Rihanna and LVMH Hit Pause on Fenty, Their Style Line
Is this the end of the experiment with celebrity high fashion designers? It turns out that even Rihanna can’t do one thing: sell high fashion clothes during a pandemic.
LVMH, the French luxury group, announced the Fenty fashion house in 2019 as a big fanfare. However, today they announced that they and Rihanna had “made the decision to discontinue the Europe-based clothing activity in anticipation of better conditions. “
Translated, this means that the luxury fashion arm of the Fenty empire (an empire that includes the Savage x Fenty lingerie line and Fenty cosmetics and skin care separately) no longer produces collections, even though it is not officially closed, and Rihanna remains a part by LVMH.
Talks are currently ongoing with the brand’s employees about their future, although Bastien Renard, the label’s managing director, remains in position. The news was first reported by Women’s Wear Daily.
Though it comes shortly after a successful $ 115 million donation round to Savage x Fenty from L Catterton, LVMH-affiliated private equity firm, the suspension of Fenty clothing is a rare failure for the World’s Greatest Luxury Group which also includes Louis Vuitton, Dior and Celine. It’s also the rare misstep of one of the world’s most effective celebrity polymaths: this reflects both the market’s lukewarm response to the Fenty collections and the ongoing impact of the pandemic on the luxury sector.
And it’s a reminder that someone who has a tremendous cultural following and unparalleled taste doesn’t mean they’ll be making great, original clothes.
Only the second luxury fashion house LVMH ever attempted to build from scratch (the first was Christian Lacroix, who opened LVMH in 1987 and sold in 2005), Fenty was initially introduced as the group’s foray into the future: a new brand Who is run by a black woman with great style and popular influence but no formal, old-fashioned design training, who eschews the calcified system of runway shows for regular drops and focuses on digital direct sales and communication.
It seemed like a slam dunk.
Starting a new luxury fashion house from scratch is enormously expensive for any investor and usually takes time. But 2020 was the worst year for the luxury industry in history. While LVMH, the top-selling luxury group, has seen sales surge in recent months, largely driven by Chinese consumers, lockdowns continue to create persistent disruptions and dampen net income. LVMH announced last month that its profit was 4.7 billion euros in 2020, down around a third from 2019.
And unlike some other LVMH brands that proved resilient during the downturn, such as Louis Vuitton and Dior, the Fenty clothing line’s bold experiment struggled to find its stand, prompted by Jean-Jacques Guiony, LVMH CFO , alluded to last October The group’s results for the third quarter of 2020 were reported during a news call.
“At Fenty Fashion we are obviously still in the start-up phase and have to find out exactly what the right offer is. That is not easy. We started from scratch, ”he said. “Of course we have great help from Rihanna, but I’d say there is still work to be done if it comes to really defining the offer.”
Indeed, “the offer” was unclear from the start. When the house was founded, a statement from LVMH said that the new brand would “focus on the Rihanna she created” and “take shape with her vision”.
But while Rihanna built her profile in part on her own strategic and adventurous embrace of high fashion, she received the 2014 Council of Fashion Designers of America’s award for the fashion icon in a see-through crystal-speckled gown, thong, and white fur boa – she seemed often being better at choosing meaningful looks for themselves than creating new ones for their followers. In general, clothing ranged from oversized to full-bodied, and streetwear was bowed. It was more derivative than groundbreaking.
They were also potentially more expensive than many of Rihanna’s fans expected (albeit less than the usual LVMH deal): $ 940 for a padded denim jacket; $ 810 for a corsetted shirt dress.
Meanwhile, Savage x Fenty made headlines with live-filmed lingerie extravaganzas that were filmed live and then streamed on Amazon, positioning itself as the empowered, comprehensive answer to Victoria’s Secret in a post-MeToo world.
This time out, granted to clothing brand Fenty, could allow it to reposition itself and refine its offerings to grab a better moment to return – perhaps after the pandemic’s pent-up party desires are unleashed. There’s a reason they didn’t shut it down completely.
On Wednesday, as news of the LVMH partnership spread, Savage x Fenty issued a statement detailing the new funding round in which Jay-Z is an investor through its Marcy Venture Partners. Last year the brand saw “explosive sales growth of over 200 percent,” the statement said, and the “heavily oversubscribed” round would spur investment in customer acquisition and expansion into retail.
“The brand strikes a unique balance between affordability, fashion and comfort, represents inclusivity and diversity, and has differentiated itself through an exceptional level of affinity and unmatched customer loyalty,” said Jonathan Owsley, partner in L Catterton’s growth fund.
Neither the Fenty line nor the suspended experiment with LVMH was mentioned.