In the space of just a few years the 32-year-old went from chart-topping pop starlet to business mogul, establishing a makeup, beauty and fashion empire worth millions.
But at this point, her fashion empire is seriously on the skids.
When Fenty Beauty launched in September 2017, it was lauded for its broad inclusivity, especially its Pro Filt'R foundation which included an unprecedented 40 shades of foundation.
Just eight months later she treated her fans to Savage X Fenty, a lingerie brand that boasted an extended size offering, including bras from 30A to 42H and panties and sleepwear ranging from extra-small to three times extra-large.
Her most recent commercial feat was the launch of Fenty fashion in May 2019. It marked the first time French luxury goods giant LVMH – which specialises in modernising legacy brands such as Dior, Louis Vuitton, Givenchy and Bulgari – had launched a fashion brand from scratch and the first time a black woman was at the helm of one of its initiatives.
But less than two years after Fenty started selling its trademark shirt dresses and strappy high heels, LVMH and Rihanna are pulling the plug.
The brand stopped posting on its Instagram account on 1 January, and the last collection drop on Fenty.com dates back to November 2020: nail-heeled footwear in collaboration with one of Rihanna’s favourite shoe designers, Amina Muaddi.
The e-commerce site will go dark by the end of February or early March and, according to sources, a skeleton staff remains at the company’s Paris headquarters to wind down remaining operations.
LVMH confirmed the development via a brief statement.
“Rihanna and LVMH have jointly made the decision to put on hold the ready-to-wear activity based in Europe, pending better conditions.”
While the luxury goods giant did not elaborate further on the decision, it's no secret that the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic have put unprecedented pressure on the global fashion industry. A market report by consulting firm McKinsey found global fashion sales suffered a 15% to 30% decline in 2020.
Although the Fenty fashion house is said to have enjoyed encouraging sales of eyewear, shoes and denim, the challenges of creating eight collections a year and running a start-up remotely proved too onerous for the megastar.
The global lockdown kept the Grammy-winner grounded in Los Angeles, allowing her to be hands-on with Fenty Beauty and the launch last July of Fenty Skin, both based in California. However, she was far away from design and development teams in Paris and production sites in Italy.
Rihanna prided herself on being a hands-on designer.
“I know what’s gone into the making of every single piece,” she told Vogue. “If I can’t wear my stuff then it just won’t work.”
So being removed from the fashion side of her business at a time when she was still getting a handle on the luxury fashion market proved too costly.
But while Fenty fashion struggled to find its feet, Rihanna’s make-up, beauty and skincare enterprises have seen huge returns.
Fenty Beauty has 10,5 million followers on Instagram, compared with one million for Fenty ready-to-wear, and market sources estimate Fenty Skin racked up sales of $30 million in its first four months on the market.
Meanwhile Savage X Fenty posted revenue growth of more than 200% last year, and “increased its active VIP member base by more than 150%,” the lingerie brand said in a recent statement.
According to LVMH, the goal is to support “the Fenty ecosystem focusing on lingerie, cosmetics and skincare”. In fact, the company recently announced it’s doubling down on its investment in RiRi’s intimate-wear collection.
The singer is heartbroken at the fashion label’s failure, say insiders who saw her pour her heart and soul into the collection.
Still, the Work singer’s loyal music fanbase pointed out she’s now freed up time to deliver the ninth album she’s been promising fans. Her last full-length album, Anti, was released in January 2016.
“When one door closes, we know it’s time to release an album,” one fan said.
Sources: businessoffashion.com, wwd.com, Bloomberg.com, vogue.com, cnn.com, fashionunited.com