Rihanna has provided some more insight on the inspiration for her debut Fenty collection, which went live on fenty.com today (May 29, 2019).While forming the concepts for the label, the 31-year-old CEO said she was inspired by photographer Kwame Braithwaite’s imagery shot during Harlem during the ’50s and ’60s.
Born in Brooklyn, Braithwaite is best known for his celebration of black women and popularizing the phrase “black is beautiful,” also the title of a book of his photography. Equal parts artist and activist, he also helped organize Grandassa Models, an agency and organization formed in 1962 to highlight the beauty of black women .
In an interview with Vogue, Rihanna explained, “When I was coming up with the concept for this release, we were just digging and digging and we came up with these images. They made me feel they were relevant to what we are doing right now.”
Reflecting on the discovery of Braithwaite’s images, she said, “It was a really strange and powerful parallel, and he gave me permission [to use the imagery], obviously that is a big deal.”
Rihanna and Braithwaite also share island DNA. While born and raised in New York, the 81-year-old photographer has roots in Barbados and shares a last name with Rihanna’s grandfather on her mother’s side.
Juxtaposing images of models wearing Fenty with Braithwaite’s images, one image dated 1968 shows members of the Grandessa Agency at the Renaissance Casino Ballroom in Harlem on Garvey Day. A poster in the image reads “buy black.” In doing some research, Rihanna discovered the women designed and sold clothing and accessories and used the day to promote buying from black people.
As for how Rihanna manages to juggle it all, she said, “Well, I work all the time. I visualize Fenty as a hub, bringing in creative people. We travel together, we eat together, we’re always working. That’s how I want to keep it.”
Check out the Fenty x Kwame Braithwaite campaign imagery below.