Photographer: JP Yim

Five Things Kanye West Can Learn from Rihanna About Fashion

The two mega-pop stars debuted fashion collections this week, but the experience couldn't have been more different.

Fashion brands frequently tap celebrities, specifically musicians, to partner on projects small (a limited-editon shoe design) and large (a full fledged ready-to-wear collection). It helps the brand find a new audience, keep up with pop culture, and even re-invent itself. For example, this New York fashion week, I've seen partnerships between Ciara and Keds, plus ASAP Rocky and Guess. Most famously, Kanye West and Adidas held a fashion show-slash-album release at Madison Square Garden on Thursday. And on Friday, the pop star Rihanna unveiled a ready-to-wear collection with the sneaker brand Puma, called Fenty Puma by Rihanna.

The latter two examples were contrasts in execution and success. Both aimed to make a splash with an over-the-top production to get attention in the press and in the fashion industry. But in Kanye West's case, the reveal of the third season of his "Yeezy" fashion line (a collaboration with Adidas), the ticketed event at Madison Square Garden held too many distractions to be effective to market the clothing. More attention was paid to his album, “The Life of Pablo,” which he simultaneously released, and the presence at MSG of the Kardashian family and their ailing adjunct, Lamar Odom. The clothes were tattered, form-squeezing to the point of unflattering, and hard to categorize. When would you wear them?

Models showcase clothing from Kanye West's Yeezy Season 3 on February 11, 2016 in New York City.
Models showcase clothing from Kanye West's Yeezy Season 3 on February 11, 2016 in New York City.
Photographer: JP Yim

The next day, Rihanna debuted her the Fenty Puma collection in a former bank located in the heart of Wall Street. Rihanna has been working with athletic wear brand since December 2014. The collection was inspired by Japanese street culture, but had gothic overtones, muted colors and exaggerated silhouettes. 

The presentation was focused on the clothes, although Rihanna was present, and as a result the outfits shone. As a stylist I couldn't help but think of how much better of a fashion event it was, and here's why.

Wearability 

Models pose backstage at the Fenty Puma by Rihanna Collection during Fall 2016 New York Fashion Week on February 12, 2016 in New York City.
Models pose backstage at the Fenty Puma by Rihanna Collection during Fall 2016 New York Fashion Week on February 12, 2016 in New York City.
Photographer: Jamie McCarthy

As a designer you want to create something unique and different, and at the same time make it wearable for the public. Like Kanye, Rihanna presented an urban street wear collection, but instead of using saturated colors like orange and red (which Kanye did in his Yeezy Season 3 collection) Rihanna used muted and subtle colors like black, white and gray—which make the clothing a bit more wearable despite the design. Sure, the styling and makeup was way over the top, but most of the clothing (sports bras, track pants, hoodies, varsity jackets) were items that Puma buyers and Rihanna fans would actually wear. 

Select An Intimate Venue 

Models pose at Madison Square Garden during Kanye West Yeezy Season 3 on February 11, 2016 in New York City.
Models pose at Madison Square Garden during Kanye West Yeezy Season 3 on February 11, 2016 in New York City.
Photographer: JP Yim

If you’re going to opt out of showing your collection at Clarkson Square, the official venue of New York Fashion Week: The Shows, then go with a venue that is similar, and doesn't drown out the clothing.  

It’s About The Clothing, Not The Music 

West plays his album from a laptop at MSG.
West plays his album from a laptop at MSG.
Photographer: Dimitrios Kambouris

Yeezy Season 3 show was mainly about the music, and less about the clothing, and it showed. The album was being played louder than usual, not performed by Kanye and what a 5-10 minute fashion presentation should have been was really a long-lasting two-hour show of Kanye and his friends frolicking by the DJ booth, while about 40 models and a bunch of extras were standing in the center of the room. 

Implement Social Media 

Rihanna bows after the Fenty Puma show.
Rihanna bows after the Fenty Puma show.
Photographer: Timothy A. Clary

During the Yeezy extravaganza, there was no wireless or wifi access in MSG and a planned Tidal livestream of the event failed. What else would you expect when 20 thousand people are trying to Instagram and Snapchat at once? In an effort to get more out into the world of social media, the Adidas planners got in their own way. On the other hand, Fenty Puma had under 400 people attending the show, which didn't clog the internet. Also, the show had its own Snapchat filter, two of them! 

Less Is More 

The Kardashian clan attended the Yeezy show, clad in attention-grabbing whites and furs. From left: Khloe Kardashian, Lamar Odom, Kris Jenner, Kendall Jenner, Kourtney Kardashian, West, Kim Kardashian, Caitlyn Jenner and Kylie Jenner.
The Kardashian clan attended the Yeezy show, clad in attention-grabbing whites and furs. From left: Khloe Kardashian, Lamar Odom, Kris Jenner, Kendall Jenner, Kourtney Kardashian, West, Kim Kardashian, Caitlyn Jenner and Kylie Jenner.
Photographer: Jamie McCarthy

Surprisingly not one of Rihanna's chart topping hits was played during Fenty Puma by Rihanna, not even a tease of "We Found Love," "Diamonds" or her latest single "Work," featuring Drake. It drilled in the point that the musician was putting her energy behind the clothes this time.  And there were no distractions like an army of reality stars dressed like furry angels to pull focus. (We won't name any names.) 

Moti Ankari is the associate market editor for Bloomberg. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram, or contact him at mankari@bloomberg.net.

 

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