As a Black woman with curves – and proud of it, I might add – the world of high fashion invited me to marvel at its fabulous revelry from afar, but I was not invited to the party…until now.
As of Friday, March 13th, the record-breaking pop star and longtime fashion icon Rihanna has been named the new face of Dior. This is the first time that the renowned French fashion house will feature a Black spokesperson.
The implications of Dior’s decision are numerous. First, Rihanna’s unapologetic personality, versatile style and career path are a drastic departure from other longstanding Dior spokespeople such as Marion Cotillard and Kiera Knightly. By bringing on Rihanna, Dior is making a bold and unmistakably intentional deviation from the demure, ultra-femme mademoiselles that have characterized their brand for so long. To incorporate Rihanna is not to abandon femininity as a whole. Rihanna represents where femininity is going. On the street, her style is often androgynous, effortlessly mixing masculine pieces with traditionally feminine elements such as lingerie, lace or figure hugging separates, all the while maintaining her uniquely compelling sense of style, beauty and sensuality. It’s that “Good Girl Gone Bad” thing we know and love.
Dior’s decision is encouraging. A door has been opened by Rihanna. A Black woman is not only occupying, but also representing a once exclusively Eurocentric space; a respected space within the industry whose opinion regarding what is “beautiful” is highly valued by many.
There arises a question of agency and authorship, however. For one, Rihanna’s selection as spokesperson was an invitation; a carefully calculated and intentional invitation. Still, Black beauty is relying on European affirmation. We [Black people] remain reliant upon the dominant culture to accept us into its approved aesthetic. We should still celebrate the success of our sister, Rihanna, recognizing that it is one step in the right direction.
For a few years, the Council of Fashion Designers of America, or CFDA, has supported a joint campaign documenting the diversity of models featured in fashion shows and promoting the inclusion of more women and men of color on the runway. Progress has been made and statistics for this past Fall/Winter 2015 Season are encouraging. However, there are rumors fluttering about the fashion sphere that model diversity is simply a “trend.” You know, a trend, like acid wash jeans or sneaker wedges, fervent and fleeting. Hopefully, Dior’s decision to appoint Rihanna as a spokesperson and representative of the brand will allow the impact of her image a wider-reaching impact and longevity. After all, a nameless, brown body featured on runway for all of 90 seconds is one thing, but to be a sponsor and ambassador for a major fashion house is something else entirely.
by Julianna Simms