Written by Laura Roscioli
Photographed by JP Kim
An embodiment of diversity, inclusivity, change and positivity — all under the umbrella of entertainment and fashion.
“Skin… Touch… Feel…” were the words that introduced Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty Vol. 2 fashion show which aired on Amazon Prime earlier this month. In the midst of a global pandemic, when touching and breathing on each other is forbidden, the hour-long virtual show was a feast.
Not only oozing with sass, it showcased a measure of diversity that has never before been seen in a fashion show. I was instantly lured into a futuristic, techno heavy, fast-paced world of colour and movement. Beautiful bodies contrasted each other as they walked and danced with a certain I-am-who-I-am-come-and-get-it fierceness.
Rather than a white-washed runway of token body types winking and blowing kisses, there was body rolls, ass slapping, twerking, warped mirrors and body movements that made me feel connected as a viewer. A sensory experience that featured a multitude of body types, gender identities, ages and skin tones.
New Zealand’s very own choreographer, Parris Goebel, was behind some of the most epic moments of the show including the ‘Garden Scene’ which embodied ideas of beauty, love and pain in a raw, vulnerable and startling way.
This was her third time working with the Savage show and, this year, the show featured nine amazing dancers of Māori and Pasifika descent. “People all over the world, like myself, have been waiting to see themselves represented and celebrated in the fashion world.” Parris said. And here they are.
Rihanna’s previous Savage x Fenty show was immediately compared to the now-cancelled Victoria’s Secret annual fashion show. The reasons for the comparison are fairly obvious; fashion shows that centre around a lingerie collection that features celebrities, iconic musical performances and aimed at consumers. Beyond these, the similarities cease to exist and thank god for that.
Known for a certain ‘fantasy’, Victoria’s Secret told an unrealistic and, frankly, unhealthy fantasy that wasn’t inclusive or aspirational. In late 2018, their chief marketing officer Ed Razek stated that trans and plus-size women do not exemplify the ‘fantasy’ that Victoria’s Secret was trying to sell. The show was cancelled shortly after.
Usually not an advocate for comparison, in this case, I think it’s important. It symbolises our society’s current evolution, undeniably upward trajectory of body positivity and acceptance of diversity. Not only does it show up the industry’s flawed concept of luxury but it gives us a vision of what fashion shows and fashion weeks could look like in the moving forward. Rihanna’s paving the way with her vision and the Savage x Fenty Vol. 2 show was a window into the future.
Another question this year has focused around the future of the fashion week’s structure and how shows work in real life vs. digital. The whole magic of a fashion show is said to be in the feeling, the atmosphere that is created; a look into the imagination of the designer.
Rhinna fed Savage x Fenty to us in a virtual format showing that it’s possible to create an experience that inspires through a digital platform. However, perhaps the bigger question for the future should not be around the format but the content. The fashion and entertainment industries are not considered progressive for their inclusivity, diversity nor positive messaging, even though they have been informed by politics, society and culture since, well, forever.
To witness someone, who has as much global reach and influence as Rihanna, placing importance on our evolving society and the things we care about so loudly, it feels as though we have a chance to create some real change.
Do yourself a favour and watch.