Call us keen, but we’re already mentally mapping out the major league looks Rihanna might wear for her Super Bowl halftime show. Make no mistake, Rih and her longtime stylist, Jahleel Weaver, will have been in conversation with fashion houses for months before the announcement broke the internet. This is no ordinary red-carpet dress. Stagewear requires serious construction to make an artist feel a) secure, b) like the absolute best version of themselves, and c) picture-perfect from every TV camera angle. When close to 100 million viewers are zeroing in on every single sequin, details matter.
Then there’s the issue of timing. A halftime show typically clocks in at around 12 minutes, so despite the most ambitious artist’s vision to have multiple outfit changes, the tempo and rhythm of the performance is jeopardised by any fashion interludes. This is high-octane, full-pelt live music at its most powerful. There’s no time for a hair and make-up check, never mind a conceptual sartorial journey. Tearaways (hello Janet Jackson) are a popular option, but require serious execution skills and chutzpah to pull off. We could imagine Rih stepping on to the stage wearing a fabulous draped coat before shrugging it off to reveal something gasp-worthy underneath.
What of the brands? Relationships are key. There was no way J Lo was going to wear anyone but Donatella Versace for her moment in 2020, while Madonna of course looked to longtime stagewear partner Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy for her black leather and gold 2012 look. Rihanna has many industry friends and favourites. Demna at Balenciaga would be a natural shoo-in, but as flavour of the month (he created a Future Nostalgia tour look for Dua Lipa), he might be too obvious for the star’s comeback. Gucci and Dior—two brands Rihanna doesn’t typically wear day-to-day, but who wooed her during her last fashion week appearance—will surely be pitching hard, but can they offer her the hall of fame-worthy design ideas she needs? A modern-day rework of a sensational Tom Ford-era Gucci moment, in line with Rih’s newfound appreciation for vintage, could well clinch the deal.
Menswear—something statement-making from Martine Rose or Off-White perhaps—would also earn her cool points and coincide with the more louche, relaxed silhouettes she has been favouring in her thirties. So would debuting the work of say, Louis Vuitton’s incoming men’s creative director, which is slated to be Rose or Grace Wales Bonner—two designers ripe for continuing Rihanna’s friend Virgil Abloh’s legacy. Custom? Of course.
While some performers play up to the theme of the Super Bowl with soccer accents and motifs, this seems a tad too gimmicky for Rih—although this is the woman who was ecstatic when she scored a rare Louis Vuitton football-shaped bag initially created for the 1998 World Cup, and is currently embracing an old-school sports jersey phase. If she does embrace literal thematic dressing, her nods will be subtle—quiet power plays from Weaver, who is big into his research phase by the looks of Rihanna’s current retro-leaning streetwear.
Movement will be central to her planning. Many popstars go down the leotard route, with embellished bodies that facilitate choreo painstakingly perfected during hours of rehearsals. Should she want to fly into the stadium, like Lady Gaga, a no-frills bodysuit would be a valuable form of armour. Something tells us this will not be the case, but cast your mind back to the ’10s and Rih was shaking it in bodies and hot pants like the best of them.
Rihanna may choose to make it personal. Lopez, for example, brought her daughter on stage and touched on her journey as a daughter of Puerto Rican parents living in Trump’s America. Rih could well throw it back to her Bajan heritage with the kind of colourful carnival looks we have seen her wear at Crop Over festival. She might also like to shine a spotlight on her own brand empire, via Savage X Fenty lingerie or her shuttered LVMH-backed Fenty line. What a time to make a comeback! If she brings her partner A$AP Rocky out, there will of course be a coordinating style moment. Ditto Drake! Or any other collaborators she might recruit to make a statement.
The one surefire bet? Rihanna will keep us guessing—all the way until February 2023 (her recent “Umbrella”-era beauty nods are also giving us food for thought). However it plays out, this industry game-changer will make one of the biggest gigs of her career work, work, work for her.
This article was first published on British Vogue.