Rihanna smells amazing. “Is that…?” wonders Bergdorf Goodman’s Linda Fargo, as she embraces the musician in a warm hug, catching a whiff of l’eau de Rih.
Rihanna, master of saying without speaking, gives a sly smile, telling Fargo, “We’ll talk about that later!” With hordes of press around, now is probably not the time to chat about an unreleased project—even if nearly every journalist who crowded into Bergdorf Goodman to speak to Rihanna about Fenty’s new collection and Bergdorf takeover likely managed to squeeze in an R9 album query. (No comment, okay!)
When Rihanna turns back to me in her third-floor installation in the store, yeah, she smells amazing, but she looks even better. She’s wearing a short knit Fenty dress in burnt orange: the exact complement to the space’s teal velvet walls. The color contrast only serves to amplify her silhouette—and the overwhelmingly radiant effect of her presence. On her feet are golden boots from her new Fenty drop, made in a crinkled leather with a stiletto heel.
The boots are a hero item from the collection, Fenty 2-20, that will be released online on Rihanna’s 32nd birthday. “You know what you can always wear on your birthday?” she asks rhetorically. “A T-shirt. No matter which part of the world you are in. But also my big thing is shoes, so if I wear nothing at all, at least I need to have on a fly pair of shoes.” She bends down to show the many ways you can style her leather boots. “They’re very flexible, so you can do—” she scrunches them down around her ankles, and then pulls up the throat high and smiles—“and they’re very comfortable too.”
Comfortable? Maybe in the Rihanna sense.
“No! Actually,” she says, laughing. “Do you like heels? You would like these.”
That’s the charm about Rihanna: Within seconds of meeting anyone, she can instantly connect with their vibe. When I tell her I end up walking fast—and taking the subway almost everywhere—she offers, smartly, “Well, then just wear them somewhere where you can walk slow.” That’s the Rihanna guide to wellness and self-care: If your lifestyle doesn’t suit your fabulous clothes, change your life! Not your outfit! “Go somewhere; go out! Don’t wear these through the subway, please.”
Her ability to connect with people and translate her ineffable Rihanna-ness into something consumable comes through best in her Fenty collection. After launching the brand nine months ago in Paris, Rih has released what is surely her best line yet this month. In a moody autumnal palette of olive green, vermilion, denim blue, khaki, and ivory, the collection takes the workwear staples she loves to wear and gives them a dose of Rihanna flair. If perhaps that aesthetic felt a little stiff in earlier drops, the strictness has been let out here, with slouchy army jackets, quilted cargo pants, and asymmetric sweaters emphasizing a more laid-back mood. “This collection is supposed to be very casual and chic but luxurious,” Rihanna says. “It’s one of those really flexible collections that is meant to be easy for everybody.”
Still, her signature corseted denim dress remains, but it’s a little looser in the bodice and in more subdued colors. “What woman doesn’t want to feel corseted and snatched?!” she says of the style. “I know I love that, and so I wanted to do corsetry in a way that felt casual and stylish and not like lingerie. It fell into the world of luxury, but still something that felt like me. Something that felt like I would wear it and something that reflects our demographic as a brand.”
Her brand demographics, just like the people who rallied onto Bergdorf’s first floor to party with the singer, are expansive. (Regarding the party, it might register as the only NYFW event to have both Jack Dorsey and Benny Drama in attendance.) “I love to see that it’s not one-note; it’s not one chick or one style of a girl or a guy walking into my store or going online,” says Rihanna. “It’s everyone. People can find themselves in a piece, and that’s what I want for my customers.”
What her customers want from her—aside from that album—is the ability to slip into something that makes them feel like Rihanna when they look in the mirror or in the self-facing camera on their phones. Thanks to a seasonal pop-up in Bergdorf Goodman, as well as a total site takeover of bg.com, those customers will have more access to the Bad Gal way of life than ever before. Thinking back to the first time she ever visited Bergdorf’s, Rihanna recalls “the overwhelming amount of people coming at me with perfume on paper—as soon as you walk in on the ground floor. Then I remember the price tags, and saying maybe one day I could buy clothes, but today, maybe I’ll just buy perfume. I feel really great to have this full-circle [moment] where I can have my own brand that I created in a space like this that offers such a luxury experience to their customers and now mine, as well.” And who knows, maybe the next time Rihanna hosts a party at Bergdorf Goodman, there could be people passing out pieces of paper with her perfume on it. Wink, wink!