Jordanian-Romanian designer Amina Muaddi’s indelible flared geometric heels are perhaps the most followed footwear on Instagram, seen on everyone from Kim Kardashian to Gigi Hadid and, of course, RiRi herself. In an exclusive interview with the designer, we take a first look at her debut collection for the LVMH-owned house.
In the 14 months since Robyn Rihanna Fenty launched her namesake fashion house in partnership with LVMH, she has quickly established something of a collective spirit. Far from the one-woman show one might have anticipated from a nine-time Grammy Award-winning artist, Rihanna presides over Fenty as CEO and artistic director, but at her side is deputy creative director Jahleel Weaver, who she describes as her “right hand”.
Also among the steady flow of creatives that share the spotlight is Fashion East alumnus A Sai Ta of Asai, who collaborated with Fenty on a 24-piece collection in December; Marco Panconesi, who was drafted in to consult on jewelry, and Kwame Brathwaite — the figurehead of the ‘Black is Beautiful’ movement in New York in the 1950s and 1960s — whose photographs were published alongside official images of the debut collection. Now, Rihanna’s favorite shoe designer Amina Muaddi is entering the fold.
Eschewing seasonal collections shown twice a year, Fenty instead drops capsule collections often with a moment’s notice — not dissimilar to her eighth album Anti (teased on Twitter in 2016, the week of its release) or her visual autobiography Rihanna: Fenty x Phaidon, which seemed to land on our coffee tables from the sky last October.
Bringing Muaddi on to design footwear capsules is something that Weaver describes as a “natural decision”. Aside from the fact that Rihanna regularly wears Muaddi’s shoes, he says: “Amina is obviously extremely talented, with a great point of view and aesthetic, but she also embodies the values of the Fenty brand. Like Rihanna, she’s a modern woman designing for modern women.”
A favorite of Kim Kardashian, Hailey Bieber, Kendall Jenner, and Gigi Hadid, Muaddi’s shoes — immediately identifiable by their geometric flared heels — are perhaps some of the most followed footwear on the internet. Ahead of Fenty debut release on 15 July, Muaddi sits down with Vogue to give us a first look at the collection and discuss what it’s like working with Rihanna and Weaver.
How did your relationship with Rihanna evolve from her wearing your designs to you becoming part of Fenty’s creative community?
“It was very organic. I obviously love Rihanna for both her music and her talent, [but also] for her iconic style. I have a lot of admiration for her. When she launched Fenty, I was excited to see the collection and she sent me a lot of pieces. Ri was always wearing my shoes and I was wearing Fenty. So we were supporting each other; we have mutual respect for each other’s work. When [Fenty deputy creative director] Jahleel asked me if I wanted to be part of their project, of course, I said yes.”
Was working for the house of Fenty different to working under your own namesake brand, for example, or on your collaborations with the French couturier Alexandre Vauthier?
“Every house has different codes. I’m used to working on big collections — usually 100 pairs minimum per season for both my brand and Alexandre Vauthier. With Fenty, there are just four styles. I felt a lot of pressure because I thought there’s going to be a lot of attention on them.”
“I also had to think about Fenty’s sales and marketing strategies. Because it’s a see-now-buy-now product sold directly to consumers exclusively through their own e-commerce platform, I couldn’t show it to buyers and get feedback as I would usually do. So you see the samples, validate them with the team, make sure everything is right, and then go straight to production, which is a bit scary. I was free to do what I felt like doing, so I was happy about that.”
The thin tapered heel you’ve created for Fenty is quite a departure from your indelible geometric design.
“Yes, I wanted to make something completely different — four styles that I felt would be easy to wear and reflect the Fenty DNA, but would also be strong and unique. I [always] keep the feminine aesthetic that characterizes my work. This time I had this industrial feel in my head, and columns, and buildings. Jahleel had lots of references, too. It was a summery drop so I knew I wasn’t going to make boots.”
What was on your mood board?
“Jahleel and I were in London at the same time in October , so we went to the Frieze Art Fair together. We both loved these huge Sterling Ruby paintings, so they went on there along with other artworks and lots of color references, photographs, and a tapestry [by textile artist Diedrick Brackens] that Jahleel saw and really loved.”
Do you have a muse or particular person in mind when you design?
“When I’m designing for Fenty, of course, I think of Rihanna — she needs to like them. But in general, I don’t think of a particular person because I feel like every woman can be an Amina Muaddi woman or a Fenty woman. It’s not that I think women will like the whole collection, but I think there’s a little something for everybody.”
Where will your work with Fenty go from here?
“We’re looking into the possibility of doing a slightly bigger collection.”
How do you want people to feel when they wear a pair of Amina Muaddis, or more specifically Fentys by Amina Muaddi?
“I want to enhance their own confidence, beauty, and femininity. I want them to feel ready to take on the world and overcome their fears.”
Were there any particularly memorable moments while making this collection?
“With Jahleel there are many, but I have to censor them because we’re extremely close friends and we joke all the time. Rihanna’s so warm and open to ideas — that’s what struck me the most. She’s up for trying things and not scared of risks. Ri tries the products on and tests them on herself — it’s cool to see that she cares how she feels when wearing them.
“One thing that made us laugh a lot was when I was trying to convince Rihanna to make the Thong Sandal green, so I took the sketch and started to color it in. Rihanna was like: ‘Wow, she’s really hyping herself up and drawing the f*** out of this shoe!’ It was a really fun atmosphere.”
Originally published on Vogue.co.uk