Here’s a quick test to establish how hip you are. Do you consider Rihanna a singer? Then – I’m sorry to tell you – you are an old fart. Because Rihanna is no longer a singer, a musician or an artist: she’s a brand. Not a brand of any specific product, but a global trademark of which music is only one of many branches.
MORE THAN MUSIC
Of course, even millennials would know that Rihanna makes music, but they don’t buy her records. They don’t even understand the concept of the long play record, but instead listen to playlists and mixtapes online, mostly on their smartphones from streaming platforms. They do buy Rihanna products, however, be it sneakers, sunglasses, pyjamas or makeup.
Actually, a long-awaited new album by Rihanna is expected to come out at any moment. But nobody’s waiting in a line outside a record shop. However, the industry has been smart and quick to adapt: popular music now focuses on selling a lifestyle to its public, and trades on a multitude of goods and services.
Rihanna can be considered a pioneer in this respect. In 2016, she announced the imminent release of her album Anti by posting a selfie on Instagram of her wearing a pair of tiara-headphones by Dolce & Gabbana encrusted with pearls and Swarovski crystals. The 8,895-dollar accessory sold out in under twenty-four hours. A couple of days later, Anti was made available online free of charge.
Over the years, the Rihanna brand has proven itself to be extremely profitable. She has signed numerous seven-figure endorsement deals with Armani, Balmain or the Swiss jewellery-maker Chopard, among others. But being the passive subject of advertisement campaigns is not enough for the Barbadian tycoon. She wanted to dabble in the creative side of the business too, and was consequently named the first black spokesperson for Dior and even creative director for Puma. Apart from boosting the German sportswear firm’s profits by an estimated 11.2 per cent, she has contributed to the emergence of a new fashion trend called 'athleisure'.
SOMETHING ABOUT RIHANNA
In 2017, Rihanna launched makeup brand Fenty Beauty – Fenty being her last name –, and just a year later Savage X Fenty, a lingerie and sleepwear line. These two enterprises have been hugely successful, as, according to research by a consultancy firm, Rihanna fans – known as ‘the Navy’ – are 3.7 times more likely to buy her products than fans of other celebrities.
THE NEXT COCO?
Now she feels ready to take an even bigger step. There are rumours that she’s close to reaching an agreement with French luxury conglomerate LVMH to start her own fashion brand. “Is Rihanna the Coco Chanel of the 21st century?,” asked The New York Times. It is too soon to tell, but nothing seems unattainable to someone capable of attending a gala dressed as the Pope, or making balaclavas fashionable. Of course, the papal dress was by Maison Margiela and the balaclava was Gucci.