Ahead of the Curve: What Every Lingerie Brand Can Learn From Rihanna's Vision for Savage x Fenty

Screenshot: Prime Video (YouTube)

“I’m looking for unique characteristics in people that aren’t usually highlighted in the world of fashion, as it pertains to lingerie and ‘sexy’...what society sees [as] sexy,” says Rihanna within the first minute of her Savage x Fenty Show mini-doc, now streaming on Amazon’s Prime Video. Aside from simply showing the multimedia, music and dance-heavy lingerie spectacular (which yes, did include a performance—sans singing—by Rih herself), like Beyoncé’s Homecoming doc, the 50-minute long streamer includes the making of the presentation, including Rihanna’s casting choices for her uber-diverse, body-positive show.

But the icon’s very first words to camera? “We ‘bout to fuck it up.”

It’s the kind of disruption the fashion industry needs; particularly the intimate apparel end of the spectrum, which has long posited that the only bodies deserving of desire and sexy lingerie—and by extension, sex—are lithe, toned, and overwhelmingly white. Much as she has in the beauty industry, in choosing to venture into fashion, Rihanna has made the strategic choice to diversify the landscape (though we’re still waiting for her luxury line to further size up), as evidenced by the casting of both her campaigns and her most recent show.

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“It’s very important that the casting stand for what the brand stands for, and what we stand for mainly [at Savage x Fenty] is inclusivity,” Rihanna says onscreen. “That’s what I stand for with everything that I create.”

This is in stark contrast to the backlash that brands like one-time lingerie behemoth Victoria’s Secret have rightfully earned by remaining on the wrong side of the inclusion conversation (not to mention frightening revelations of its apparent affiliation with Jeffrey Epstein). While the mall stalwart would add its first transgender model to its roster in August of this year, that move coincided with the cancellation of its 2019 show and long-overdue departure of shamelessly biased CMO Ed Razek. No wonder Refinery29 recently titled an article: “Victoria’s Secret Is Dead—& Savage x Fenty Killed It.

While Savage x Fenty is far from the first to make sexier lingerie accessible to larger bodies (Lane Bryant’s Cacique line and Torrid’s lingerie offerings come to mind), she is a pioneer in terms of including those bodies, among others, alongside more stereotypical model types—and positing it not as a gimmick, but as a human right.

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“It’s for everyone,” says Senior Vice President of Fenty Corp. Jennifer Rosales in the doc. “[Rihanna] wants everyone to feel beautiful.”

Representation was clearly the mission of Savage x Fenty’s Fall-Winter 2020 show, which included a full range of races and body types. In addition to more expected New York Fashion Week appearances by supermodels like Gigi and Bella Hadid, Joan Smalls, Cara Delevingne, a now-42-year-old Alek Wek and fuller-figured supermodel Paloma Elsesser, several transgender models, including actresses Laverne Cox and Isis King, performed in the presentation, as did disability advocate Mama Cax, who walks with a prosthetic leg.

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But in addition to elevating the conversation about who deserves to be sexy, Rihanna was clearly determined to elevate the concept of what a fashion show can be. Remarkably executed in a six-week timeframe with components simultaneously produced across the globe (including the sizzling opening performance the star rehearsed in England via choreography in New Zealand), a full-scale, multistory theatrical set was built within Brooklyn’s Barclay Center, with choreography occurring on every level as several of hip-hop and pop’s hottest both modeled and performed their biggest hits.

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Fact is, it’s well worth watching for yourself (if for the steamy tweet-tracked segment alone), because Rihanna, currently the most multifaceted woman in music (as well as the richest, according to Forbes), is truly changing the game—though she’s as nonchalant as ever when discussing it onscreen.

“When you keep yourself up at night thinking about how you’re gonna make history, you’re not gonna make it,” she says, matter-of-factly.

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That’s right, Rih. Don’t talk about it; be about it.

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About the author

Maiysha Kai

Maiysha Kai is Managing Editor of The Glow Up and your average Grammy-nominated goddess next door. Minneapolis born, Chicago bred, New York built. Nuance is her superpower.