Last week was a big week for Rihanna in the fashion world. Not only did she co-host the Met Gala -- an event she’s practically dominated with iconic looks for nearly a decade -- she also launched her lingerie line, Savage x Fenty, on Friday.
The collection is just the latest addition to the pop star’s growing business empire, which already includes her Fenty Beauty cosmetics line and her Fenty Puma collection, among other ventures. And while she’s hardly the first celebrity to launch her own lingerie line -- Kim Kardashian announced her own earlier this month -- when Rihanna unveiled Savage x Fenty, it was clear this was no vanity project.
According to Destiney Bleu -- the founder of D.Bleu.Dazzled, an online boutique that bedazzles intimate apparel worn by the likes of Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, and Rihanna -- lingerie "is a niche market” where designers need “knowledge of the demographic [they’re] trying to reach.” Figuring out that clientele also means considering various body types, shapes, and sizes for separate garments -- and experts tell Billboard that Savage x Fenty matters thanks to its inclusivity and affordable prices.
Like Fenty Beauty, which was praised for its diverse range of 40 different foundations, Savage x Fenty comes out the gate swinging with a wide variety of over 100 garments, with an assortment of color selections (there are seven nude shades to choose from) and sizes (which go up to a 44DDD bra size and a 3XL panty size). Bleu says it’s rare and for a new line to have such an selection, noting that a wide array of options is more commonly available from established giants like Victoria’s Secret, which “have a proven following and stores to back it up.”
Clara Jeon -- the co-founder of Chapter: 2 Agency, a PR, marketing, and e-commerce firm representing emerging designers and fashion houses such as Cotton Citizen and Musika Frère -- says that, with every piece costing under $100, the company’s relatively affordable price range is also a rarity.
Savage x Fenty’s inclusivity isn’t just a footnote, however. It’s a selling point, and its marketing materials have prominently featured models of all sizes. Jeon mentions that she could tell “from the jump” that Savage x Fenty would be “inclusive of real women’s body types and spending habits.” In the weeks since its unveiling, the Savage X Fenty Instagram account featured recorded confessions of plus-size models and other models who defied traditional lingerie-model beauty standards talking about their relationship to their bodies and how they’re viewed. Stella Duval, one of the line’s models, told Billboard at a Savage X Fenty pop-up shop in Williamsburg on launch night that Rihanna and her body-positive attitude have been “an inspiration for all of us growing up.”
This approach has stoked great demand: Heavy traffic to the online store led to a digital queue line, forcing some potential buyers to wait more than an hour after the official midnight launch. “[Lingerie] is an industry that’s currently very skewed towards one type of customer,” Jeon says, “and there are very limited options for people with body types outside of that.” Bleu, who often models her own designs, says Savage x Fenty has even inspired her to rethink her own marketing. “I'm learning now that my clients may feel excluded if my visuals don't reflect more diverse content,” she says.
Early feedback about Savage x Fenty hasn’t been entirely without criticism, however. Some customers have complained on social media that the products had a “cheap” feel, though Bleu notes that many of those critics were comparing the items to “super high-end luxury lingerie.” (“Had RiRi given them a line of real life Queen Savage lingerie,” she adds, “the price point would be something only a celebrity could afford. I think she still has room to do that, but I would imagine she prides herself on providing items that the majority of her fanbase can afford.”) Others have pointed out that there are limits to the line’s inclusion; the company says its current sizing options are “only the beginning,” and Bleu notes that Savage x Fenty still includes “more of a size offering than most lingerie brands that have been around for years.”
Savage x Fenty’s full impact on the lingerie world remains to be seen. Bleu believes the line’s range of nude colors will be widely adopted by other brands, calling the selection “not a trend, [but] a necessity.” In the future, Jeon thinks Savage x Fenty also has the potential to “start a bigger fashion trend where you proudly wear your lingerie with your day-to-day look.” The star is already modeling it for her customers: On the line’s website, a section called “All Things Rihanna” that highlights some of the singer’s favorite items shows her doing just that, wearing a denim top over a pearl-colored camisole from.
Jeon isn’t surprised by the initial success of Savage x Fenty. Choosing lingerie is about channeling a person’s fantasies and making them feel confident in their bodies. Who understands that better than Rihanna? Says Jeon: “She so empowered and confident in her sexuality and ability to dress up -- or down -- for no one but herself."