Leave it to Rihanna to give us a lesson in representation and a celebration of female empowerment.
It seems fitting that Rihanna’s star-studded Savage x Fenty fashion show was held in the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn, home to major sporting events in New York, because that is exactly what the show deserved.
I know what you’re thinking, fashion as a sporting event, surely an exaggeration of events. But what I witnessed at the Savage x Fenty show was nothing short of athletic dominance from a group of incredibly impressive women. Proving that yes, actually, it is possible to create a powerful and inspiring lingerie show in 2019 and execute it with the same determination as that of a professional team.
Having filed in along with the fashion and entertainment world’s elite, our phones were secured in an unbreakable bag. Rihanna wanted us to enjoy the show, no exceptions. Now sitting comfortably at a show where for the first time in six years I couldn’t snap the opening look and video the finale, Rihanna and co were about to receive our fullest attention.
The opening sequence saw a group of female dancers of all sizes (and I really mean all sizes) dressed in functional-not-fancy underwear. Stood on varying heights, plinths the dancers surrounded Rihanna, who was positioned in the middle, moving their strong bodies in perfect unison. The performance was a routine so sharp you held your breath while watching it. These were real women, moving their real bodies in real underwear – not crystal-embellished, feather trimmed £2million underwear that holds precisely zero practicality. The stadium was silent, not because we weren’t enjoying what we saw, but because we were transfixed. This was a new dawn, and it looked so damn good.
What followed was a celebration of womanhood, sisterhood and any other kind of hood you can imagine. Women with thighs that slammed against each other and bellies that jiggled with unapologetic joy stomped emphatically around the set. When one plus-size model in a sheer baby doll smock and knickers shook her hips and flicked her hair to camera, the crowd erupted with cheers and applause.
The dancers moved in a way you would expect from a troop that bowed down to the altar of Rihanna. They slid their lingerie-clad bodies along the floor, twerked their way around the stage and whipped their hair back and forth. All the necessary ingredients to what would ordinarily be considered a hypersexualised routine. Usually seen in the context of female backing dancers to a male artist centrepiece. Except this wasn’t that. It was a powerful reclaim of female sexuality, one that could not be drowned out even when the male performers Migos and DJ Khaled came on stage.
With each routine, the crowd’s cheering and applause grew louder. There was one plus-size dancer whose ability to not only move her body with such remarkable rigour, but also to whip her ponytail back and forth at such spectacular speed the whole room was visibly shook. I later found out the dancer is Amanda Lacount, and she’s my new idol.
More models and more collections poured out onto the runway continually displaying wearable creations. There were the occasional embellished number modelled by Slick Woods, Cara Delevingne and Bella Hadid et al that made an appearance and spurred on another round of cheers. But, the most touching moment of the night was when an unassumingly model with two prosthetic limbs strode across the stage, to which people stood up in their seats and the solemn guest next to me said, “Wow, this is a moment.” To coin the most over-used fashion phrase in the dictionary of fashion: Savage x Fenty was a moment. A big one. One that proved you don’t need an outdated view on beauty and femininity to sell both brand and clothing.
The standing ovation at the end of the show was validation that Rihanna had rightly taken her seat as queen of representation. She had executed to perfection a lingerie show otherwise had been so lacking in its previous forms. And, most importantly has set the bar not just high, but right where it should be… shattering all that came before.
Images: courtesy of Getty