Rihanna’s collection for River Island debuted at London Fashion Week a mere two weeks ago. At the time, the clothes were described by The Daily Beast’s own Tom Sykes as “unsurprisingly slutty and yet tiresomely predictable.” But they remained unseen by a majority of the population until officially launching in-stores on Tuesday. Retailing exclusively at Opening Ceremony in the United States and Japan, the collection was privately feted in the store’s SoHo location on Monday night, also marking the debut of a "RIHtrospective"—a small exhibit of some of the singer’s most famous outfits to-date.
There, you'll find downtown Manhattan's cardinal emporium of hip filled with mannequins exhibiting seven of the pop star’s most famous looks. It’s a display of disjointed snippets from the Barbadian’s evolutionary comet that’s run the gamut from Caribbean sweetheart, to BDSM, to Tumblr princess, and then back again--as witnessed at last month’s Grammy awards when Ri sweetened up in an elegant Alaïa gown. The exhibit’s seven looks are numerically symbolic--representing a seven year career that’s beheld seven studio albums and a 777 tour which travelled seven countries in seven days aboard a Boeing 777.
It all feels a bit premature. David Bowie will soon be celebrated with a fashion retrospective too (this one at an actual museum—the Victoria & Albert in London), but his 46-year career has served as a cultural barometer of wackiness, it holds substance; it’s original. By contrast, Opening Ceremony’s exhibit celebrates a figure that’s still striving to find her long-term footprint.
But more importantly, the RIHtrospective is an alarming reflection of today’s celebrity culture. Like most celebrity ventures, Rihanna for River Island is a celebration of an artist’s achievements and personal taste—without them why would someone buy in? This exhibit illustrates how releasing a perfume or clothing line with a 15-minute photo op on the fragrance floor at Macy’s will no longer suffice. Now fans are subjected to a miniature museum of a star’s likeliness while scooping up the mass-produced fare. Even Rihanna’s mannequins were fashioned to include her signature closely-cropped haircut—which she’s already traded for long, flowing, honeyed extensions in real life.
Beside the mannequins were racks of Rihanna’s vison of street clothes, which despite their ‘porny’ reviews, made perfect sense given the store they’re stocked in: they’re for underground vixens with relatively deep pockets, especially when you consider the income of youths inclined to wear denim dungaree tops. Take away LFW’s ultraviolet lights, aggressive soundtrack, and go-go platforms, and the pieces, which aren’t remarkably new (a $50 crop top could easily be swooped up on the cheap at American Apparel, constructed of higher-quality cotton fabric at that), suddenly aren’t as offensive as one might envision.
For what it’s worth, the collection’s co-designer Adam Selman explained to The Daily Beast that Rihanna for River Island “wasn’t ever meant to be a runway show.” The designs, which retail between $45 and $350, are simply a commercial extension of Rihanna’s brand as an artist--one which relies on constantly-changing fashion a way to communicate with the masses. Her stylist, Mel Ottenberg, explained that the signer’s signature style “is not afraid to take risks, it really breaths, it moves, it’s not too constricted or too contained or too caught up in the past; it’s just sort of unafraid and moving forward.”
But already, the peddaling of Rihanna Inc. seems to be working: Opening Ceremony Instagrammed a picture of the line outside their store on Tuesday morning, and a salesperson told us that they had already sold out of multiple pieces.