In launching her luxury fashion line Fenty, Rihanna now takes on the historic role of the first woman of color — and more specifically, the first Black woman — to helm an LVMH Maison. And she’s paying tribute to this major moment in the debut Fenty campaign: Alongside each collection look shot against a dark turquoise backdrop is a black-and-white photograph by Kwame Brathwaite, a major figure in the “Black Is Beautiful” movement that was propelled by Black creatives in New York City in the 1960s.
Rihanna told Vogue that she and her team had been looking around for a concept for the brand’s debut and found the photographer’s archive. Within it, there was a documentary about the Grandassa Models, a group of young Black female activists who used fashion as a vehicle to honor and elevate Black culture. In an interview with TheNew Yorker earlier this year, Brathwaite discussed the thought process behind bringing together the Grandassa Models, explaining, “We said, ‘We’ve got to do something to make the women feel proud of their hair, proud of their blackness.'”
“It was a really strange and powerful parallel,” Rihanna told Vogue of Brathwaite’s images. “And he gave me permission [to use the imagery], obviously that is a big deal.”
Rihanna also found another striking similarity: Brathwaite is not only from Barbados, like herself, but he also shares her grandfather’s last name, which was her mother’s name before it became Fenty.