Jennifer Park, Layout Editor
The show opened with angelic piano and violin music with warm lighting. It abruptly transitioned to strong industrial beats and lighting revealing Rihanna, surrounded by dancers of all sizes, who executed powerful synchronized choreography with sharp movements and striking silhouettes. This show doesn’t celebrate appearance; it celebrates power.
High fashion carries a certain aesthetic intentionally curated to construct a sense of aspirational fantasy. The aesthetic associated with lingerie shows continues that tradition with an added flavor of buxom sex appeal. SavageXFenty takes the stance that the new fantasy isn’t lounging in a velvet chaise with perfectly blown-out hair and lingerie of questionable functionality; it’s an inclusive vision of power, strength and confidence defined by movement.
SavageXFenty has not positioned itself as a brand selling an impossible fantasy of looking like the supermodel du jour. Instead, it’s selling a far more appealing fantasy: permission to be satisfied with yourself.
Rihanna’s company takes this stance in a market where women are increasingly rejecting aspirational dissatisfaction in favor of self-love. Abercrombie & Fitch found themselves in hot water in 2013 when CEO Mike Jeffries stated that the brand didn’t offer plus sizes because he didn’t want “not-so-cool kids” wearing the label. SavageXFenty’s direct competitor, Victoria’s Secret, has always drawn in criticism in its preference for thin, Caucasian models.
On Sept. 20, Rihanna’s lingerie line, SavageXFenty, made the final jump in this shifting cultural landscape. Instead of presenting a singular idealized image of female beauty and sexuality, carefully designed for the male gaze, SavageXFenty presented a wide range of female bodies in an active context that speaks to a greater sense of realism.
The show’s format strayed from its high fashion inspirations, featuring not only walks, but also full dance productions. In planning stages, Rihanna described her vision of the show as a “fashion musical.” This is reflected in how the venue was designed for an active standing audience instead of the usual rows of seated influencers. The dominant soundscape of the audience was cheers instead of the camera shutters of the press and polite applause.
Rihanna commissioned New Zealand-based choreographer Parris Goebel who is well known for the power and strength of her choreography.
Musical performers included big names like Big Sean, Halsey as well as up-and-comer Tierra Whack. Dancers donned the line and demonstrated exactly how well SavageXFenty products stand up to vigorous movement.
SavageXFenty’s casting also stands in stark contrast to industry standard. A plus-size woman opened the show, resplendent in all of her curves and bumps, donning a sexy black piece and draped in jewelry. A woman with prosthetic legs showed off a cute, sheer teddy. Transgender activist and actress Laverne Cox strutted across the stage dressed in hot pink satin. Drag performer Aquaria, winner of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” season 10, vogued in bright red.
The show reflected the American market much more than classic lingerie shows. Rihanna’s statement that “every woman deserves to feel sexy” is not only a radical promotion of self-love, but a symbol of changing social standards.
SavageXFenty’s lingerie isn’t anything groundbreaking; after all, there’s only so many ways you can make a pair of panties. Hopefully, in a few years, its message and casting won’t be either.