The Icon Business: Inside Rihanna’s Fashion FortuneJune 15, 2017 \
From platinum-selling artist to actor, Rihanna’s resume is extensive. But the Caribbean Queen has earned a new title—fashion mogul.
Known for her daring red carpet looks, the style icon is now banking on seven-figure endorsements and partnerships with both active wear and high-end brands, from Puma to Dior and Chopard. Over the past year, Rihanna scored a third of her $36 million pretax earnings from these fashion endeavors, ranking at No. 77 on the Celebrity 100 list of top-earning entertainers.
A chunk of her paycheck comes from Puma. Since signing on as creative director and global ambassador for the German sportswear company in December 2014, she has co-designed several Fenty collections (the brand’s moniker is her real last name), with sneakers and slides ranging in price from $80 to $150. The shoes sell out in hours—or even minutes.
It’s unclear exactly how much Rihanna herself has boosted Puma’s bottom line, but she’s certainly part of something special: A year after hiring the star, the company’s profits jumped 11.2%. Of course, it’s not cheap to have an A-list celebrity on your team — expenditures for marketing and retail purposes for the same time frame increased by 16.3%.
“Rihanna is far more than an ambassador of the Puma brand,” said Adam Petrick, the company’s global director of brand and marketing, of her hands-on approach to design. “Each season she has taken the Fenty range to new heights and we continue to be in awe of her creative abilities.”
It helps that Rihanna has a mammoth following to draw from. According to NPD Group, which analyzes brand and celebrity matchups, fans of Rihanna show distinct preferences for products she uses and endorses. Rihanna fans—dubbed “The Navy”—are 3.7 times as likely to purchase from Rihanna than other celebrities. With 54 million Instagram followers and 73.9 million Twitter followers, that can mean cash for companies.
Unlike rappers such as Future and Rae Sremmund who have sneaker lines, Rihanna has also been able to bank on high fashion. She designed her most recent collection for Swiss luxury jewelry makers, Chopard. A piece of jewelry from the limited edition “Rihanna loves Chopard” line starts at $1,000 and tops out at $11,000. For brands, partnering with Rihanna is a way to reach young audiences.
“I think clever merchants today create interest around their brands by using capsule collections,” says Luca Solca, the sector head of luxury goods at Exane BNP Paribas.
Rihanna shows no signs of stopping — next year, she’ll continue to earn millions from her fashion empire, which includes shoes, clothes, perfume, jewelry and soon, cosmetics. She just announced a makeup line for the fall called Fenty Beauty, partnering with LVMH’s Kendo division. It’s another partnership that has been carefully selected by the business savvy icon.
“What comes across is that she actually enjoys it,” says Wendy Liebman, CEO of WSL Strategic retail. “She just really loves fashion.”
Her fans are thankful for it—and so is her bank account.