Style Check: Balmain campaign adds another feather to Rihanna's cap
Singer Rihanna is never far from a fashion headline. She recently sued Topshop for using an unauthorised photo of her on its T-shirts. The judge ruled in her favour and ordered parent company Arcadia to pay her legal bill, which came to almost £1 million (HK$12.66 million). And then there is the constant stream of style-focused selfies on Instagram.
Now the R&B bad girl is upping the fashion ante again as the face of Balmain (the singer's ad images will formally debut next month).
I haven't always been a huge fan of the over-the-top French high-fashion brand, but Olivier Rousteing, the hot, young creative director at the helm of Balmain, has turned the tide of the label's fortunes and injected a new found femininity into its hard-edged aesthetic. Now he has one of music's biggest fashion influencers on board in a series of images that look contemporary and very hip.
"Dreams do come true," says Rousteing. "When the woman that inspires you wears your creations your vision feels complete. Not compromising, fresh, modern, the icon of my generation, Rihanna embodies my vision of Balmain in this new campaign.
"In front of the camera, she makes you feel like she is the only girl in the world."
The play on modernising Balmain's rather blinged-out '80s power-suit aesthetic is tongue in cheek here. The brand has been going against the tide of austerity and soft pastel dressing in recent seasons, but with signs that new trends for 2014 will be much more aggressive, embellished and loud, Balmain may well hit more fashion high notes in the coming year.
In one image, Rihanna is wearing a pink, oversized houndstooth jacket and skirt set. (See what I mean by softening the brand?)
The big '80s shoulders are still there, as are the chunky metallic cuffs and belt (worn almost like a boxing championship belt), but on Rihanna it all looked a lot more relatable for younger fashion fans. She poses seductively in another black and white houndstooth ensemble with a deep V-shaped neckline exposing cleavage and that famous Egyptian tattoo in the middle of her ribcage.
Another has the Barbados-born songstress rocking a denim and gold metallic chain outfit. She looks great and makes the clothes look great - a worthy collaboration for both parties.
It could be argued that Rihanna's stylistic influence is far more relevant to her young fans and fashion folk than the more outrageous outfits of Lady Gaga - who ostensibly has made style a performance art. And in the age of social media, the power of a figure like Rihanna cannot be underestimated. She is a prolific Instagram user and her account has almost 11 million followers.
But her stylistic clout has been years in the making. She has had a successful collaboration with British high-street brand River Island on her own line of clothing - this season's looks are chic, black, tight and sexy with the odd lashing of gold and dark florals.
Miuccia Prada constantly sends her gifts (as do many high-fashion labels) and once even made her a pair of thigh-high boots that strapped to a belt on the waist, which Rihanna wore with a white thong (as you do) on Instagram.
Rihanna's style is notedly irreverent, young, street-smart and sexy, and Balmain's images of her posted on Instagram last week gathered 30,000 to 40,000 likes within hours. Becoming the face of a storied Parisian fashion house is no small feat and will boost her stardom in the fashion world.