After making its debut at London Fashion Week with an ornately choreographed presentation, the collection of clothes that Rihanna designed for UK retailer River Island hit shelves yesterday and had people waiting around the block for a chance to buy. Opening Ceremony, the sole US stockists for the line, marked the premiere with a retrospective of seven iconic Rihanna looks curated from her red carpet ensembles and brassy tour costumes. We chatted with the men behind the woman of the hour, power couple Mel Ottenberg and Adam Selman, Rihanna’s current stylist and wardrobe designer, respectively, about collaborating with the pop world’s reigning bad gal and just what makes Rihanna’s style so covetable.
Adam Selman, Rihanna’s wardrobe designer and co-designer of the Rihanna for River Island collection
What do you think makes this Rihanna for River Island line a winning collection? You know, it didn’t start out as a runway collection. It wasn’t always meant to be seen at London Fashion Week. What I really like about it is that we just made it a real collection—what Rihanna would wear. We decided we wanted it to be easy and unfussy, and still familiar. Like the shirts tied around the waist, maybe you’ve never seen it built into the shirt like that, but that element is not unfamiliar to people. And that’s what I really wanted, I didn’t want people to get scared of the clothes.
Rihanna’s style has become so iconic and she’s had so many different style phases. What is it about her look right now that’s making her style so popular? I really think it’s the mix of high and low, fashion and non-fashion. She’s a beautiful girl so she can pull off a lot of different looks. It’s fun to see her be a chameleon in all of those different looks, but then you see her on the street and she still looks super cool, easy and relatable. People are really responding to that. She’s also kind of come into her own in the past few years and finally has the confidence to be herself in clothes that she really likes.
Is there a piece in the line that is really dear to your heart? I honestly can’t say that there is, it changes every week. Right now, I’m really into the overalls with the double-denim jeans. I love those. I made those jeans for myself like over a year ago and I’ve been wanting to get away with that for so long. So I was thrilled that I got away with that.
I know it was so hyped and documented, but how crazy was the 777 Tour for you? Oh my god! I come from a touring background, I used to tour with the Scissor Sisters as their wardrobe guy, so I knew what I was getting myself into. I wasn’t shocked but it was more amusing to watch everybody else around me lose their minds and crumble and demand things. For me, it wasn’t so bad but I totally get it—it was a nightmare.
Do you feel like this collection was the culmination of your work with Rihanna or just the first stepping stone? What’s next for Adam Selman and Rihanna? We’ll see. I definitely think Rihanna and I have a long future ahead of us. We work really well together and I love working with her. I think it’s definitely a stepping stone. She’s been wanting to do a fashion line for a long time and when she asked me to do it, it just kind of made sense for the two of us to do it together.
Adam Selman, left. Mel Ottenberg, right.
Rihanna has had so many style evolutions over the span of her career. What is it about her look right now that’s so popular? That’s a good question. I think that it’s not trying to be perfect, it’s not trying to be too slick, it’s not too manufactured and it sort of has a life of its own—it really breathes. And I think people respond to that. It’s also very street—it’s not the totally polished, airbrushed image. She’s really into a fluid easy feeling with clothes, whether on the street or on the red carpet. So thinking about those different philosophies and putting that into the collection was cool.
Do you and Rihanna ever bump heads when you’re creating her looks? Sometimes I’ll have a big idea and then we’ll bump heads about it. There are a lot of ideas and there are a lot of outfits, and so sometimes we’ll bump heads about it. But then sometimes [the look] still happens.
What makes you excited to work with her? She’s just the coolest chick. She has the best style in the world, she’s the biggest pop star in the world and she’s also fun to hang out with at the same time. You can’t ask for more than that.
How is it working with your boo, Adam Selman? It’s cool and really fun. I wouldn’t have planned to work with my boyfriend, but we work really well together. It’s really fun to have a partner in crime that you really love working with.