THE THREE SINGERS MAKING FASHION A VEHICLE FOR EMPOWERMENT

Manuela Rio Tinto explores how Beyoncé, Rihanna, and Lauryn Hill are using collaborations with fashion brands to push feminism, equality, and empowerment.

Far from being something new, collaborations between fashion and music have always been quite popular. Past years have seen countless big names merging together their talents, coming up with some of the most desired collections for their customers and fans. The newness about current collabs is that they are going beyond profits and fame and actually sending a positive message to women, as their main customers.

These two major entertainment industries – wait, is fashion even considered entertainment? It depends on how we look at it, but if we think about major catwalk shows, exhibitions and movies revolving around the theme, we can definitely agree that it is. Associate it with names such as Beyoncé, Rihanna, and Lauryn Hill, just to name a few, and the results could not be anything less than sold out collections.

Queen B has been a fashion and music icon for a long time now, and her outfits both on stage and outside are always one of the most talked about topics. This is particularly true whenever she is starting a new world tour, such as her current On The Run Tour II. She did not disappoint. She wore brands like Gucci and Balmain, going from a sparkling tulle dress to a sexy leopard body and over-the-knee boots.

Beyoncé and Olivier Rousteing, Balmain’s creative director, have been working together since her Formation World Tour in 2016 when she appeared in a so-Balmain white bodysuit made in lace and embellished with pearls, stones, and silk ruffles. DSquared2, Roberto Cavalli and Gucci were also responsible for her jaw-dropping outfits.

However, for her presentation in Coachella this year she teamed up exclusively with Balmain to come up with her now-infamous looks. Being the first black woman to headline the festival, we could not expect less than a stunning array of costumes carrying a strong message of feminism and black culture’s empowerment. That is what she has been doing since the beginning of her career and it may be one of the reasons she is called Queen B.

This very successful partnership between her and Balmain resulted in a three-piece collection released last July in the brand’s flagship in Paris and being sold also in the brand’s website. Besides the iconic yellow and pink sweatshirts she wore on stage, there is also a black shirt with the same motif, prices varying between £225 and £650.

What makes this collection so appealing and historically important? The clothes and embellished motifs were inspired by the marching uniforms of America’s historically black colleges and universities – maybe that is why it is so relatable to Beyoncé’s legion of fans. The message is clear: if she managed to achieve everything she wanted, anyone can. Besides this, all the income is going to the United Negro College Fund together with a $100,000 donation from her to four historically black colleges.

Another powerful and fashionable singer that has been flirting with fashion for a long time is Rihanna – from working with River Island to becoming the first black spokesperson for Dior, to being announced the creative director of Puma and to launching Fenty Beauty. Fenty Beauty arrived almost one year ago, aiming to be an inclusive makeup line for women from all skin tones and types, and has become a huge success, selling all over the world in prestigious department stores.

From Fenty Beauty Rihanna decided to take a step further and launch this year Savage x Fenty, her first lingerie collection. As you can expect, there is also a body positivity and female empowerment message behind her new fashion venture. The size range goes from XS to 3XL and the nude variation colours come in different shades to match a wider range of skin tones. From basics and everyday essentials to sexy bodysuits and corsets, there is something for every style. The price range goes from £16 for a microfiber thong to £109 for a floral lace catsuit.

If you are in a kinky and edgy mood there is also the Xccessories collection with leather and satin pasties, whips, fluffy handcuffs and lacy garters. It is all about women’s pleasure. “I can only hope to encourage confidence and strength by showing lingerie in another light. You can take risks with lingerie. I want women to own their beauty,” said Riri.

Equally as powerful and revolutionary as Beyoncé and Rihanna, singer Lauryn Hill celebrates the 20th anniversary of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill this year, an album that has changed music’s history and continues to be relevant up until today. Her songs helped to break barriers for a young generation of black music, inspiring women to be proud of themselves and chase their goals.

She is still a reference for rap and R&B music even after all these years without recording a new album. As surprising as it might be, Lauryn Hill has never collaborated with a fashion brand until this year. She is launching an AW18 collection in partnership with Woolrich, an American heritage outerwear brand.

‘Woolrich: American Soul since 1830’ is a series of capsule collections celebrating creators versus creations, and who better than Ms. Hill to kick off this campaign? Her strong and fashionable style is engraved on some on the brand’s classic items, such as the Arctic Parka and the Silverton Coat, giving them a modern twist.

She also stars in the fashion campaign, which pays homage to her iconic album. She was shot in the streets of Harlem, the same place where she produced the video of her single ‘’Doo Wop”. She then makes her way to Apollo Theater where she performs “Ex-Factor” wearing her new designs.      All three powerful and visionary singers have been encouraging women to step up, to empower themselves – to be feminists and be proud of it. Their fashion collaborations are way beyond just making money, they are about making a difference, making a positive and remarkable impact on people’s lives.

What better way to do that than combining two of the most powerful industries in the world, two of the most important means of communication and self-expression? As Olivier Rousteing said: “When music and fashion meet each other, it becomes a strong world together. An entire nation.” Could anyone say the opposite?

You can see more of Manuela’s work on yourthinkingcap.wordpress.com.

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