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Fashion |OPINION

Why Fenty's fashion fell flat with consumers

By Don-Alvin Adegeest

10 Feb 2021

A denim jacket with a price tag of just under 1,000 dollars was unlikely to be a bestseller. Neither a pair of ribbon rope sandals costing almost the same. Consumers buying into celebrity fashion ranges are on average a younger audience with less disposable income. Rihanna’s Fenty fashion may have just priced them out.

A pandemic keeping shoppers at home meant high octane looks took a back seat to comfort dressing. Not to mention that expensive luxury items fronted by celebrities are difficult to endorse because they often lack an origin of authenticity. Singers and performers are not designers, per se. Despite this, LVMH invested in the universe of Rihanna at a time when her lingerie and beauty brands were already commercial successes. Building a fashion and lifestyle house around a celebrity is a tricky business, it would appear, and needs more than the credibility of a star and investment to make it worthwhile.

Fenty fashion was short-lived

In less than two years LVMH and Fenty are calling it quits on fashion. With no new collections planned, suspending the label is a both a reflection of tepid markets and struggling sales. It also highlights the difficulty of launching a luxury brand with a creative director who has multiple businesses and contracts. A bonafide fashion label, one with seasonal collections, an international retail presence and one where at product level all is considered and well-executed, needs a strong creative leader. The 1,000 dollar denim jacket may be perfectly nice, but just because the label has a celebrity name attached to it, doesn’t make it covetable. Comparing Fenty fashion to Victoria Beckham’s label, the former Spice Girl singer fought incredibly hard to be respected by the fashion industry. Despite stellar reviews from her peers and customers, VB has struggled to make a profit ten years after it was founded.

Did LVMH make a mistake?

LVMH’s investment vehicle L Catterton raised 115 million dollars for the Savage X Fenty project. To put its fashion arm on hiatus is a “rare misstep for one of the world’s most effective celebrity polymath,” wrote the New York Times. It is also a misstep for LVMH, a builder of brands and gatekeeper of luxury. It will have to sell ample of Fenty’s beauty and lingerie projects to make a return.

“It is a reminder that just because someone has an enormous cultural following and no-holds-barred taste, it does not mean they will make great, original clothes,” the NY Times quipped.

The year 2020 ravished the luxury industry, including the portfolio of LVMH, arguably the world’s most powerful luxury group. The company saw sales amid store closures and global lockdowns fall by nearly one-third in comparison to 2019. Building a new Maison into a solid business on the premise of a celebrity-backed product didn’t work. Even today, it remains unclear what Fenty fashion stands for, which product categories and design features represent the essence of the brand? Rihannaa herself was certainly more high octane than directional fashion when it came to red carpet dressing and her public persona.

Many fashion brands and designers continue to unfairly suffer in the wake of the pandemic. For others, perhaps the bad is being weeded from the good.

Image via Fenty website