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The Styling Secrets of Rihanna’s Vanity Fair Cover Shoot in Cuba

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Vanity Fair fashion and style director Jessica Diehl has dressed many of the biggest stars in the world, playing a critical role in creating some of the most famous images of Caitlyn Jenner, Jennifer Lawrence (and a very-well-behaved snake), Taylor Swift, and others. The secret to her success is that she knows how to dress women in the particular breed of glamour that makes them feel most like themselves.


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Still, styling a woman who is as esteemed as Rihanna for her fashion prowess—and in Cuba, mere weeks after the U.S. lifted travel restrictions to the island, no less—is no small task. Diehl spoke to VF.com about how she made Rihanna “Rihanna” for her first Vanity Fair cover shoot, plus tells us the secret to styling a nude.

VF.com: What was the process for pulling together the cover spread? Did you decide to shoot Rihanna, then decide on Cuba?

Jessica Diehl: It all sort of happened at the same time. . . . The minute it was decided that Rihanna would be on our cover, travel restrictions were lifted, so we went straight away. It was sort of a no-brainer.

VF.com: What is the process like styling a shoot for someone who’s so renowned for their sense of style? Is it intimidating, or is it empowering, in a way?

I think whenever you style someone who is known for their style, or their style risks, it’s not so much that it’s intimidating—it’s more that you want to take that into account. Let’s put it this way: if we’re doing a fashion shoot with Rihanna, I probably would have picked different clothes. But it being a Vanity Fair shoot, it becomes very much about making Rihanna “Rihanna” in a way that doesn’t feel pinpoint-able or date-able. So that you don’t look at it and go, Oh, I remember that season, or that trend. It’s much more about Rihanna. The clothes are kind of the supporting actors to the star.

What was the process, then, of creating “Rihanna”?

It’s a combination: you have Rihanna, then you have Cuba, then you have [photographer] Annie [Leibovitz] who loves Cuba, and has photographed lots of things there. It’s taking into account the coloring, and the mood, and the sort of patina of the places and houses and music venues and things like that. It became about what would be, in our imaginary world, believable, because it didn’t feel completely right to go 4,000 percent over the top—we wanted to be part of Cuba, we didn’t want to be outside of Cuba. The clothes . . . felt like something Rihanna would take off the rack herself, like something we could send her out into the street with. If she had been in any way constrained or posing or feeling artificial, none of what we did would have worked, really.

And how collaborative was the effort to find that clothing?

There were conversations with her team about what the feeling and the mood were going to be. And it’s always so very difficult to talk about clothes over the phone; it’s difficult even sometimes to share pictures of clothes, because you don’t know how to judge them because they’re on a model, and you don’t know the fabrication and so on and so forth. We had a lot of conversations about where Rihanna is—or was, at that moment. But it’s very difficult to put into words the creative conversation, because I think if anyone actually listened to it they would all think we’re crazy. So we had several creative conversations about color and feeling and the idea of it somehow seeming effortless. It’s clearly not a fashion show; it’s simply Rihanna in Cuba.

How did you develop the mix of designers, which includes Ralph Lauren, Dior, and Valentino, but also, for example, the lesser-known designer Carine Gilson?

Carine Gilson is probably one of the most talented lingerie designers—she’s Belgian—who uses incredible, incredible Belgian lace and silks, and her colors are amazing. Because Cuba was about color, the red that she had, bizarrely, was the exact red of this kind of bar in some hidden corner in Havana. There was really no other way than to shoot it. And Rihanna is not someone who’s a slave to designer brands. She’ll go and put on whatever she likes. Whether that’s Dior or a smaller brand, she knows good fashion, and takes risks and tries out different designers and has fun with it.

Did you see the Dior trench and panties look and look on the runway and think: Rihanna? Or was it only when you were pulling things for the shoot that it came to you?

It was really putting together the shoot. But that picture, specifically, is very much her mega-star status on display: she’s still very irreverent, and she does things her own way. I don’t think that look is necessarily what you think of when you think of Dior. And much like Rihanna herself, it’s just good, so it works in all kinds of different ways. And that’s kind of how she is. She can put on, I don’t know, a sneaker, and make that a whole different thing somehow. I don’t know how she does it.

How did you land on the leopard Manolo Blahnik mules for the nude photo?

There’s something about Manolo Blahnik shoes that whatever the trend is, was, will be, they’re kind of the epitome of a feminine, beautiful, and alluring kind of shoe. And there’s something about leopard print, when done right, that’s just very evocative of a tiny bit of danger. And it felt not as oppressive as a pump. You can believe that Rihanna would be in a mule and would plop herself down on a bed in the most alluring kind of fashion, whereas if you have a pump on, that would be kind of posed and contrived. And a Manolo is so timeless, and in those kinds of images that Annie does, you want to look at it in another 15 years, and you don’t want people to think, Oh, remember when platforms were happening?

Can you tell us about “styling” a nude shoot?

It’s always very funny to me when it says “styling by!” This was a vision that Annie wanted to make happen because there’s a purity. And you know when it comes to styling a nude, you just have to practice restraint. That’s really what it’s about: restraint, and not wanting to put any kind of stamp on it. That I got to put a shoe on I’m very happy about—and that I restrained myself from junking it up with jewelry. That would have also been beautiful, but it would have been a very different picture.

The colors in the cover image have great harmony—was it a big effort to bring all of those blues together?

We’d gone so far and done a red on red, but we loved the sort of turquoise-y color of the little jumpsuit—which is actually a Valentino couture underpinning that had a very, very beautiful tulle long skirt over it. But we wanted to see some Rihanna skin and legs and tone and all that.

But it was one of those rare moments where there was no prior agenda. It was everybody looking at the locations, looking at her, looking at the light, looking at the people, and thinking, This could work. And it had to be something that she felt comfortable in: what you don’t see in the cover is that there are hundreds of people around. Hundreds. . . . It was quite intimidating and shocking, the amount of fan crowds she draws. She needed to be in something that she could be 360 degrees of Rihanna, from all angles, because everybody had a smart phone. Then we just found a place where that worked, but it certainly wasn’t something that was conceived around the outfit.

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Rihanna named The Biggest Celebrity Fashion Influencer of 2017

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If there’s one celebrity who can literally pull off practically any look and constantly serves as a source of fashion inspiration for many, it’s definitely Rihanna! Therefore it came as no surprise when Rihanna was named the most powerful celebrity fashion influencer in Lyst’s 2017 Year in Fashion report.

According to the report, Rihanna helped spike searches for various designers like Puma, Off-White, Gucci and Molly Goddard, the designer behind those princess-inspired tulle dresses we’ve seen Rihanna wear both on and off the red carpet.

For the annual report Lyst  tracked more than 100 million searches; crunching the queries, page views and sales data across 5 million fashion products from 12,000 designers and stores. From Gucci to gingham, sneakers to sequins, Lyst’s data reveals what you wanted to wear in 2017.

If Rihanna Wore It, You Wanted It

All Hail Queen Ri, the most powerful celebrity fashion influencer of the year. These ten famous faces drove millions of searches for specific products and designers this year, selling out items in seconds around the world. To name and rank the most influential celebrities in fashion, we monitored the spikes in demand created by 50 global superstars during the course of 2017, by looking at search and sales response to some of their most talked-about outfits.

Rihanna also topped the list of Most Searched for Insta-hits of the year with her Gucci Logo T-shirt…

phresh out.

A post shared by badgalriri (@badgalriri) on

and The Most Searched Sneakers with FentyxPuma Bow sneakers!

The singer turned beauty mogul, fashion entrepreneur and creative director of Puma is known for always wearing the most statement designer pieces before anyone else (from those tasselled Saint Laurent boots to that Burberry cap) – and it seems that her fashion pull has only gone from strength to strength in 2017.

The Lyst report stated that Rihanna sent searches “soaring” for Puma, Off-White, Molly Goddard, Gucci and Raen.

 

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Rihanna Wants to Know if You’ve been “Thottie or Nice” with new Holiday Fenty for Stance Collection

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Perfect for the upcoming holidays, Rihanna and Stance announce their holiday collection of the Fenty for Stance by Rihanna line. For her latest offering, Rihanna gifts us with a curated mix of holiday kitsch, everyday ‘Fenty’ staples, along with a special “present” to her loyal Navy.

This collection marks the brand’s contributing creative director, designer, and Punk and Poet brand ambassador’s 9th drop with Stance.

The Fenty for Stance by Rihanna collection takes on a rich, wintery color palette with an eclectic mixture of preppy, grade school classics fused with festive notes of traditional holiday aesthetics. The Fenty Prep sock is made on Stance’s Anklet Roll Cuff construction in colors burgundy, cream, and navy and adorns a Fenty logo on the cuff of a ribbed knit base. Perfect for colder weather, the line offers two over-the-knee styles: the Pure Platinum, a shimmery hosiery sock with athletic striping detail and the Fur Fatale, Rihanna’s take on a familiar gym class aesthetic with white fur striping in black and red. For those pondering if they made Rihanna’s list this year, tap the Thottie or Nice, a 200-needle crew sock with athletic striping in colors wine and cream. Lastly, Rihanna is offering a gift specifically for her fans, the Saucy, taking on her stick figure, fan made “Rhenna” illustration, seen grasping a glass of red wine on Stance’s tomboy lite construction.

Rihanna’s Fenty for Stance holiday collection retails for $14-$24 and will be available November 7th at stance.com, Stance Flagship store in Soho, New York. For more information on new Stance releases, visit stance.com and follow Stance’s Instagram.

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Fashion

Rihanna covers Vogue Arabia

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Rihanna Vogue Arabia

Inspired by Queen Nefertiti, Rihanna is Vogue Arabia’s November cover star.

Rihanna Vogue Arabia

Last week, Vogue Arabia shared a 10-second-clip on Instagram, in which Rihanna faced off with the infamous bust of Egyptian Queen Nefertiti. “Thousands of years apart, two iconic women will finally meet in the pages of Vogue Arabia,” read the caption. The clip quickly went viral. Today, the Vogue Arabia Arabic and English covers for the hotly-anticipated November issue have been revealed, and are already spreading rapidly.

Lensed by renowned photographer Greg Kadel (who also photographed Halima Aden for Vogue Arabia’s June issue), the superstar singer appears on the cover wearing Gucci paired with a custom Faeth Millinery-designed headpiece in a stylish homage to Queen Nefertiti.

“We are dedicating the issue to strong and dynamic women who are changing the world,” begins Vogue Arabia Editor-in-Chief Manuel Arnaut in the editor’s letter. “Rihanna, our cover star, is one of them. Not only is she one of the most successful pop icons ever, shaping the entertainment industry with her powerful tunes and unique sense of style, she is also an advocate for diversity.”

Indeed, for fashion’s biggest rule-breaker, inclusivity is crucial to her brand. The popstar unveiled a line of cosmetics, Fenty Beauty, last month that featured a range of fine-tuned foundations, highlighters, blushers, and a lip gloss that worked for each and every skin tone. “I don’t want women to say, ‘That’s cute, but it only looks good on her,’” Rihanna noted during the time of the launch. Her campaign featured hijab-wearing model Halima Aden as well as Duckie Thot.

Echoing the words of Arnaut, how exactly does one portray in a fresh way one of the most photographed women in the world? “Celebrity stylist Anya Ziourova had the answer, and during one of our many Skype meetings, she revealed that the pop star has a real adoration for Queen Nefertiti, and has her iconic bust tattooed on her ribcage,” he says.

Rihanna Vogue Arabia

The singer’s reverence for the legendary Queen is unsurprising. Ruling in Ancient Egypt next to her husband Pharaoh Akhenaten almost 3,500 years ago, Nefertiti still reigns as one of the most beloved figures from the Middle East. Known for her unmatched beauty — Nefertiti means “the beautiful one has come” — the Ancient Egyptian queen, who had a very active role in the country’s political sphere, is the picture of women’s empowerment.

 

Rihanna Vogue Arabia

Rihanna follows the other ground-breaking women to appear on the cover of Vogue Arabia, including Gigi Hadid, Halima Aden, Bella Hadid, and October’s special issue featuring four iconic Arab models: Afef Jnifen, Farida Khelfa, Kenza Fourati, and Hanaa Ben Abdesslem.

See the full shoot in the November issue of Vogue Arabia, on sale November 1st.

#VOGUE queen. 👑

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