Rihanna scores another hit with Fenty fashion-line marketing
Rihanna is, above all else, a businesswoman. Throughout her music career, she became the most streamed female artist on Spotify for three years in a row and she holds the title for most cumulative weeks on the UK singles chart by a female. She's the only female artist to have a number one song in the UK charts for seven consecutive years.
And now there is definitive proof her Midas touch extends beyond song.
When she launched Fenty Beauty, an inclusive make-up range which kicked off with 40 shades of foundation - a virtually unheard of feat for any beauty brand - she was met with widespread critical and consumer acclaim, earning a media value of $72m within its first month of sales, surpassing established brands like NYX and Benefit.
The media value is an index which monitors the monetary value of buzz and Fenty got more coverage online through traditional and digital media than nearly of all her competitors, which is no easy feat.
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Like most prosperous entrepreneurs, you get the impression she isn't exclusively reliant on metrics and marketing, but instinct: she knows from personal experience how difficult it can be to find quality fashion and beauty products when you don't fit a certain look and has both the means and motivation to improve on this at mass market levels.
Last Wednesday, she dropped a sneak peek of the first pieces of her fashion brand, each with a distinctively Rihanna twist. The ready-to-wear luxury line is being released through the LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy) fashion house, which also owns Dior, Marc Jacobs, Fendi and Sephora, among others. Rihanna's brand is the first new label created by the group since Christian Lacroix in 1987. The nine-time Grammy winner said that particular accomplishment "made her feel proud".
As of last week, Fenty was previewed to select fashion editors and, later, to customers at a pop-up store in Paris. The launch strategy is about building up interest through the slow release of details.
Last week, she dropped her 18-piece strong lookbook in a video on Instagram, shunning pricey shows during Fashion Month to debut collections and, instead, release them through social media, the Kylie Jenner-approved model of marketing success. It not only connects directly with customers, but cuts out costly extras and maximises profits; a wise decision even with the backing of a multi-billion euro company.
In Ireland, Fenty will only be available online (as of yesterday) and it will not be available in brick and mortar stores unless a high-end department store like Brown Thomas decides to buy it in, which Fenty hasn't indicated is part of the roll-out yet.
For now, it's about creating buzz and intrigue, which Rihanna does better than anyone. She did it during her wildly successful music career and she's applying the same principles to fashion.
Unlike Kanye West's Yeezy range, she is creating wearable art and her vision is to empower women, not condemn them to a lifestyle of wearing flesh coloured bicycle shorts and oversized T-shirts with holes in them. Her debut range is gender neutral, with boxy suits and denim mini-dresses, all of which need her stamp of approval before going to production.
"It's about creating a style for women that makes them feel strong yet beautiful," Rihanna told the New York Times. "So in my case, and for this particular drop, that is making pieces that embrace my shape, but also make my waist look small."
Prices start at $200 for a T-shirt and range into the thousands, the standard fare for luxury fashion houses in which Fenty now sits.
"It has to be something more," she said. "The lower priced pieces are in there too and that was so important to me, but so was building a business based on quality. And real quality costs."
Her collaborations date back to partnerships with River Island and Puma in 2015 before launching her own Savage x Fenty lingerie line last year and the rest is history.
Rewriting the rules is Ri-Ri's speciality and it's hard to think of a time when that strength has been more necessary in fashion.