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Articles on this Page
- 02/10/13--09:35: _26 Gorgeous, Sexy A...
- 02/10/13--12:12: _Chloe Sevigny Needs...
- 02/10/13--14:51: _How Many People Doe...
- 02/11/13--08:46: _The Only 10 Outfits...
- 02/11/13--11:30: _Do NOT Throw Anothe...
- 02/12/13--08:00: _The Haunting Beauty...
- 02/12/13--11:52: _Fashion Week Protes...
- 02/13/13--08:50: _Fur Straight Jacket...
- 02/13/13--15:03: _25 Random Things Th...
- 02/14/13--14:23: _7 Strange Trends Fr...
- 02/15/13--07:05: _Nail Art Just Died
- 02/15/13--08:17: _How To Reinvent The...
- 02/15/13--11:27: _How Bored Does Ever...
- 02/15/13--13:33: _Flattering Photo Of...
- 02/19/13--06:16: _Rihanna's Hot Mess ...
- 02/19/13--08:33: _Kate Middleton's Ba...
- 02/19/13--10:53: _Horrible-Looking Ha...
- 02/19/13--12:51: _Justin Bieber Now "...
- 02/20/13--13:17: _Fashion Models Fina...
- 02/20/13--15:29: _What Chris Brown Wi...
- 02/10/13--09:35: 26 Gorgeous, Sexy And Funky Looks From New York's Runways
- 02/10/13--12:12: Chloe Sevigny Needs To Do This More Often
- 02/10/13--14:51: How Many People Does It Take To Model Puffy Coats? 370.
- 02/11/13--08:46: The Only 10 Outfits From The Grammys You Need To Bother Looking At
- 02/11/13--11:30: Do NOT Throw Another Party Until You See This
- 02/12/13--08:00: The Haunting Beauty Of Thom Browne
- 02/13/13--08:50: Fur Straight Jacket Hits The Runway In "Slasher Glam" Show
- 02/13/13--15:03: 25 Random Things That Happened At Fashion Week, According To Vine
- 02/14/13--14:23: 7 Strange Trends From New York Fashion Week
- 02/15/13--07:05: Nail Art Just Died
- 02/15/13--08:17: How To Reinvent The Selfie
- 02/15/13--11:27: How Bored Does Everyone Look By This Topless Model?
- 02/15/13--13:33: Flattering Photo Of Beyoncé Lands On Indie Magazine Cover
- 02/19/13--06:16: Rihanna's Hot Mess Of A Clothing Line Has Hot '90s Ads
- 02/19/13--08:33: Kate Middleton's Baby Bump Is HUGE
- 02/19/13--10:53: Horrible-Looking Hair Is Apparently The New Hotness
- 02/19/13--12:51: Justin Bieber Now "Canadian Idiot"
- 02/20/13--13:17: Fashion Models Finally Earn Money After Pleas For Cash
- 02/20/13--15:29: What Chris Brown Will Cost Rihanna
You could spend hours going through every runway slideshow from fashion week or just scroll through this and take in fall 2013's highlights.
Gurung — whose much celebrated (no, literally) Target line comes out Sunday — showed a military-inflected runway collection with a lot of lovely pieces in olive green. He offered a number of gorgeous red carpet options that will please his fan and friend, stylist Rachel Zoe. My favorites were not the long gowns with cut outs at the rib cages that probably put a more than one person at the show on an immediate juice fast, but the shorter dresses, which were interesting to look at while still being quite pretty.
Image by Brian Ach / Getty Images
Can't you see Mary Crawley in this? Yes, yes you can.
Image by Brian Ach / Getty Images
Image by Brian Ach / Getty Images
Altuzarra is a master of weird sexiness. My favorite looks were the pared down, body-con ones, especially his leather pieces with the slits and sheer inlays. He might be one of the only people who can convince fashion-hungry women the thing they need for fall 2013 is a leather turtleneck.
Image by Arun Nevader / Getty Images
She modeled in the show for her clothing line, which came with live music by “IUD,” signs that said stuff like “goat pussy,” and super awkward model dancing.
If you are still instagraming the shows you risk being out of style faster than a pair of liquid leggings. That's right, it's all about Vine now, because when you Vine something you don't need a dumpy filter over top to camouflage how lousy camera phone photos of fashion shows can get, from the front row or fourth. Also, really, what's the point when everything is posted live to the Times, and Style.com now anyway? Maybe Chloe Sevigny and Opening Ceremony anticipated this pivotal change in how people would share their experiences at fashion shows on, because if there was a show to be Vined, hers was it.
The presentation of Sevigny's fall 2013 Opening Ceremony line, taking place at St. Mark's Church in Manhattan's east village, included bands situated around the perimeter of the room, with models dancing stoned-like on platforms in the center. The bands took turns playing, while other models stood there in front of them, with an expression of slightly more distressed boredom than you encounter on most runways. They also hold signs that said things like "TIME TO HAVE SEX" near other posters that said stuff like "GOAT PUSSY." Was Fox News invited? I sure hope so.
(Chloe is second from the right.)
Because why on earth would you stage another boring old runway show when you could do THIS?
Image by Slaven Vlasic / Getty Images
The labels people seem to get most excited about at fashion week these days are the ones that recognize the event has become much more a marketing opportunity than a trade show for the industry. Moncler is one of those labels that is perfectly comfortable being a little wacky and out there in order to be remembered. Nor do they seem to expect to be remembered just by their clothes (puffy coats, vests, other functional skiwear that I've been told is deliciously warm — if only it was more affordable). So when Moncler is showing at the end of a long Saturday of fashion shows, and the dirty snow is piled up by a foot or more just about everywhere, making getting around without a hired driver (the key to making weather-inappropriate dressing possible at fashion week) kind of a groan, you get off your couch and put on your ugly rubber shoes and leave Bravo and your wine behind because you know Moncler is going to do something that's much more entertaining than a botoxed person slapping another botoxed person in the face.
For the fall 2013 presentation, that meant Moncler hired 370 models to stand in concentric circular steps, raised above an audience that looked up to regard the clothes and the reflection of those clothes beaming down from the mirrored ceiling. Add goggle-like reflective shades to each of those models, and you have a sort of futuristic Daft Punk olive green-hued wonderland, complete with flashing lights set to a remix of the Star Wars theme song.
All this for puffy coats? Well WHY NOT?
(And if you didn't smoke before you went, Moncler had your back with champagne passed around on nice trays by attractive well-dressed servers.)
It was mostly just a bunch of boring, solid-colored dresses. What happened to music people dressing weird?
The Grammys are supposed to bring together a group of people concerned with fashion insofar as it makes them looks weird and gets people talking about them. You know, like everyone who goes to fashion week trying to get their picture taken, elegance always seems beside the point. But at the awards show on Sunday night, not only did elegance seem like a non-concern for most people in attendance (don't even get me started on LL's hat and egg nog–colored jacket), looking truly bizarre also felt like an afterthought. Why? These people are in music — they're supposed to look insane all the time!
So, save yourself another red-carpet slideshow laden with strapless sequin dresses you'll forget faster than Jay-Z makes a hilarious hat joke, and just look at the clothes that actually made an impression.
She wore Azzedine Alaia, a French label favored for its ladylike cuts and which has a fan in Michelle Obama. In fact, this dress might remind you of Michelle Obama's Jason Wu inaugural ball gown — which is why it's a turning point for Rihanna. Since when is Azzedine Alaia sending her multiple custom dress options? Since when is she going for those over strange denim and clown jumpsuits? Where, even, is the sideboob?
It was a surprising, but lovely, look.
Image by Mario Anzuoni / Reuters
This is weird, yes, but BORING weird. But I like that she tried pants for the red carpet, even if she looks like a blasé avant-garde panda.
Image by Mario Anzuoni / Reuters
I'm just glad to see spikes in heavy concentration that, for once, aren't sticking out of a Jeffrey Campbell platform.
Image by Mario Anzuoni / Reuters
It's only the best cat- and fashion-themed party ever.
Rather than throw a traditional fashion week party, where people stand around doing nothing but drinking and wearing impractical footwear, Glamour magazine decided to erect what was quite possibly the most major cat fashion installation ever. The decor included a big black cat on the wall, made of shiny tinsel-y stuff.
The DJ was strategically positioned in front of the God-like cat.
Guests were given cat-eared eye masks.
One of the hot waiters also went around offering people a stamp (the ink kind) that said, "NO BITCHES."
The walls were plastered, collage-style, with images of Karl Lagerfeld's famous cat Choupette, and other famous cat fashion moments.
Behind the bar, a neon sign said MEOW.
After dressing Michelle Obama for the inauguration, the designer put on what is sure to be one of the best — and least safe — shows of New York Fashion Week.
Image by Anna Webber / Getty Images
Three weeks ago Thom Browne became one of America's most famous designers when Michelle Obama went to her husband's inauguration wearing in a checked, A-line coat he custom-made for the occasion. Once that coat dropped, the press swarmed to Browne, who was in Paris working on his fall 2013 men's show and normally doesn't get that level of mainstream attention. Monday night in New York, the enthusiasm for Brown's fall 2013 women's show had reached a peak. I have never seen any Access Hollywood-type press at a Browne show before — or anyone wearing something close to an Herve Leger dress in attendance — but a reporter from E! wearing a tight turquoise dress and platform heels who looked like she just got in from South Beach was there. That E! look is basically the opposite of Browne's signature conservative gray suiting and avant garde runway creations, she perched on the runway after the show telling her audience how hot Browne is right now. His show certainly deserved the praise.
Image by Anna Webber / Getty Images
Guests arrived to the show space in west Chelsea to find blindfolded male models in Browne's shrunken gray suits tethered by red canvas straps to hard white beds, and placed throughout the set, which consisted of fake snow, thickets of bare branches, and red rose bushes. Naturally, this gave everyone something to tweet.
Most people seem more concerned with gossiping about John Galliano. But that could always change when the protests hit London and Paris.
Image by Intern Labor Rights
Despite the horrible weather in New York over the weekend, Occupy Wall Street's Intern Labor Rights group did get out to fashion week, as planned — just like all the impractical ladies running around in leather leggings and six-inch heels post-blizzard. The demonstration was quiet, with protesters handing out dainty "PYi" (stands for, pay your interns) swag bags at the Kenneth Cole show on Thursday night. They were so discreet that Fashionista correspondent Tyler McCall wrote, "Frankly, I was expecting lame pantyhose or maybe chapstick or something when I opened the box." Instead, it included slips of paper bearing the campaign's relevant hashtags, a "PAY YOUR INTERNS" pin and a flyer about why unpaid internships are being protested.
Intern Labor Rights protested over the course of three days in New York. The demonstrations will continue at London Fashion Week, which takes place after New York Fashion Week. In London, materials handed out to show goers will include a letter from Libby Page, who has held seven unpaid fashion internships, according to the Guardian:
"I started doing internships when I was 16," said the 20-year-old from Dorset. "I would often be expected to work for six months for free, but I have never done more than a month because I couldn't afford it. I feel now that if an intern is doing any actual work they should be paid."
Page's letter reads: "Mistreatment of fashion interns is something the industry should be ashamed of, and something we should be talking about. I have heard far too many stories from friends, peers and young people around the country working long hours in poor conditions and being subjected to demeaning treatment in the name of fashion. 'The intern will do that' is not a phrase I want to hear again."
So far at New York Fashion Week, the Intern Labor Rights protests have failed to generate much buzz amongst the industry. Front row conversation seems to be more focused on whether or not disgraced former Dior designer John Galliano will appear on the runway following Oscar de la Renta's show Tuesday evening — not how embarrassed people are that the industry has a reputation for improperly compensating interns.
And then, of course, a lot of people at the shows continue to be wildly preoccupied with their own outfits. Because even an Occupy protest can't outshine the shit show that is street style.
Swag bags at the Kenneth Cole show.
Image by Intern Labor Rights
Give it up for the Blonds, everyone.
Image by Getty Images
Something is sure to scare you at fashion week. If it hasn't been the people gallivanting in front of the street style paparazzi in downright torturous (and tortured) outfits, the Blonds' fall 2013 show might do the trick!
The Blonds, in case you are in the unfortunate position of being unfamiliar with the design team, make intensely sparkly and dangerous-looking bustiers for the likes of Katy Perry, Rihanna and Lady Gaga. (Less significant clients evidently include Carmen Electra, who sat in the front row of the Tuesday show for reasons that are unclear. Also, why was she at the Golden Globes and SAG awards? At least she's keeping busy — stroking one's hair extensions can only count as a hobby for so long.)
At the Blonds, the front row is guaranteed to come with drag queens, bare thighs, and a leotard or two that just doesn't quite fit. "I just saw that guy's balls multiple times," my seat mate said at one point, emphasizing the trouble with leather leotards. We were also treated to someone in horns, a man wearing a giant narcissistic gold tinsel coat who wouldn't sit down or stop shaking his shoulders because he was so enjoying people taking his picture. And truly, we all enjoyed watching him out-ham Carmen.
But even the proud freaks and misfits in the crowd couldn't out-freak the runway show itself, which opened with Birds-inspired looks.
Carbs were ingested! Models…existed! Video selfies are now a Thing! And Instagram is so, so very over.
This girl collapsed in her bed without reading her book.
But who reads during fashion week? I mean really.
People tried to act disinterested in free Maybelline makeup.
But they took it anyway, duh.
Models wearing black loitered at a fancy picnic table.
This must have been one of those presentations that's supposed to feel like "you're just going over to a friend's house."
Ladies that weren't scarily thin modeled in a runway show.
Diverse body types! It's a miracle.
Boxing gloves made of fur, bizarre pants, and even man shawls.
Not everything on a runway should be wearable or normal — otherwise you wouldn't have a fashion show. But each show season several micro-trends pop up that look totally strange. Even stranger is knowing that eventually some of these will catch on. So will you spring for a man shawl or tuxedo-inspired jumpsuit for next fall? Decisions...
Image by Brian Ach / Getty Images
What: A hipster's version of a business suit.
Ideal for: Those who hate picking out a top and bottom but also enjoy layering and pants.
From left: Rachel Comey, Band of Outsiders, Rachel Zoe, and Noon by Noor.
Image by Mike Coppola, Peter Michael Dills/Getty, Frazer Harrison/Getty
What: Gloves for the person who has never heard of those squishy handwarmers you can get for cheap at REI.
Ideal for: The lady who might get into a fistfight when wearing a really nice outfit, anyone who doesn't care if their hands look fat.
From left: Alexander Wang, Altuzarra, Katie Ermilio.
Image by DON EMMERT, Arun Nevader/Getty, Courtesy of Katie Ermilio / Getty Images
FUR COATS WITH YOGA PANTS
What: J. Lo's version of casual.
Ideal for: J. Lo. Also, wealthy people who go to Whole Foods for green juice at 11 a.m.
From left: Michael Kors, Dennis Basso, Betsey Johnson.
Image by Frazer Harrison, Andrew Kelly/Reuters / Getty Images
Blame — or thank, depending on where your sentiments lie — Marc Jacobs.
Thursday night in New York, Marc Jacobs released his fall 2013 collection — America's most important runway show each season — and with it, his brand-new nail polish line. This, Wall Street Journal reporter Elizabeth Holmes Instagramed, is the shade used in the show. It's called "Shiny," which, the nail technician told her, is Marc's favorite color. (Yes, it's just plain nail enamel, but Marc Jacobs is a famous designer, which means he can't make nail polish with such mundane taxonomy.)
See these naked — NAIL ART-LESS — nails?
This can only mean one thing: Marc Jacobs just killed nail art. Because if only one show in New York matters, if only one show has the power to dictate how every other American designer will design their next collections, if only one man has the sheer balls to so forcefully return nails to their natural state — rejecting caviar appliqués, claws, astroturf, printed stickers — it's Marc Jacobs.
Well, it was fun while it lasted!
Image by Karly Domb Sadof / AP
It involves mocking them, basically. Also: VINE!
We're all new to Vine, the app that allows you to create six-second video clips to share on your social network of choice. Fashion people are now completely obsessed with it because it turned out to be a far superior to Instagram in terms of showing followers that you're 1) at a fashion week show, and maybe 2) sitting in a really great seat at said fashion week show. Yet many of us have resisted using Vine for that other thing Instagram became absolutely essential for: selfies.
Meet Holly Resendes, who has been using the #nyfw tag to post funny, ironic self portraits that feel like the perfect reaction to everyone's "LOOK AT ME WEARING MY CLOTHES" attitude these days that was popularized first by personal style blogs and now runs rampants on social media.
Resendes, who makes a line of funky bowties and jewelry, said she did not go to fashion week, but explained, "I follow Man Repeller hardcore. She is my inspiration." Since Resendes didn't think many people were on Vine yet, she sought to "pinoneer a bit of funny fashion."
Only at fashion week, guys.
Image by Keith Bedford / Reuters
Eventually it would come to this: nakedness as fashion. Marc Jacobs, New York Fashion Week's most important designer, sent a model onto his fall 2013 runway wearing nothing but high-waisted hipster bathing suit bottoms, a jauntily knotted belt, elbow-length Downton gloves, Edie Sedgwick eyeliner, and high heels. The crowd got to sit in stadium-style seating that left their facial expressions on full view, and while a lot of them look like they're clearly Instagraming or Vining something, don't they all look just BORED and not even into it at all? There are only two people up there who look like they're grinning (well one possibly all-out laughing).
Image by Keith Bedford / Reuters
Hardly anything excites fashion people these days. Even a naked person.
Fortunately there's the internet to make up for that.
Beyoncé is The Gentlewoman .
Dressed simply in Dior, Beyonce poses in what I'm sure her publicist would describe as a flattering fashion on the cover of The Gentlewoman, a small-distribution and overall excellent fashion magazine.
In other news, her HBO documentary is about to air. I'll bet it reveals about as much about Beyoncé as this cover.
I'm sick of everyone slamming this line — it's exactly the kind of overalls-with-sideboob image Rihanna owns better than anyone.
These are the new campaign images for Rihanna's River Island clothing line.
The campaign stars not Rihanna herself, but models Jourdan Dunn, Charlotte Free, Tao Okamoto, Ataui Deng, and Bambi Northwood Blyth. The ads, like the (alleged) clothes in the line, are '90s-inspired. Critics have called the collection "hideous" and "a wardrobe malfunction waiting to happen" — which is precisely the point. Have they ever seen Rihanna at a music festival wearing cut-offs and smoking her pot? Those photos of her running around New York City with her nipples showing through a lace bra top? Her Instagram feed?
Rihanna, that Grammys Alaia dress excepted, has come to own the hot mess/hipster/'90s/bad denim aesthetic better than anyone famous out there right now. The River Island collection looks like her clothes, which are quite often a wardrobe malfunction waiting to happen, because that's what young girls who shop at River Island and dance drunkenly under laser lights to "Where Have You Been?" want to look like. Rihanna isn't a serious designer or dresser — she throws on a bra or a slitted skirt or miniature romper and some shoes that don't match and goes out the house and gets more attention for it than most celebs ever do for wearing bad outfits. And all the while she's become a poster girl for it being okay for women to flaunt their bodies in skimpy clothes if they damn well feel like it.
So when she comes out with crop tops, dresses that look like they need to be worn with leotards underneath, and multiple styles of braless overalls? You have to admit that for Rihanna x River Island, this looks right.
Plus, the '90s are really happening on the runways right now, which shows how current this line is. And even Marc Jacobs sent a topless girl in hot pants down his runway, so obviously looking naked is a huge trend.
Not in size, duh — just spirit, meaning, etc.
Image by Pool / Reuters
The Duchess of Cambridge went somewhere (Hope House) and did something (...) in London on Tuesday. The important thing is that her baby bump went out of the house!!! And that she wore... a dress!!!
Image by Danny Martindale / Getty Images
Clothes by MaxMara. Baby by Prince William.
Which is GREAT for women who hate doing their hair.
New York's most important designer, Marc Jacobs, put these messy, matted, mullet wigs on his models for his fall 2013 show.
Image by Keith Bedford / Reuters
It is a bold and welcome rejection of:
1. Straightening irons.
2. Salt sprays.
3. Curling irons.
4. Anti-frizz anything.
5. Hair of high-maintenance lengths.
6. The boring wavy hair style that every single woman on TV has.
In London, Simone Rocha also sent models out with anti-news anchor hair.
Image by Eamonn McCormack / Getty Images
Image by Eamonn McCormack / Getty Images
U.S. fashion designers who haven't been paying models for their runway work for years have finally started forking over the dough.
Models in the Proenza Schouler show at New York Fashion Week.
Image by Jemal Countess / Getty Images
Over the past year, high-profile models have made repeated pleas for designers to pay them for walking in their runway shows. Some designers are finally responding, paying models in cash instead of clothes for their fashion week work.
A lot of labels, like Donna Karan, Oscar de la Renta, and Calvin Klein, have always paid models in cash for appearing in their runway shows during New York Fashion Week. But Marc Jacobs, a huge label in the same league, didn't start paying models in cash until last season for his spring 2013 Marc Jacobs and Marc by Marc Jacobs shows, said Sara Ziff, who runs the Model Alliance, an organization that advocates for model rights (but is not an official union). Until then Jacobs had, like many labels, just paid models in trade, or free clothes. Free clothes are nice, especially when they're expensive and beautiful, as many of these designers' are, but they don't pay the bills on their own — and models need that cash to not only cover living expenses, but also to avoid going into debt with their agencies.
Alexander Wang and Rag & Bone also started paying models in cash for the spring 2013 show season, Ziff said. But she said that a few big labels are holding out, including Anna Sui, Proenza Schouler, and Narciso Rodriguez — whose shows are all major highlights on New York Fashion Week's calendar. They're still just offering free clothes.
"If you think about how expensive it is to take out a full page ad in Vogue, which all of those companies do, you'd think they could compensate the models," Ziff said. Reps for Anna Sui, Proenza Schouler, and Narciso Rodriguez did not return requests for comment.
One modeling agent, who could only speak anonymously due to delicate relationships with designers, observed that while labels might be responding positively to models asking for cash instead of clothing for their work, "rates are still much lower than they used to be." In the '80s and '90s, models could book runway exclusives with certain labels, go on to shoot their ad campaigns, and make "massive" amounts of money. Now, even with exclusives, those huge rates aren't guaranteed, and not all labels with the most money pay good rates because they know models would kill to walk in their shows. "Well-off, well-known clients really should pay a lot more even if they have shows that models would kill to walk in," this agent said, noting that some labels, like Michael Kors, are known to pay great rates despite their outsize status as a fashion week must-see.
In addition to the runway show itself, which is usually about two to three hours, the models must go to a fitting at a previous date, which is another half hour, at least. If a model makes only $100 for a show, after taxes and agency commission she'll take home only around $50 to $60, which, depending on her schedule, might not even cover transportation costs to the fitting and show.
One model who has done New York Fashion Week shows told BuzzFeed Shift that $150 is common for "small shows" and $200 to $500 is often paid for bigger shows. There are exceptions — Project Runway paid models $900 for walking its most recent show, this model said. But a label in the realm of Marc Jacobs still might pay just $500 to $800 for doing a show. Ziff understood that Rag & Bone paid their runway models in the hundreds of dollars and offered trade in addition. (Not every model makes the same rate — more in-demand faces can command more.)
Some models who really need the cash will eBay the designer loot they've gotten for free — a time-consuming practice. And even then, the payoff is never equal to retail value of the items sold (if they go to a thrift store, they're likely to make much less). Money from eBayed goods also doesn't come through right away since not everything sells immediately, and the site doesn't make the funds available until after a period of time.
Paying a model in trade is not illegal since they're considered independent contractors. However, many models enter into debt with their agencies when they don't make enough money to cover their start-up costs — which include everything from photo shoots for their portfolios to travel and housing expenses. Agencies may front the money, but even if a model has had a successful runway season, she might not make enough to pay them back.
Ziff's work at the Model Alliance often involves advising models about agency debt. "We've seen plenty of models who are like, $20,000 in debt," she said. "I've seen one case where a model who's actually a pretty established working model was $100,000 in debt to her agency." Some agencies aren't fully transparent about these costs, Ziff said. "It's not just a question of whether or not designers are paying money, there's also the issue of all these fees which are not always explained and that are adding up to debt."
Over the past year, famous models like Doutzen Kroes, Shalom Harlow, and Coco Rocha have all spoken out about the issue of designers not paying for runway modeling. Last year, Ziff, a model herself, met with Vogue and the Council of Fashion Designers of America — which partner on a "health initiative" that arose following widespread concerns about models being unhealthfully thin — to discuss the matter of payment for runway work, among other issues the Model Alliance works on. Ziff is happy that the industry is responding to their pleas and that models have started talking publicly about this problem.
"Just the fact that it's even being reported on I think is significant because the industry is so insular," Ziff said. "Considering how resistant the industry is to change, I think it's a pretty big step."
A model backstage at the Anna Sui show.
Image by John Minchillo / AP
If she doesn't start better managing the negative publicity surrounding her relationship with Brown, she could lose out on a lot of money.
Rihanna arrives at the 55th annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013, in Los Angeles.
Image by Jordan Strauss / AP
A collaboration that's been rumored for months between Rihanna and MAC makeup has just been confirmed. The deal — including the rollout of four cosmetics collections over the next year, expected to bring in $15 million at retail — raises an inevitable question. Is there a downside to aligning with a scandalous star like Rihanna, and how do brands reconcile using her as a strong female spokesperson in the midst of her ongoing romantic ties to Chris Brown, the man who assaulted her?
This is how MAC's president John Demsey responded in Women's Wear Daily:
Seemingly everything Rihanna does makes news on an almost-daily basis — including her on-again, off-again relationship with Brown, her allegedly abusive boyfriend. When asked if that coverage was a potential downside for MAC, Demsey didn't skip a beat.
"She's a grown woman, and whatever makes her happy makes us happy. Life's complicated. Far be it for us to judge," he said.
"Whatever makes her happy makes us happy" seems like a frankly gross way to view a 25-year-old pop star's reunion with her physically abusive ex, whose recent achievements amount to getting a battered woman's face tattooed to his neck. Perhaps MAC can afford to be cavalier: The company is marketing to a group of young women who are less likely to care about the seemingly imprudent choices Rihanna makes. But not all brands willing to pay millions for celebrity spokespeople are also willing to overlook a star's personal life. Experts agree that eventually, Rihanna is going to have to better manage the negative publicity she generates if she wants to keep landing lucrative endorsement deals as her career progresses. Because right now, her approval rating is at an all-time low.
And MAC isn't betting on Rihanna's future. The yearlong MAC partnership makes sense because the company is only going after short-term gains, said Jo Piazza, author of Celebrity Inc.: How Famous People Make Money. "If brands are thinking about long-term gains, they want a celebrity who's stable, who reaches the widest audience possible, and who doesn't just appeal to the coast, but who appeals to the mom and the housewife in Middle America, because that's the person who's buying these cosmetics," she said. Think Natalie Portman shilling Dior perfume. But MAC has smartly realized that brand loyalty is harder to come by in today's marketplace, instead opting to sign edgier stars like Rihanna and Lil' Kim, who appeal to 20-year-olds.
"I would never sign Rihanna for a brand that did not have that kind of edge to it because I think it completely turns off consumers who are a little more settled, a littler more stable. I think she turns off the entire over 30 market, but since MAC is trying to galvanize this younger audience she's very intriguing to them," Piazza said. "Despite the fact that her relationship with Chris Brown is a turn-off, to millennials it's not." For evidence of this, just review all those tweets by young women who said they'd let Chris Brown beat them.
"I think for any consumer over the age of 25, your jaw drops, but this 15- to 25-year-old consumer is going to think, 'I'm intrigued by Rihanna, I'm intrigued by Chris Brown, I do appreciate her being a spokesperson for this company,'" Piazza said.
Rihanna also recently signed a deal to do a clothing line with British chain River Island. Though widely panned at fashion week, the line is likely to gain short-term traction with a young consumer in a similar way. The main problem with Rihanna — and why she's not likely to forge any long-term endorsement deals any time soon — is that she's "not relatable," Piazza said. She's fun to follow as an edgy fashion icon but to breed brand loyalty, "you want someone who seems like you," she continued. "She doesn't seem like anyone because she's so far out there." Kate Winslet, who endorses Lancome, for instance, is much more relatable.
Brown has proved to be a big liability in terms of Rihanna's public approval rating, as measured by her Q Score. The Q Scores company measures both a celebrity's level of recognition and her appeal in the marketplace; companies looking to partner with celebrities rely on Q Scores to figure out who would be best suited to endorse their brand. Q Scores has been tracking Rihanna since 2006. Since then, the percentage of the population who knows who she is has risen from 30% to 80%. But the percentage of people who know who Rihanna is and say she's one of their favorite personalities is only at 13%, said Q Scores spokesman Henry Schafer.
The average celebrity today is known by 30% of the population and is a favorite among 16% of those people. The average female musical performer has a 54% awareness score, and a 14 Q Score. While the public's awareness of Rihanna is well above average, her Q Score is now below average — a cautionary sign for brands of her softening consumer appeal.
According to Q Scores' data on Rihanna, her appeal peaked in early 2009 with a 29% Q Score. The Grammys she missed due to the Chris Brown assault took place in February of that year. Over the second half of 2009, Rihanna's Q Score dropped to 22 and eventually landed at where it is now. Compare her to the far more stable Dior face Natalie Portman, whose awareness is at 57% with an Q Score of 18.
Unsurprisingly faring worse than Rihanna is Brown, who Q Scores has been tracking since 2007. His awareness is currently at 66%, but his Q Score is only at 11. (The average awareness level for a male musical performer is 46%, with a 16 Q Score.) Like Rihanna, Brown's Q Score peaked in 2009 and then started falling to where it is now.
"They're both being affected by their relationship regardless of their professional careers," Schafer said. Numbers like theirs are "usually an indicator that they're not addressing their issues publicly properly, and creating a negative perspective with consumers."
Amongst women aged 18 to 34 — the market for her makeup and clothing lines — Rihanna's numbers are better, with 86% awareness and a 14% (or average) Q Score. But that's fallen from the 29% Q Score she hit with that demographic in 2009.
"I would say it's like a cautionary outlook on her consumer appeal right now," Schafer said. "She's very visible, no doubt — she's virtually 80% awareness across demographics, so it's just a matter of resurrecting her appeal."
Piazza thinks Rihanna could salvage her appeal by steering her career in the direction of Madonna's. Madonna is the rare star who's been able to successfully reinvent herself with each scandal — but the difference between Rihanna and Madonna is that Madonna is controlling and manufacturing her scandals. "Rihanna's playing a little too fast and loose with her brand right now," said Piazza. So that bad-girl image, captivating though it may be, "is not necessarily a good business model."
Rihanna's first MAC line.