When Rihanna signed on with affordable high street label River Island for an exclusive fashion collaboration, she likely didn’t picture… this. Last time the singer performed in London for the #777 Tour a.k.a. Rihannaplane, sponsored in part by River Island, she was feted passionately by thousands of weeping fans. This week, when she showed up in the city for London Fashion Week, she was greeted by a huge article in London’s Sunday Times Magazine calling her the new Princess Diana, written by none other than 1990s anti-feminist provocateur Camille Paglia (an American). Based on that alone, it’s safe to say the U.K. harbors a little bit of love for Ribanza.
Even still, after showing her first collection on Saturday — in a runway event that was conspicuously not a part of the official happenings, though LFW still listed it in its program — the Rihanna-River Island collabo was roundly dismissed as the worst thing of all time. A man at the Daily Beast called it a “porny” “horror show,” while the Huffington Post called it “Baywatch inspired” (as a dis). The Guardian was much more thoughtful in its assessment, but did title its piece, “Rihanna at River Island: Celebrity Cash-In, or Birth of a New Designer?” Pedestrian TV called it “basic.” Ouch.
Maybe everyone was mad that she was an hour late to her nine-minute fashion show? She wouldn’t be Rihanna if she didn’t make you wait for an eternity, we could have told you that. But was the show really that bad?
The runway was set up to look like a mock balcony at a ’90s NYC Club, so what followed were Rihanna-friendly, late-night ensembles. It opened with Jay-Z’s lady-pumping intro to Memph Bleek’s “Do My,” and the first ensemble consisted of something straight out of Tunnel on Sundays: deconstructed denim overalls chopped into a crop-top and Aaliyah-underwear-invoking double waistline. Some pieces, like the cropped mock turtleneck and the apparently sooo-shocking mesh top and skirt, were near-replicas of looks Rihanna has worn onstage in the past.
We could do without the “mullet” hemlines on some of the skirts and dresses (miniskirt in the front, long skirt in the back), but the ankle-length skirts with leg-baring slits up the side are completely on trend with what fashionable club women lust for in major American cities. Designer Adam Selman’s take on oversized, hip-hop influenced, girly streetwear wasn’t bad at all, particularly for a lower price point (that Daily Beast dude was on some serious Victorian-era slutshaming tip). At Vogue, beloved New York fashion critic Lynn Yaeger called it “surprisingly demure.” Chalk this one up to the British press’ purple prose.
Watch the full Rihanna/River Island show here: