Fame and celebrity

Five things Kanye West can learn from Rihanna about fashion

We compare her Puma collaboration with his Yeezy hook-up with adidas

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 February, 2016, 8:00pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 April, 2016, 12:55pm

Fashion brands frequently tap celebrities, specifically musicians, to partner on projects small (such as a limited-editon shoe design) and large (a fully-fledged ready-to- wear collection). It helps the brand find a new audience, keep up with pop culture, and re-invent themselves.

During this New York Fashion Week, I’ve seen partnerships between Ciara and Keds, ASAP Rocky and Guess. Kanye West and Adidas held a fashion show-album release at Madison Square Garden on Thursday. On Friday, Rihanna unveiled a ready-to-wear collection with Puma, called Fenty Puma by Rihanna.

The latter two examples were contrasts in execution and success. Both used over-the-top productions 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, the ticketed event at Madison Square Garden ha too many distractions to effectively market the clothing. More attention was paid to his album, The Life of Pablo, which he simultaneously released, and the presence of the Kardashian family. The clothes were tattered, form-squeezing to the point of unflattering, and hard to categorise. When would you wear them?

READ MORE: Yeezy does it: Kanye West unveils new collection and album

The next day, Rihanna debuted her Fenty Puma collection in a former bank 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 colours and exaggerated silhouettes. 

The presentation was focused on the clothes, although Rihanna was present, and the outfits shone. It was a much better a fashion event, and here’s why.


As a designer you want to create something 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 colours like orange and red, Rihanna used muted and subtle colours like black, white and grey – which made the clothing more wearable. Sure, the styling and make-up were 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 

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

Yeezy Season 3 show was mainly about the music, and it showed. The album was played louder than usual, not performed by Kanye and what should have been a five to 10 minute fashion presentation became a two-hour show of Kanye and his friends frolicking by the DJ booth, while 40 models and a bunch of extras stood in the centre of the room. 

READ MORE: What Kanye gets right and what he gets wrong

Implement Social Media 

During the Yeezy extravaganza, there was no wireless or Wi-fi access and a planned Tidal live stream of the event failed. What else would you expect when 20,000 people try to Instagram and Snapchat at once? In an effort to get more out of social media, the Adidas planners got in their own way. On the other hand, Fenty Puma had fewer than 400 people at the show and didn’t clog the internet. Also, the show had its own Snapchat filter, two of them! 

Less Is More

Surprisingly not one of Rihanna’s hits was played during the show. It brought home the fact that the singer’s energy was behind the clothes.  And there were no distractions such as an army of reality stars dressed like furry angels to draw on the focus. (We won’t name any names.)