Rumors having surfaced that Rihanna is on the verge of signing a seven-figure design deal with Puma. According to a Daily News source,“She is going to have her own coordinator to go to at Puma who only handles her, and they’ll have a junior coordinator helping them. The focus is shoes, but she will also be helping with pants and tops.”
Rihanna is not new to brand partnerships and has inked deals with clothing and shoe company River Island and makeup giant MAC Cosmetics. Given her power as a fashion trendsetter, one has to assume she has been offered more opportunities but clearly has been selective in who she commits to.
Among athletic apparel and footwear brands, it’s a given that all the major brands have mulled signing Rihanna. Not only is she physically akin to an athlete in terms of her physique, drive and competitive spirit, for as long as she’s been in the limelight she’s had an affinity for sneakers, wearing them with everything from casual leggings to dressier skirts and dresses.
And because she is of the culture and defines authenticity, she sits atop the food chain where product seeding is concerned. Case in point, when sneaker king Nike partnered with Riccardo Tisci earlier this year on a capsule collection of shoes, Rihanna was the first celebrity spotted in a pair. Everybody wants her on their team.
Looking through our Pinterest folder dedicated to Rihanna’s fashion choices, we see her in all the major brands and as of late, keeping in heavy rotation pairs by New Balance, Jordan as well as Nike and Adidas creepers, customized by Los Angeles designer Mr. Completely. If you want a sense of what is hot in sneaker culture for women, there aren’t many more indicators more accurate than Rihanna.
All of which is why we have very mixed feelings about her possible signing with Puma. While on the one hand, we want to see Ms. Fenty get money and expand her wealth, on the other hand we want to continue to watch how she mixes and matches various sneaker brands with her outfits. However, since sneaker companies like Puma come out of a tradition of signing athletes to exclusivity deals, were she to partner that would likely translate to her wearing Puma only. Reflective of athletic brand stipulations, Nike recently went so far as to threaten contract termination for signed athletes who were wearing customized as opposed to original versions of its shoes on field. In the case of celebrities, since signing with Adidas, Kanye hasn’t been spotted wearing any competing athletic brands.
The other issue, too, is that Puma hasn’t exactly been a shining star as of late and while its recent earnings report showed its fortunes are moving in a more positive direction, it still has a lot of work to do building merchandise that resonates and is viewed as meaningful by sneaker culture. That reality is reflected by Rihanna herself who we can’t remember ever spotting in Puma kicks.
Collaborations with Solange Knowles and more recently with designer Sophia Chang are worthwhile moves, but it we could pick a brand that would match Rihanna’s clout and equity, probably we’d go with Jordan. (Now that would be a signing that would rock the sneaker world like a 5.0 on the Richter scale!)
Our hope is that Rihanna’s reps will figure out a way in which she gives Puma the shine through association it is looking for, while at the same time builds in some space for spontaneous fashion choices. Female sneaker culture just wouldn’t be the same without her.