Last week the news broke that one of the world’s biggest popstars is to design a line for a UK high street chain, as Rihanna signed to produce a capsule collection for River Island.
I’m normally pretty sceptical about these kind of deals, where someone who previously demonstrated no more interest in fashion than wearing clothes suddenly wants to muck about with mood boards (tennis player Serena Williams setting up her own brand Aneres is a particular favourite of mine), but on this occasion it might actually work.
For starters, there’s no doubt Rihanna is a huge global star – she’s just controversial enough to be interesting, but not so scandalous she turns people off, while her look is current and revered – so she will be an ideal partner for River Island to hook up with to build its profile in territories in which it’s not that well known. Online, the brand now ships to more than 100 countries and, with someone of RiRi’s profile in the River Island corner, it will make it a lot easier to get penetration in those markets.
She will also undoubtedly get shoppers through the door, initially with an H&M-style frenzy when it first drops, and then in a steady stream as the brand and the rest of the collection assumes some of Rihanna’s coolness by association. This effect should have more longevity than the designer collaborations give H&M, as Rihanna will stick in customers’ minds far more than, say, Viktor & Rolf.
Furthermore, the collection will sit nicely with River’s wider strategy, providing an interesting segue between the own-brand mainline and the branded product it started stocking in May. This link-up won’t have come without significant cost to River Island but, provided it gets the product right, the return on investment should prove positive. And, whether or not you like the idea of someone swooping in to rustle up a few sketches without training, you can’t deny it’s already showing signs it’ll go platinum.