LVMH has put on ice Rihanna’s fashion brand Fenty after disappointing sales, although the luxury goods company will continue to work with the pop star on cosmetics and lingerie.
The failure in ready-to-wear clothing showed the limits of expanding Fenty, which was launched in 2017 as a make-up brand tailored to women of all races and ethnicities. New and more experimental brands — even when led by a major global star — have struggled during the Covid-19 pandemic as people have shifted spending to more timeless styles from established luxury names.
“Rihanna and LVMH have jointly made the decision to put on hold the ready-to-wear activity, based in Europe, pending better conditions,” LVMH said. The Paris-based team of designers for Fenty is set to be wound down. The news was first reported by fashion publication WWD.
When the collaboration with Rihanna was announced in May 2019 it was hailed as a savvy bet by LVMH chief executive Bernard Arnault on the potential of celebrities to draw attention — and sales — through their legions of followers on social media.
However, the vision did not pan out for LVMH, which has successfully cultivated mega-brands such as Louis Vuitton and Dior by taking them global but has not launched a new maison since Christian Lacroix in 1987.
A native of Barbados, the 32-year-old Robyn Rihanna Fenty rose to global stardom with her Grammy-winning single “Umbrella” in 2007. Working with LA stylist Mel Ottenberg, she also developed a following for her fun and fearless approach to dressing and for championing up-and-coming designers, which won her the Fashion Icon award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America in 2014.
Fenty’s clothing and accessories sought to meld streetwear with a luxury patina, and featured pieces such as a corset-inspired blazer at $1,100 and an oversized faux leather hoodie for $870. Retail analysts were puzzled by the offerings that they saw as having high prices for relatively mainstream clothing that was not that differentiated from other streetwear brands.
The distribution strategy also proved wanting: Fenty apparel was sold mostly through its own website, making it difficult for consumers to discover the brand. In contrast, when Rihanna launched her Fenty beauty line, it was exclusively sold through LVMH-owned cosmetics retailer Sephora, giving it instant global visibility and bringing in a reported $100m in sales in its first 40 days.
Even though Rihanna’s foray into luxury clothing did not pan out, her lingerie line launched in 2018 under the name Savage X Fenty has been growing rapidly. On Wednesday, the private equity firm L Catterton, in which LVMH has a stake, announced a $115m fundraising round into Savage to support the brand’s “rapid growth and upcoming expansion into retail”.
Existing investors such as rapper Jay-Z’s venture firm Marcy Venture Partners and investment fund Avenir also took part in the round, while new investment came from Sunley House Capital and Advent International.
Similar to what Rihanna did with her cosmetics line, Savage has positioned itself as a more inclusive brand of lingerie than traditional players such as Victoria’s Secret. In a statement, the pop star said her take on lingerie was about “celebrating your body” and “being confident, in charge, and taking ownership of our choices”.
L Catterton said the brand had “experienced explosive revenue growth of over 200 per cent” while also growing its base of customers. No revenue figures were given.