Speculation that superstar Rihanna is gearing up to launch her own fashion line reached fever pitch last week when news emerged that the Barbados superstar had trademarked her surname ‘Fenty’ in classes for clothing, lingerie, swimwear and beauty products. Her decision to launch a fashion and beauty line is hardly surprising. The singer has already designed a line for River Island, a makeup line for MAC and let’s not forget the pains she went to stop Topshop selling that t-shirt bearing her image! However, the news that she’ll design the brand under her surname is a something we didn’t see coming.
The trademark documents, which were filed under her company, Roraj Trade LLC, in June, proposed to trademark the following names: “Fenty Apparel, Fenty Beauty, Fenty Clothing, Fenty Cosmetics, Fenty Face, Fenty Intimates, Fenty Lingerie, Fenty Makeup, Fenty Nails, Fenty Swim, Fenty Swimwear, Boomflick, Fenty Corp, Robyn, Fenty88 and Rhi Rhi.”
Like the megastars that went before her, Madonna, Beyonce and Cher, Rihanna has never had need to use her surname. Most casual fans will struggle to tell you what it even is. So why would the singer bring out a brand under the lesser known Fenty name rather than Rihanna? Perhaps the singer has plans to distance herself from her popstar image and launch a more grown up, classier line of clothing a la Victoria Beckham (we can’t see those structured handbags and form fitting dresses selling with the £2000 price tag under the name ‘Posh Spice’.) Other sources suggest it’s a pre-emptive strike to stop others taking advantage of her name and using it without her permission. If this is the case she’ll need to be careful - UK trademarks can be revoked if they are not used within five years of their registration or for a consecutive five year period at any time afterwards. You need to use it or lose it.
Here at Wigs And Gowns we think Rihanna’s decision is a savvy business move. By producing her clothing line under Fenty, she will protect ‘Rihanna’, the name by which she is universally known by all.
Personal names, when used as a trademark, can become entwined with the goodwill associated with the brand itself rather than with you, the designer. When you think of Christian Louboutin, do you think of a small bald French man or do you think of an exquisite pair of red soled shoes? Problems can arise if and when you acquire a financial backer. If further down the line you part ways with the financial backer, you may lose the right to design under your own name. John Galliano, Roland Mouret and Helmut Lang are just some of the high profile designers that have lost the right to use their own name when they parted ways with the corporate backers who had acquired the rights. While we know Rihanna is not short of a few quid, decisions to launch clothing lines can require huge capital (even Victoria Beckham had the backing of Simon Fuller despite the seemingly endless supply from the cash cow that is brand Beckham). By launching her fashion brand under the Fenty name, she won’t risk losing the more valuable and personal ‘Rihanna’.
Whatever her reasons, Rihanna will be hoping the Fenty line follows in the steps of Victoria Beckham and not fellow popstar Beyonce’s foray into the world of fashion. She may be the top selling female artist of the 2000s and included in Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world but even this wasn’t enough to save her ill-advised clothing collaboration with mother Tina Knowles. House of Deréon was launched to the world via The Oprah Winfrey Show but the public were less than impressed by the bling covered tracksuits and embroidered hooded sweatshirts. In May 2008, the fashion line landed itself in hot water when advertisements for “The Deréon Girls Collection” displayed seven-year-old girls in full makeup and high heels. A poll online on the Washington Post website stated that 62% of the readers believe the advertisements over sexualised young girls. The brand was “revitalised” in 2012 with a slightly chicer and more sophisticated angle but once again failed to win the public over. Fashion Fail!