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Inside The Supersonic Rise of British Fashion Awards’ Winner Fenty

Less than a year after the popstar-turned-designer launched her luxury fashion Maison Fenty, Rihanna received one of the most coveted sartorial recognitions around the world yesterday December 2: a British Fashion Award. As not only a newcomer honoree but also the winner of the Urban Luxe award—the contemporary style category Off-White dominated the past two years—Fenty exited London’s Royal Albert Hall as a sartorial force to be reckoned with amongst many of the industry’s long-established names. Although the British Fashion Council nominated Rihanna in 2017 for her Fenty x Puma collaboration, this is her first solo fashion award and presented by icon Janet Jackson no less: 

“Thank you so much for believing in me as a young black woman and giving me the opportunity to do what I love the most,” the newcomer designer said to the Arnault family of LVMH.

Rihanna’s eponymous label is the first luxury fashion house led by a black woman as well as the first prominent brand renowned conglomerate LVMH founded from scratch, marking history well before her first official release. Yet, when the former Vogue Arabia cover star debuted her ready-to-wear collection in May, she once again shattered the traditional tropes of luxury designer businesses with a “see-now-wear-now” model where “there is no six-month wait, you get it when you see it,” Rihanna previously explained to British Vogue. And with new drops of clothes, accessories, and jewelry every six-eight weeks on her website and periodic pop-ups, to say it’s been a busy year for the fashion mogul is an understatement. Nevertheless, she has no plans of slowing down anytime soon, with the next release scheduled for later this week at Selfridges

Adhering to Fenty’s pillars of “assertiveness, confidence, ease of wear, and unique point of view,” each of the four collections so far aims to redefine the perception of women and challenge the idea of femininity in fashion. 

“There is huge diversity in the collection, which you will see as the new pieces come out, because that’s my style,” Rihanna told British Vogue. “I’m all over the place, in sweats one day and a dress the next.” 

While the brand’s emblematic looks include tailored power suits, corset mini-dresses, oversized eyewear, and no-nonsense angular heels, each release transforms archival trends with modern influences to create innovative signature pieces every drop.

Fenty 5-19 Release

Fenty 5-19 Release is the brand’s inaugural collection. Photo courtesy of Fenty.

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The inaugural Fenty wardrobe unveiled in May built a powerful foundation for future collections with cinched monochromatic suits and Japanese denim corset-dresses championing tailored silhouettes and juxtaposing fabrics while the first rendition of Fenty’s signature pointed heels became an instant success. 

The second drop reinvented the use of cotton jersey as a source of elevated casualwear in double-breasted blazers and biker-style sweatpants as well as introducing their first boot in time for the cooler seasons.

Fenty 8-19 Release.

Fenty 8-19 Release featuring the Corset Boot. Photo courtesy of Fenty.

Challenging the concept of business attire and what success looks like in the 21st-century workplace, Fenty’s third release celebrates individuality through mixing-and-matching separate statement pieces instead of forming cookie-cutter ensembles. Even though the collection’s central motif is pinstripe, there is nothing classic about its presentation, blurring the lines between men’s suiting and women’s pairing oversized, padded blazers with skinny, ankle-length trousers.   

Fenty 9-19 Campaign

Fenty 9-19 Campaign challenging the concept of business attire. Photo courtesy of Fenty

The most recent campaign, “City Bloom,” inspires everyday winter style in enveloping shearling outerwear overtop silk negligee slips featuring rose-printed patterns and pastel hues including the collection’s star color, Matcha, for an original take on a seasonal range. Along with clothing, Fenty launched the three-piece Cameo jewelry line in November, heralding its antique craft while paying homage to the timeless beauty of African women.   

Fenty 11-19 Campaign

Fenty 11-19 Campaign highlighting rose-printed patterns in pastel hues. Photo courtesy of Fenty.

Touting inclusivity, empowerment, and effortlessly chic ensembles, Fenty has captured the attention of a diverse spectrum of modern celebrities, from former Vogue Arabia cover stars Gigi Hadid, Bella Hadid, and Paloma Elsesser to musicians Dua Lipa and Cardi B. However, the founder herself is often the brand’s most avid supporter, proudly parading her favorites at red carpet events, such as the mint satin mini-dress with matching gloves, wrap, and pumps at this year’s British Fashion Awards. 

“I’m not the face of my brand, but I am the muse, and my DNA has to run all the way through it,” she said in an interview with Vogue. “I don’t want anyone to pull up my website and think, Rihanna would never wear that.”

In a rising era of digital fashion and new generations of high-end streetwear Maisons, Fenty is an unmissable phoenix breaking the boundaries of the ashes of conventional luxury.

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