Rihanna is known for chart-topping hits like “Umbrella,” “Diamonds” and “Work,” but she is also making a name for herself in the realm of beauty and fashion. In 2017, she launched her first makeup line, Fenty Beauty. This month she’ll once again enter a new lane, luxury fashion, with the creation of Fenty in partnership with the French luxury goods conglomerate LVMH.
Speaking candidly about her creative process, in an interview with T Magazine, Rihanna shared a few pearls of wisdom from her journey to the top of the fashion world.
Take it slow and learn
Years before agreeing to work on a fashion brand, Rihanna said, she had been slowly evolving in the fashion world. She was first a consumer but eventually grew into a tastemaker who was recognized for her style. Then came collaboration offers. She never wanted to put her name on things and sell her license. In fact, she took the opposite approach to build Fenty.
“I’m very hands-on, so I wanted to take it slowly and gain respect as a designer,” she said.
Don’t be afraid to fail
Rihanna perhaps lives by many mottos, but there’s one that sticks out. She has the phrase “Never a failure. Always a lesson.” as a tattoo, inked backward so she can read it in the mirror. She’s keenly aware that her new venture may bring failures, but said you should always be willing to learn the lesson.
“How you gonna learn without making mistakes?” she said.
Don’t dilute the brand
Rihanna confessed she was once hesitant to jump into celebrity makeup. Having witnessed fellow pop stars such as Hilary Duff and Miley Cyrus (as Hannah Montana) oversaturate the market with their brands, Rihanna took a different approach.
“Every collaboration I did outside of music, I used Fenty so that you didn’t have to hear the word ‘Rihanna’ every time you saw something that I did,” she said. “So Rihanna stayed the music, the person. But these other brands are called Fenty.”
Know what you don’t know
No one knows it all.
In building her luxury brand, Rihanna recognized the value of inviting others to the creative table. “I like to think of my establishment at the Fenty house as a hub,” she said, of always searching for new talent.
“Even if you’ve never designed something in your life, you might have impeccable taste: I’m welcoming everyone’s vision here, because that’s what it’s gonna take. I can’t just think I know everything. I’m very smart with my control freak. A smart control freak. I welcome other people’s expertise. I love new, young talent.”
In laying the groundwork for Fenty to succeed, Rihanna reimagined the traditional fashion distribution model. As a consumer, she said, she hates seeing items on the runway and waiting six months for it to be available. Fenty will be releasing new items on a month-to-month basis and it will be immediately available.
“So with this, you see it, you love, you can have it,” she said. “I wanted to be as disruptive as possible. The brand is not traditional. There is no runway show.” She sees this particular model as the future of fashion.
Be unapologetically you
Rihanna knows what she brings to the table, and knowing that the fashion industry has lacked inclusivity, she’s not planning to back down from being a young, black woman new to the business.
“Those factors do come into play, but I will not apologize for them, and I will not back down from being a woman, from being black, from having an opinion,” she said. Her job is to run the company. “I do know that the reason I’m here is not because I’m black,” she said. “It’s because of what I have to offer.”
Know what the money means to you
While money can be a motivating factor to be successful, it’s not the only one for Rihanna.
“I never thought I’d make this much money, so a number is not going to stop me from working,” she said when questioned if she plans to ever take a break. “The money means that I can take care of my family. The money means that I can facilitate the businesses that I want to. I can create jobs for other people.”