All I see is dollar signs: The Rihanna/River Island collection

Kaya Purchase,

On March 5th Rhianna launched her new range for River Island that features every style from see-through sports attire to 90s grunge garments. The singer, who described the clothes as ‘casual, chic, flirty’, has told how she has always dreamt of being a fashion designer, tweaking and revamping clothes she buys off the rack to give herself an original wardrobe. So surely her new range was the perfect outlet for some very thrifty customising skills? But how much input did Rhianna actually have in the creative process? Was there any ‘design’ involved or was it all just ‘dress-up’?

Rhianna teamed up with co-designer Adam Selman for the project, but I’m curious to know how much collaboration went on between them or whether in actual fact, Selman was simply Rhianna’s ghost designer (a term to describe the person behind the celebrity who actually does all the work for less recognition).

Today it is harder to think of a celebrity without their own label than one with one.  Beyonce and her mother Tina, have developed The House of Dereon clothing. Gwen Stefani has the lyrical L.A.M.B (Love, Angel, Music, and Baby). Kanye West has turned his hand to a woman’s line, named  after his Nan, while Kohl’s is a fierce battle between the competing collections of J-lo and Britney. And most recently, walk into Urban Outfitters and you’ll find racks full of J5 items, the new range from the Jackson brothers, in commemoration of the late Michael. But what I want to know is how many of these recognised ‘fashion gurus’ use ghost designers and simply plaster their faces over the label, thinking that this justifies them millions of dollars of income?496px-Beyonce_Knowles_with_necklaces

Or in the case of Jessica Simpson a billion. It seems an almost incomprehendable amount, but Simpson has been crowned the queen bee of the celebrity clothing line with her name licensed to over 22 different products. But surely it is not possible that a woman already engaged in a singing career could have the time to design so many products? She must have other people doing the practical work. Young could argue that that is self-explanatory. People who wear Dior and Yves Saint Laurent for example must be aware that these designers are no longer alive so it is obvious that their products are designed by others. I personally believe however, that this is beside the point. Dior and Yves Saint Laurent, were designers famous purely for that particular craft. They studied fashion, worked at it for years and have a following hungry for their legacy to live on. The point about celebrities like Jessica Simpson on the other hand, is that they were already rich and famous in the first place and it is their popularity because of this that guarantees them a place in the ‘fashion world’. They don’t need to do any work, for the public to just see them wearing the clothes is enough.  People want to follow their style to feel the way that a celebrity feels, to be given a taste of the rich life. It is no new phenomena.The Georgians would closely monitor the outfits of royalty in order to know what to wear for their next gathering. It is simple. Celebrities ooze confidence. They have to because they are constantly in the spotlight and so conscious of their image. Naturally, if your average person copies their styles they feel more confident also, because someone who is revered for the way they look has tried and tested the formula first.434px-Rihanna

Rhiannas range is certainly all about the confidence (there’s a good pair of heels in particular that look like they’d give a good stomp and her boots look like they’ve been designed for striding ahead and leading the way through all types of weather). Rhianna has said that she wants to please ‘edgy; fun; confident young women who are ahead of the trend’ but if a young woman is so edgy and forward-thinking, maybe they should question whether it is right that somebody can earn up to a billion dollars for playing dress-up. I’m sure that the majority of young girls would be happy with the free clothes, never mind the money. Perhaps I am too cynical, maybe Rhinanna and other fashionistas are simply offering their fans an affordable way to be as glamorous as their idols and this must be positive. But what doesn’t sit right with me, is why we idolise such people in the first place. I may be despised for questioning this and I fully understand that I am in the minority. A lot of people like Rhianna. A lot of people love Beyonce, J-LO, and Jessica Simpson… They think they are fantastic singers and actors and this is the very reason that they are approached by fashion companies who know they will sell. But their talent alone is not the reason they are popular. There is another ingredient, the most essential of being the face of fashion… beauty. People love these celebrities because they look flawless; Goddesses reigning supreme in their celestial untouchable kingdom and when they do a fashion range, it is like they are giving their worshipers a slice of the unattainable. This in turn allows them to rake in the golden jewels because people are prepared to pay an awful lot of money for beauty and who can blame them? Beauty is fantastic. Everyone wants to be beautiful. I certainly do and try numerous ways to look the best that I can, including taking inspiration from the styles of the people I admire. In fact there are a few items from the Rhianna collection that I think are very smart. In fact, maybe I’ve been thinking to deep. There are very few people who would walk into River Island and analyse a crop top to such a degree. They’d pick it up because they like it and wear it to the next party. Without wanting to sound like a blatant hypocrite, I must admit, I myself own a pair of Kate Moss pants. I liked them, they were in the sale and so I bought them. I didn’t buy them because her name was scrawled on the tag. Most people would shop in the same way but i fear that there are those who would buy a pair of pants just because a celebs name is on them regardless of whether they like them or not and this is where we must stop and ask ourselves, how much is beauty actually worth? Is it really worth a billion dollars? And is it really worth so much more than talent?


To conclude (and pull together these various threads of ideas that I’ve thrown out there) I think I will just stick to charity shops for the future. I can rifle through an array of decades, find vintage attire to suit my every mood and at least I know my money is all going to a good cause and not into an airbrushed pocket. It may even go to provide an alternative to a sweatshop worker sewing buttons onto River Island waistcoats, 14 hours a day. You never know.


  1. Charity shops are boss. That being said, I have no issue with celebrities slapping their name on fashion ranges. We all know that that’s where their input starts and ends. If people want to pay £60 for a t-shirt, knock yourselves out. It’s your money.


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