It takes a lot to get the fashion crowd properly revved up at a catwalk show, but Rihanna pulled it off at her Fenty x Puma show in New York on Sunday night.
It wasn’t the clothes that had the style press on the edge of their seats as much as the preamble, during which a team of motocross stunt performers vroomed up ramps and were propelled into the air to perform somersaults, flips and other seemingly impossible tricks. The striking set, which comprised towering spot-lit dunes of glittering pink sand, added to the drama.
Death-defying stunts are a tough act to follow, but the models kept the energy high when they strode onto the runway. The cast included the gap-toothed, shaven-headed Slick Woods, who demonstrated the kind of personality that is all too often discouraged in models by dancing and waving her arm around as she stomped to the booming music.
There were cycling shorts and wader-like overalls, bum bags, zip-up tops, wetsuits, high-heeled Puma-branded flip-flops and thigh-high boots which looked somewhere between Pretty Woman and a pair of galoshes.
There was a preponderance of swimming suits confirming one of the oddest microtrends from New York fashion week so far: that of wearing swimsuits with very high-cut legs beneath shorts and skirts, with a few inches of bare skin left visible at the hip.
Logos ran down arms and across chests, many of them saying “since 1988” which – as might be guessed – is the year Rihanna was born.
The pop star said in a statement the clothes were “a mix between two worlds: motocross and surf. It was a challenge to bring them together but it ended up being the perfect combination.”
Rihanna is one of a handful of celebrities with huge social media followings making inroads in fashion (see also Beyoncé, Kanye West and Justin Bieber) while traditional entertainment industry revenues decline.
Whatever you think about that shift, in terms of representation, Rihanna is certainly a force for good. Not only were the models at the show ethnically diverse and exuberant but, on the preceding Friday, she launched her own beauty line, which, with 40 shades of foundation, is once of the most inclusive beauty ranges ever.
Rihanna also knows how to make an exit. At the end of the show, rather than the customary bow, she appeared, resplendent in retina-searing green, and did a lap of honour on the back of a motorbike.