Rihanna and LVMH Hit Pause on Fenty Fashion Line

Rihanna and LVMH Hit Pause on Fenty Fashion Line

Success of Fenty Beauty, another joint venture between superstar and luxury company, proves hard to replicate for fashion

Fenty fashion had a smaller retail audience, from e-commerce and pop-up stores, than Fenty Beauty. AFP
Fenty fashion had a smaller retail audience, from e-commerce and pop-up stores, than Fenty Beauty. AFP

Rihanna is finding that luxury fashion is a hard market to crack, even with her gigawatt name recognition and the backing of luxury-goods company LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE.

The pop star and the Paris-based conglomerate are putting their fashion joint venture, launched in 2019, on hold after sales got off to a slow start and then faltered during the pandemic.

LVMH on Wednesday said that, pending better conditions, it had made the decision to pause the venture jointly with the pop icon.

The fashion label, Fenty, failed to replicate the early success of the cosmetics line that Rihanna and LVMH launched together in 2017.

The singer, born Robyn Rihanna Fenty, promoted her eponymous cosmetics brand to her vast social-media audience -- 91 million followers on Instagram and 102 million on Twitter.

That generated huge exposure for products that stood out in the market for being tailored to a range of different skin tones.

Fenty Beauty recently launched a new skin care line, which LVMH said last month was selling well.

But the luxury fashion market is dominated by big, incumbent labels such as LVMH's own Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Hermès and Gucci.

The industry's bread-and-butter products -- handbags and accessories -- are much more expensive than cosmetics. Upstart brands lack decades of heritage that give older fashion houses the cachet to convince shoppers to spend hundreds of dollars and up on a purchase.

"I would say it's still work in progress when it comes to really defining what the offer would be," Jean Jacques Guiony, LVMH's chief financial officer, said of Fenty fashion in October.

Fenty Beauty also gained significant exposure through Sephora, the cosmetics retail company owned by LVMH with more than 2,600 stores around the world. Fenty fashion had a smaller retail audience: e-commerce and pop-up stores.

A spokeswoman for Rihanna didn't respond to a request for comment.

LVMH and Bernard Arnault, its billionaire chief executive and controlling shareholder, say they are still eager to work with Rihanna.

Apart from the cosmetics line, Mr. Arnault has taken a stake in Savage X Fenty, Rihanna's lingerie brand, LVMH said Wednesday.

The investment comes through L Catterton, the private-equity fund partly controlled by Mr. Arnault.

"We in the LVMH family believe a lot in Rihanna," a person close to Mr. Arnault said. "But we're focusing during the pandemic on what's truly working well: beauty, skin care and Savage."

Breaking into the market has become even tougher during the pandemic, when luxury shoppers have gravitated toward the biggest, most established brands.

That trend has helped drive surging revenue at LVMH's two biggest fashion brands, Louis Vuitton and Dior; revenue at LVMH's fashion leather and goods division fell just 5% in 2020, despite being forced to shut boutiques across the world in the spring during pandemic lockdowns.

LVMH's shares have surged over the past year and are trading near record highs. With a market capitalization of €267 billion, equivalent to $324 billion, LVMH is now the second-most valuable company in Europe, behind only Nestle SA.

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