Rihanna: “I Tried To Push The Envelope A Little Bit”

“I’m on cloud nine,” said Rihanna, the pop star turned brand ambassador and women’s creative director of Puma, after her first fashion show for the label. An hour earlier, her first full collection, a street-inspired, Japanophile departure from Puma’s usual sport-ready performance wear, had come down an L.E.D. runway to a crowd that included Naomi Campbell, Chris Rock, Travis Scott, Foxy Brown and Young Thug.

“I cannot put into words how I feel about what happened tonight,” she said. Then, swaddled in a faux-fur hoodie from her collection (she is always cold, she said, since leaving her native Barbados), she settled onto a sofa in a backstage interview room and set about to try. Excerpts from the conversation, condensed and edited, are below.

Q. Was this always something you wanted to do? Did you see yourself becoming a creative director in this way?

Creative director of such a big sports brand? Absolutely never something I could see happening, never something I put on my bucket list. It wasn’t even a possibility in my mind. When Puma reached out to me, they engaged with such trust and openness about it. They were willing to let me be creative and express myself in whatever way I wanted to. They wanted a change. So I thrive off of challenge like that. I love situations where I can just make something completely different.

Q. I think this is completely different.

 Thank you. It’s almost like redecorating a space that you bought that’s literally just four walls and you have to make it something. The challenge is figuring out what you can offer to a brand like this. I just had to uproot it. I just had to go from the ground up and say I’m just going to go there. Whatever works, works, whatever doesn’t. And they were willing to go there with me.

Q. Was there anything that was too crazy? Anything they said, you know what, we just can’t do this?

Just a couple technical things. Not because Puma didn’t want to. They spend the money and they make sure that they try the best to make it what I want. And then they let me know the ramifications that come with that. [laughs] “O.K., Ri, it looks cute but it costs four grand. Do you want to do that?”

Q. And you said?

And of course I never wanted to do that. I actually want people to wear my stuff.

Q. Is that the dream? To walk down the street and see people in it.

That will be the day. The only thing that can make me feel better than tonight is to see somebody else wearing my stuff on the street. Down the street, on Instagram. Instagram’s pretty much down the street at this point. To see anybody, especially if I think they’re cool, and they chose to wear it, that’s a big deal. That’s a big deal. Like somebody buying your music. But better. Because they have to do it in public.

Q. That’s right. There are no headphones where fashion is concerned.

That’s true. You can make that the headline.

Q. Your Puma label is called Fenty, after your surname, which you don’t often use. What does it mean to have your name on a collection like this?

It’s crazy. Even to look at it right now. I think it’s a little more subtle when you look at it in Japanese, but when it’s right there in English, it’s surreal. It makes me think of my dad and how proud he must be. It’s his name. He grew up with this name. Now it’s a name that’s on an international brand.

Q. Puma has such a strong sport heritage. Was it important to you to try to integrate some of it? Obviously these are not gym clothes.

Not “gym clothes,” per se. They’re not performance wear. But everything was inspired by some sporty, street-sport, casual vibe. I tried to intertwine all of those things with a little bit of fashion. I tried to push the envelope a little bit in terms of what Puma has done in the past and also what they’re comfortable with doing. That’s the blessing of working with Puma. They’re just like: “Whatever you say. We don’t know, but we’ll try.” That’s all I can ask for, somebody to be willing to try it and be down with what I’m thinking. They’re always willing to do that.

Q. You obviously can apply your creativity in a lot of different directions. Will you move on to other ventures as well? Could you see yourself being the creative director of — I don’t know, a restaurant, an amusement park …

Creative director is a big job. As long as I believe that I can give you 100 percent and make that time, I will be willing to do it. I have to believe in the product, believe in what I’m doing, believe in the brand. If I don’t believe in it, I can’t do it. It’s too much to fake. It’s too much work to do it and a whole other job to fake it.