There are many new and old complexities in the fashion industry. It seems that the industry is becoming more common nowadays for people to embrace who they are. This factor is more apparent in the way companies are marketing themselves and coming to be more inclusive. In parallel with the embrace of different cultures, body types, etc. people are trying to find who they are in the midst of all the madness. It is important that we reflect on the fact that no matter how much money or fame a person has, they are still human. They have feelings, traumas and more likely, a luggage full of emotional baggage. Keeping this in mind we can bring light to creators such as the director of Balmain, Olivier Rousteing. Being one of the biggest names in fashion, Rousteing started his career with Balmain when he was 25 years old. With all of the success and fame, he still had questions revolving around his identity and knowing who he truly was. Being adopted at the age of one, he never truly knew who his birth parents were. In his later years at the age 31, he wanted to be apart of a documentary about his life. Rousteing then tried to find his birth mother, and he discovered that she was Black. This tells us it’s never too late for self-discovery no matter the level of success or age.
Before his great stardom, Rousteing was a French student. He studied at Ecole Supérieure des Arts et Techniques de la Mode (EMOD) in Paris and graduated in 2003. After graduation, he started working for Robert Cavalli. Earning the position of creative director in 2011, at 25 years old, Rousteing became one of the youngest creative directors in the fashion industry. Rousteing has put Balmain on the map as an iconic brand with stars such as Kylie Jenner endorsing his work. In 2018, for Beyonce’s Coachella performance, Balmain was the powerhouse behind the majority of outfits that today are copied and even put in current museums. Behind all of the success and dressing stars, there are still people out there trying to discover themselves.
The documentary is titled “Wonder Boy.” “With Olivier, we wanted to tell the story of someone looking for their origins because we believe it’s very important to know who you are to know where you’re going,” said film director, Anissa Bonnefont at the premiere. “He had an insane amount of courage to accept being filmed during his search. I believe it will help others. It’s a topic that goes beyond us.”
Emotionally, it takes a lot for a person to search for their birth parents– to do so in front of the world can even be harder. One might not know how to handle what they discover, and, in this case, Balmain personally discovered his true race which was the opposite of what he’s been telling himself for years. Mentally that is very tough to handle. Your thoughts about yourself have been not necessarily a lie but not true either. “It’s a strange moment in my life. Usually, a documentary happens when you’re 80 or 90, or when you’re actually dead,” Rousteing told the audience. “But it’s more than a biopic, it’s a story to which we didn’t know the end.” The documentary explores the journey of one person with an issue that speaks to many.
For the fashion industry, this means that there is another African American in the lead roles, behind the scenes and putting clothing on your favorite models. The lack of diversity in fashion has been extremely rare up until recent years. Rousteing was under the impression that he was mixed with a variety of races due to his lack of knowledge of his parents, and his light skin tone. However, being fully Black in this industry is another hurdle and can come off as a completely different variety of situations and stigmas than the other different issues people deal with being of mixed races. This changes the conversations that people have regarding the creative diversity in fashion. For example, in 2018 when Virgil became the creative director for Louis Vuitton, the news spread like a wildfire. Instagram and Twitter were flooded with posts that ranged from “History has been made. One of the first black leaders of a high-end brand” to “This is inspiring, now any young Black boy can make history just like this.” Now I am left to ponder whether or not this changed people’s sentiments when it comes to those higher-paid roles in fashion. Of course, it may not change the history of what happened with Louis Vuitton, though, in essence, it does change the narrative of who is inside of the powerhouses.
There has been this dynamic change in fashion in such a short period of time from all aspects. The glitter and glamour are still present, yet there is a transparency that has never been seen before but is starting to surface now. In this documentary, you see behind the scenes of the fashion industry. Even better in the personal life of those creative leaders you know and admire. You can log onto Instagram and see Olivier walking down the catwalk; but when sitting looking at this screen, you see a man that’s alone. Not quite lonely, but sitting at a bare table, no longer surrounded by stars — there’s no glamour. It is still the same industry you know and love, but the much more relatable side. The other side, the life that we can all say we’ve experienced before. The searching for our identity, a night alone after we’ve had the time of our lives out, the unknown; these are all things we’ve seen in ourselves and others.
When it comes to fashion, beauty and overall bad-assness, there is one person who we all admire: Rihanna Fenty. The Barbadian icon has paved the way for women and people of color in almost every industry. She has transformed her enormous popularity from her music career into a billion-dollar empire. Newly labeled “the richest woman in music” surpassing long reigning champs Madonna and Celine Dion, Rihanna has become a powerhouse we’ve never seen, showing the true power of what Black-owned brands bring to the table.
Known for her outlandish outfits, Rihanna has given birth to phrases such as, “it’s not cute until Rihanna wears it,” or “Rihanna can wear anything.” With such a big hype to live up to and such a notable reputation it was only the smartest move to drop a fashion brand. Leave it up to the mega star to create not only fashion but luxury clothing. Rihanna is now the owner of her very own 600-million-dollar fashion brand. Starting by being creative director of Puma, she got her first whiff of being the frontrunner of a brand people were wearing. Fenty, which began as one of the first brands to include a larger range of shades including more variations for darker skin colors, transformed itself into a beautiful makeup brand that now includes highlighters, lip glosses and more. “I’ve been slowly evolving throughout the fashion world,” Rihanna told The New York Times, “First wearing it, buying it, being recognized for my style and then collaborating with brands. I never just wanted to put my name on something and sell my license. I’m very hands-on, so I wanted to take it slowly and gain respect as a designer.” The multi-faceted artist was the first Black woman to join the Louis Vuitton and Moët Hennessy (LVMH) empire along with other brands such as Fendi, Dior and other high rollers. This is also the first time the company has added a brand under their belt since 1987.
However, with luxury comes a price, sometimes even a hefty price. Rihanna created a brand that was high fashion and, in turn, a portion of people were not happy about the price point. It seems as though no one juxtaposed the idea of quality and money when the advertisements came out. The thought of Rihanna launching a brand that would be in the best budget for college students, for example, could have been due to the price point of her beauty line, Fenty Beauty. While it’s still quite expensive compared to the drug store brands of make up it doesn’t exactly break the bank with its $18 lip glosses. Also, on the list of Rihanna’s more affordable products, her company SavagexFenty, does not cost too much of a pretty penny either. The brand sells undergarments such as their wide range of sized panties and bralettes for as low as even $20. On June 19, 2019 when Fenty first opened up for the world to shop, the bustier white dress tops, one-piece denim dresses and retro-styled glasses all caught everyone’s eye, but the price threw everyone for a loop. The cost of a pair of glasses by Fenty started roughly at the cost of $300. It came as a surprise to the customers who were used to quality products, but low-pricing associated with each item.
Being in the social media age of the world this divided the internet in two. Half of consumers were of the opinion that this reaction is what is expected when you are dropping a luxury clothing brand under the famous name LVMH. The other half complained and said that the price was simply too high. This started the argument that people believe when a Black brand is the face of something it automatically has to be cheaper because that is what everyone expects.
Nonetheless, whichever side you may seem to fall on, this is not detering Rihanna from creating anything her heart desires. Never addressing comments such as these, the star talked about creating this line all from her own artistic expression; “Designing a line like this with LVMH is an incredibly special moment for us. Mr. Arnault has given me a unique opportunity to develop a fashion house in the luxury sector, with no artistic limits,” Fenty told Business Insider. She says she never puts out anything that she would not wear herself. These items come straight off the runway to your closet, which she prides herself on being the first innovator to do. Surely, other high quality brands will soon begin to follow suit due to consumers living in the moment of now and having everything accessible to themselves within seconds or days.
There is a high importance placed on what this brand represents that is far more than fashion — it displays the mark of a new era; an era that includes genderless clothing, people of all body types and no limit on what the front runner of the show looks, sounds or comes from. “I’m young. I’m new to the family. I’m a woman. Those factors do come into play, but I will not apologize for them, and I will not back down from being a woman, from being Black, from having an opinion. I’m running a company and that’s exactly what I came here to do,” Rihanna informs Time Magazine. As a child who grew up on the island of Barbados, to now being one of the richest women in the world, it is hard to put a limit on the possibilities of someone’s dreams. The world is changing, and whether Rihanna is making music or creating clothing, one thing’s for sure: she’s shown us the power of having a widely inclusive brand. Using her influence, she has inspired others by showing that everyone matters, and anything is possible.