BY CLAUDIA RUPNIK

“Savage is not about looking sexy, it’s not about the product—it’s all about you,” Rihanna mused, as the world caught its first glimpse of her eponymous lingerie line, Savage x Fenty.

The highly anticipated collection made its public debut during New York Fashion Week through a performance reminiscent of a twenty-first century Garden of Eden. Models performed on a stage decorated by lush greenery and expansive geometric props interspersed with shelves of lab equipment. Savage x Fenty entered the public scope as a work of art in its own right while displaying an alternative set of diversity standards and body positivity for the fashion industry. 

As a line of lingerie that celebrates a wider array of bodies, the Savage x Fenty show reiterated the brand’s core values by depicting the female body as strong, capable and startlingly alive. The presentation stands in stark contrast to the annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, which sees the brand’s lingerie modelled by a team of “Angels” that depict beauty exclusively as being tall and slender. Savage x Fenty expanded the standard definition of beauty through its bold representation of the female body. The stage was dominated by women of all proportions and ethnicities: there were slender bodies, full bodies, tall bodies, short bodies, and pregnant bodiesーmodel Slick Woods even went into labour that same night.

In a critical nuance of her message of diversity and body positivity, Rihanna still incorporated a major cornerstone of standard runway shows—supermodels. Savage x Fenty hired Gigi and Bella Hadid and Joan Smalls, to provide the classic runway walk amongst the other less conventional performers. The result was a compelling demonstration that traditional beauty ideals do still exist in the diverse realm in which we live, but as just one part of it. 

The choice of movement throughout the performance saw another ideological achievement: the opulent dancing, the decadent refrain of laughter and the near constant physical contact between models reclaimed the playfulness and loyalty associated with femininity without slipping into the realms of naivety and girlhood. The models depicted powerful, sexual women that dared to support each other with tenderness andstrength. 

With Savage x Fenty, Rihanna is meeting an unaddressed demand for lingerie that flatters the wide range of bodies that make up the female population. The brand’s fresh perspective is shaking up the industry through the demonstration of diversity ideals that established fashion houses hesitate to address season after season. Her entrance into the economically powerful business of fashion signifies a challenge to what has previously been the uncontested and authoritative aristocracy of the traditional fashion industry. 

The final scene of the exhibition shows the models, women of all shapes, sizes, and ethnicities, clasping hands in a line across the stage. It was a visual representation of the unity, empowerment, and savagery that is going to push the fashion industry to align itself with the diverse array of bodies that are demanding recognition across the globe.

Claudia Rupnik is MUSE’s fashion editor for the print edition.