RiRi for River Island? Fashion experts gave a resounding eye roll upon hearing that the oft scantily-clad singer had designed an entire collection for the UK fast fashion brand (for us Americans, think somewhere between Forever 21 and Bebe). But the singer was nonetheless given a full fashion week treatment in London on Saturday with a well-executed runway show geared towards "sassy, young personalities". But it wasn't enough to satisfy fashion critics as the collection was hilariously described as "Fright Night in Kmart", while MTV thought it "hit the nail right on the head".
The singer said of her designs, “It’s a lot of me. I’m being very selfish, I designed every piece so I that can wear it. I think my fans trust my style and I think they’ll have fun.” And she was right: Turns out she already has worn some very similar looks from other designers.
In true fashion week, uh, fashion, the live-streamed show had viewers waiting almost an hour and a half to see the collection, and was meanwhile subjected to a dulling six-time repeat of Rihanna's behind-the-scenes videos. When the show finally started, Rihanna brought her own concert experience to the catwalk, showing on a five-tiered stage with a traditional audience set up and a soundtrack that included Jay-Z, A$AP Rocky, and of course, Rihanna’s own “Phresh Out The Runway”. The collection was quite palatable with 90s-inspired bold primary colors, floral prints, sheer dresses, cholo-buttoned blouses, jersey maxi dresses, crop tops, bra tops, shirts tied around the waist 90s style, scandalous meshes and bodysuits, body necklaces, lots of Angelina leg slits and plenty of visible nip à la Rihanna at the Grammys.
One particular sheer red dress was essentially the high street version of Rihanna's Azzedine Alaia dress that she wore to this year's Grammys. The two dresses were almost identical in color, both sheer, and with similar cross-strap tops. Another ensemble consisting of a tie-dyed cropped shirt and skirt was almost identical to a look by Jeremy Scott that she wore in her "We Found Love" video, complete with hair bandana.
But perhaps the biggest surprise about Rihanna's collection was that it lacked the more blatant raunch that critics and fans were expecting. ELLE's Fashion Director, Anne-Marie Curtis admitted, "OK, I’ll be honest; when I heard Rihanna was doing a collection for River Island, my first reaction was, 'Great, but not for me.' I'm a big fan of her music but my perception of her style was squarely rooted in the raunchy stage wear and street style that are synonymous with her image. How wrong I was."
Overall the collection is very accessible and on-par with what would sell well on London's high streets. Rihanna described the looks as "easy, laid-back, chick, flirty, but not very conservative. I think everyone can wear this line. It's not costume-y, not too sexy, it's just simple."
This isn’t the superstar’s first foray into fashion design. In 2011, Rihanna designed a capsule collection for Emporio Armani Underwear (surprise) and Armani Jeans consisting of a small, underwhelming set of graphic t-shirts featuring the singer’s face, denim simply stitched with RiRi’s “R” logo and a standard leather motorcycle jacket—not exactly groundbreaking.
Our consensus on Rihanna for River Island? If the price is right, or if the American dollar suddenly outweighs the British pound ten-fold, we'll buy it. Plenty of simple, versatile basics that can easily be transformed with accessories, shoe choice and hair style. But we'll be sure to wear a bra.
Rihanna for River Island hits stores on March 5.
[Photos: Rihanna at runway show: Danny Martindale/WireImage; Rihanna at the Grammys: Steve Granitz/WireImage; Model with red dress: Nick Harvey/WireImage]