Robyn Rihanna Fenty, my girl, and always my answer when someone asks me who I think has the best street style. I’ve stuck by this for over 6 years, so no, it isn’t a surprise when she grabs the nation’s attention with her incredible and funky style. Back then, most of her style, not just street style but red carpets and stage design, was done by Mel Ottenberg. He is one of my all-time favorite stylists, who I believe has contributed significantly to the fashion icon we know Rih as to this day. Outside of him, newer head stylists such as Jaheel Weaver have helped navigate the next era of the mogul we see today. Rihanna’s willingness to not limit herself and explore all avenues of fashion is what puts her and the team behind her ahead of the game.
During what I like to call the “Mel era,” Rihanna was a rising pop star with a notorious affiliation for fashion. With notable collaborations with Puma, Dior, and Manolo Blahnik, her name was synonymous with fashion. The opportunities to share her creative visions began to evolve from these small collabs into entire collections down the runway. The peak of this transition for me was 2015/2016, my personal favorite bad gyal years. She was in her mid-20s, living in New York alongside her best friends, and she was consistently releasing chart-topping music. She was hot. A lot of her street style was experimental and a combination of so many references. She was hippy, dressed glamorous, rocked athleisure, sleepwear, a ton of Dior, and of course, her own lines. On the red carpet, she was a standout with notable outfits on the CDFA, the Met Gala, and the Grammys. Today the combination of runway and streetwear is attempted, but I don’t think it could ever really hit in the same way. The outfits composed were very reminiscent of her youth, her desire to try something new, and her exuberant lifestyle. Nobody’s looks even came close, and it’s apparent in her entire fashion portfolio. When you look at other celebrities, many of them follow a narrow style. I don’t mean just a signature look, but an actual repetitiveness is expected wherever they are to appear. Usually, that narrow style is defined by the stylist and the celebrity’s comfort zone, but in this case, it’s more telling of the relationship Mel and Rihanna had in terms of thinking outside the box. You truly can’t say what she is going to wear when she is expected somewhere. And that’s what made a trip to Giorgio Baldi (iykyk) more of a fashion show than a typical red carpet.
After Rihanna’s last album, ANTI, she went on a small hiatus. Her re-arrival into the world set the tone for her newest era: FENTY. Beginning with her cosmetics line, she then added to the company’s portfolio a lingerie line, a high fashion line under LVMH, and finally a skincare line. No music in the mix, but it’s okay. She has ventured out into ownership and full creative control, embracing inclusivity that set the standard for all the avenues she has entered. At the start of her re-arrival, many picked on her look due to a healthy weight gain. Not news at all, but news for critics who are used to body shaming and picking apart women. The conversation didn’t last for long, as her fullness was accompanied by a new head stylist, look, and sophistication. Jaheel Weaver is not only her new head stylist but also an original member of Mel Ottenburg’s team. He is currently the creative director of FENTY, which is a sign of trust from Rihanna. As she reigns in control of all these avenues, a lot of the colored hair and shocking looks winded down. While I do believe this new era is less “shocking,” it is, in fact, very trendy and complementary to the woman she’s become. All the things that people see in moguls are present in the way she arrives at her brand launches. These past three years have been the biggest for her, as this domineering and commanding look is definitely past her rockstar phase, as it resembles more of a superstar era.
If you look at these two phases in her life, there are also many things about Rih that will always remain the same, no matter the stylist: her heels of the moment, silk dresses, and of course, rocking her own label. The signature heels to date are the Dsquared “riri heels.” In multiple shades, colors, and lengths, these heels have been worn starting courtside up to the Met Gala. Inspired by her, these heels are a staple shoe of the Mel era. Currently, designer Amina Muddai has been a prominent shoe designer spotted on the artist. She provided the shoes for the SavagexFenty shows, co-designed shoes for FENTY, and is now debuting her Rih-inspired shoes called “Robyn.” Her affiliations with shoes will never change, as she has had multiple shoe lines and is consistently trending over her heels. Another staple style of hers is silk dresses for dinner. Giorgi Baldi is known for being Rihanna’s favorite restaurant, and a chunk of her street style has been photographed outside of the restaurant. Rih is well known for her silk dress and heels, or sneakers combo, which is also a personal favorite style of mine (and the rest world’s). Despite the change in creative direction, this look is clearly a go-to and consistently trends every and any time she wears it. Lastly, one thing that will never change is Rihanna in her own collections. From the Puma slides to the Puma creepers, they were the It shoes of the time and still proven to be a classic. As the first black spokesperson for Dior under Raf Simons, she also contributed to the selling rates for the company with her collaboration sunglasses and by sporting the designs out in the street. With almost a dozen collaborations and more, she has a career span that includes sold out shoes and sold out designs.
Her brand is the ultimate domination of markets. She has significant influences from two stylists, which defined two parts of her life in terms of looks, but ultimately she always was and will be in control. As she grows in this industry and continues to dominate so many markets, her presentation has proven to be very similar to the seriousness and respect she commands. While one era may have gone with her music and the other with her businesses, both are just as powerful and aligned with what she is promoting.