So the show was located at the Hôtel Salomon de Rothschild, a mighty fine residence once owned by the French banking branch of the Rothschild family that now hosts various art and cultural events, including haute couture shows. At the entry, French police offers kept a large crowd of fans at bay and personally inspected invitations of arriving guests.
There were waiters pouring champagne from giant Nebuchadnezzar-size bottles. And an enormous crystal chandelier was lying on its side on the floor — like detritus from a marathon bacchanal.
The collection was a blend of elaborate corsetry and athletic gear — sweatpants, hoodies, stadium coats — all shown on both men and women. It was a fashion gene-splicing, a mashup that was amusing, baffling, awkward and cool. The platform sneakers were cool. So were the corsets paired with sweatpants. It’s hard to conjure up something new in fashion, but if anyone can recall another moment you’d describe as Marie Antoinette-meets-the-WNBA, get thee to Instagram lickety-split.
In the presentation, Rihanna embraced the current affection for blurring gender lines. She didn’t really add anything to that conversation, but sometimes it’s fine to just nod in agreement.
The color palette included white and a dusty mauve-ish hue of lilac. But it was dominated by pink and green — a combination that speaks of elementary school, “The Preppy Handbook” and Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. The pink heightened the effect of the boudoir references. The green called to mind camouflage and military toughness. But together they had a discordant relationship, and the sum total was worse than the individual parts.
Watching Rihanna move Fenty from a brand hyping old-school hip hop references in the Big Apple to a brand riffing on 18th century corsetry in the City of Light is a bit like watching a novice driver take the wheel of the family sedan and try to merge onto a race track. Winning isn’t even part of the conversation. Just managing not to roll over and crash would be cause for celebration.
Rihanna is one in a long line of stylish celebrities who have tried their hand at a fashion label. God bless each one of them, from Jennifer Lopez and Justin Timberlake to Jessica Simpson and, of course, Kanye West. Rihanna is smart to jump into the fashion game with the safety net and deep pockets of Puma. She is wise enough to keep her shows focused on the clothes and confident enough to allow her audience to get close enough to actually see them — their sharp construction, their easy flow, their quality.
Rihanna could have settled in for a long and prosperous fashion career churning out little more than a new set of creepers and kooky slides every season Instead, she came to Paris.
And she didn’t crash.
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