The runway show is dead, or at least that’s been the message at New York Fashion Week this season, where fully immersive experiences have stolen the thunder of traditional catwalk presentations. When it comes to performance, though, no designer can even begin to compete with Rihanna. Simply put, this is what she was born to do. Last night, at her Savage x Fenty show at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the Barbadian superstar reminded the world of the breadth of her exceptional talents.
The rumors that she would be performing a new song from her highly anticipated new album at the show proved false—it was, in fact, Halsey who debuted her new single, “Graveyard,” yesterday. Still, Rihanna did not disappoint. With a set design that seemed to evoke both the grandeur of a Roman coliseum and the elegance of a Moroccan riad, the stage was primed for an epic scene. The lights came up like the sun over the horizon, shining down on a bevy of dancers dressed in all black and posing like heroic statues; in the center was Rihanna. Wearing killer heels, a sheer black body stocking, and a tiny black velvet wrap skirt, with diamonds twinkling at her wrists, the singer kicked off the show with a mesmerizing dance performance that sent the crowd into a frenzy.
The lineup of performers who followed was impressive and included hip-hop heavyweights Migos, DJ Khaled, A$AP Ferg, and rapper-on-the-rise Tierra Whack, who proved to be the night’s breakout music star. The number of fashion cameos was just as major, and they rolled out one after the other. Gigi Hadid led the charge, strutting out in black lingerie and a floor-sweeping black lace veil that gave the Italian widow look a subversive twist. Her sister Bella came next, gliding down the runway with gold coins jangling at the waist of her tangerine bustier. Cara Delevingne graced the scene too, dressed in a lime-green bodysuit and waving a wand in her hand; under her spell, a line of dancers fell to their knees like dominoes. Easily one of the most magical moments of the evening came when Laverne Cox took to the stage. Her insane dance moves and high kicks had the audience on their feet, whooping for joy.
Rihanna still seemed to be basking in the glow hours after the show, as she greeted press dressed for the after-party in a glittering mint green Alexandre Vauthier Couture dress. “Wow, can you tell I’m so excited?!” she said, beaming. Her last memories of the greenroom at Barclays were from touring for Anti, the critically acclaimed album she released in 2016. “Doing this tonight made me really miss the stage, and I think that’s really the reason why I wanted to get up there,” she said. Her performance came together in an astonishingly short amount of time: With the help of choreographer Parris Goebel, she perfected the sequence with only two-and-a-half hours of practice over the course of several days.
That said, her proudest moment came when the diverse cast of Savage x Fenty models took the spotlight. She spoke of her desire to make a safe space for all people with the brand, no matter their shape, size, race, or gender. For Rihanna, the notion of inclusivity is instinctive; it’s the way in which she has always seen and moved through the world as a musician and style icon, and now as a designer.
It’s a conversation she started last September, with a groundbreaking show that sent shock waves through the fashion industry, part of a larger seismic shift that had been afoot in the culture. Suddenly the skinny, blonde definition of sexy set forth by brands like Victoria’s Secret seemed horribly narrow.
Now, as the old lingerie empire continues to crumble, Rihanna is lighting the way with her empowering body-positive, sex-positive mission. Given that the show will be televised on Amazon Prime in little more than a week, she’s more than ready to broadcast that powerful message to the world.
Originally Appeared on Vogue