion
Look at your TV, your computer, or your phone and there’s always one constant, inescapable presence: Rihanna. Rihanna, Rihanna, Rihanna. Sexy and empowered, she’s one of the few girls in Hollywood who infatuates both genders. It’s easy to see why: She’s overcome bankruptcy, media criticism, Chris Brown, and managed to come out of her Instagram censorship debacle looking like the winner.
No doubt, Rihanna is on top of the world, and she’s got the fashion world in a tizzy, too. Noted fashion brown-noser cajoler Tom Ford recently declared her Instagram account more important than fashion magazines. Then, on June 2, Vogue editor Anna Wintour handed her the Fashion Icon Award on behalf of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, praising Ri “for her ability to tell captivating stories through the boldness and beauty of clothes.”
That’s great and all for Rihanna, but to be honest, Ms. Wintour, Rihanna has nothing to do with the world of fashion. She’s a celebrity known for her style, and so style is the only measure by which she can be judged. Her “designer” argument is out the window, nobody’s winning a CFDA award off of one River Island collection or a hundred River Island collections for that matter.
Despite popular misconception, celebrities don’t just throw on any old thing found at Bloomingdale’s. It’s amazing that people don’t understand that. A person of Rihanna’s stature is a brand and a commodity; they’re walking Fortune 500 companies. Celebrities employ publicists, stylists, managers, agents, a whole team! These people are invested in the celebrity. The celebrity pays their bills and makes sure they eat, just like the miserable day job you sit at every day. It’s in their best interest to ensure she looks phenomenal and upholds her carefully constructed image every time she steps out of the house. As her fame grows, so do the funds. Every decision is heavily weighed — from where she goes to what she wears, her team is pulling the strings.
That’s why Rihanna isn’t a fashion icon; her stylist negotiates every red carpet look weeks in advance of the singer putting it on her body. Her style is given to her in five garment bags before every award show. And while the final decision may be Rihanna’s and hers alone, there’s isn’t much individuality in selecting one out of, say, five options presented to her.
Now you’re probably thinking, “So what? Her clothes still look good.” To which I say, “You’re right.” She does look great. Hell, it’s what helped her become such a big celebrity in the first place. But here’s the thing to remember: “Fashion” is an institution; “style” is personal. Rihanna controls neither.
Personal style is about going through the ups and downs, the ins and outs, making mistakes, learning from those mistakes, and, after all the bullshit, emerging with a look that is uniquely your own. Rihanna employs someone to give her great style — essentially, to do the work for her.
Don’t get me wrong: There’s nothing wrong with hiring a stylist … until an accredited council decides to give the stylee an award for something she had very little to do with. If anything, Rihanna’s team should’ve received the award. And the award should be renamed “Puppet Masters of The Year.”
On some levels I agree with Mr. Ford. Rihanna’s Instagram is vital to the democratization of an exclusionary and sometimes vacuous world. But to insinuate that a selfie platform is more important than the curatorial eye of an industry veteran who holds decades of fashion experience is moronic. What a slap in the face to the journalists, critics, editors, and, most importantly, the designers — without whom Rihanna would have no fucking clue what to wear.
So, yes, this pop star contributes something vital to fashion in that she is a famous clothes hanger. She transcends socioeconomic brackets and spreads fashion awareness to the masses. Bottom line: She drives consumerism and helps the real titans of style get paid in the process.
But in the context of fashion as an art form, Rihanna ain’t shit.