Looks from Rihanna's fashion line for River Island
Looks from Rihanna's fashion line for River Island. (Photo: Video screen capture, Rihanna for River Island livestream)

A well-known singer, actress, and perfumier, Rihanna recently debuted her fashion line to mixed reviews during London Fashion Week on Saturday. Her first ever collection, comprised of 120 pieces, was co-designed with Adam Selman in partnership with the British brand River Island.

Rihanna has deep fashion roots, having appeared twice on the cover of American Vogue, among many other important nods she has received from the industry. Too bad her collection was not as equally lauded as is her personal style. Even though big names in fashion came out for the event, including current runway darlings Jourdan Dunn and Cara Delevingne, some fashion critics lashed out at the contents of Rihanna’s collection as though the skimpy ensembles were a personal affront.

Daily Beast reporter Tom Sykes called it a “horror show.” The very basic crop tops, tight skirts, and panties-for-pants ensembles were not only “unsurprisingly slutty” — his words not mine — they were also an affront to true designers, he believes, for whom London Fashion Week is meant to be a celebration of their originality.

“Rihanna’s a fantastic singer with a talent for publicity, but has she ever drawn a line of chalk on a piece of cloth? Graded a pattern?,” Sykes wrote of the true marks of a fashion designer’s skill. “Aren’t those the kind of people London Fashion Week is supposed to be about?”

Yet, more think the star’s collaboration with River Island is really about the mean green, not creativity. The company inked a deal with the fashion darling for $1,239,200 (£800 000) in the hopes that hooking up with one of the world’s hottest names would help the struggling brand compete with successful retailers such as Top Shop.

Following the singer’s capsule collection for Georgio Armani in 2010, Rihanna is a good bet for River Island, as her celebrity and fashion cachet can help them attract new consumers.

And what kind of consumer might be interested in her net tank tops with matching transparent bottoms, bandeau tops paired with tight floral jeans, bra-shirts, and baby doll slip dresses? Clearly the extremely young crowd that Rihanna’s following exemplifies. Only this adolescent group could pull these thigh-skimming looks off. That is apparently what River Island is banking on.

“Her London fashion week show saw models posed on a set that consisted of six nightclub podiums,” The Guardian wrote of the youthful vibe. “They wore a series of outfits in the style of the singer: slashed to the thigh jersey dresses, midriff-revealing tops, big hoop earrings and baseball caps that are sure to be a hit with River Island customers.”

Yet, artistically Rihanna seems to have been a fashion flop. Aside from her evisceration by The Daily Beast, her collection was a victim of the familiar “damning with faint praise” that often accompanies the efforts of stars making the leap into design.

Industry insiders expect little. Even modest accomplishment is met with withering enthusiasm.

MTV.com gave a positive review, yet used the puzzling phrase “comfy girly-yet-grunge” to describe the line’s mingling of denim, pantaloons and sweats. This sounds both dismissive and like an accusation of pilfering styles from an outdated period.

Elle UK — not the most objective of reviewers, as Rihanna is the tome’s April cover model — also had fine words for the show, saying: “Aside from a nod to street style in the denim section, the collection was an ode to all things high fashion. Think Eighties Norma Kamali meets Alexander Wang luxe sportswear.” Here again is the underlying suggestion that RiRi stole her ideas from real designers, smooshing them together with confidence her that her teen-aged fans would not know the difference.

But Selman assured Vogue UK that this is not the case. “This collection is very based upon Ri’s style and her mood — so it’s evolved a lot,” he told the fashion bible. “This all comes from her — it’s very personal.  She’s at the top of her game right now in terms of her career and in herself.  She’s in a really good place.”

Rihanna’s collection is “urban-inspired, unfussy with a hint of uptown,” he added, further claiming that it is for “cool hip girls who aren’t super thin,” reports ABC News.

On this last point, I have to disagree. One need only glance at the bare shoulders, belly buttons, and trim calves that were on view for Rihanna’s 9-minute show (for which she was 50 minutes late) to realize this: If you are interested in wearing Rihanna for River Island, you should start doing your crunches, tricep dips and leg lifts now.

River Island has no stores in the U.S., but starting March 5, “you’ll be able to buy it in the U.S. and in Japan at Opening Ceremony, an online and retail fashion destination,”ABC News also reports.

Will you be buying?

Follow Alexis Garrett Stodghill on Twitter at @lexisb.