Rihanna’s last Savage X Fenty show went down in history as a benchmark of how fashion shows should be: inclusive and electric. Featuring a diverse cast of women presented, as RiRi herself said, as “works of art” rather than as clothes horses, the game-changing businesswoman revolutionised how lingerie is presented on the runway in one show. Following up the 2019 “fashion musical”, which was broadcast to millions, therefore would appear to be a tough ask. Or would it?
“All this talk about thinking outside the box, I’m more of a ‘thinking inside the box’ kind of guy,” a confident Willo Perron, who took charge of the set design and creative direction, tells Vogue prior to the big reveal of the 2 October extravaganza, which will be streamed once again on Amazon Prime. “Being inside the box is the new outside the box. There’s a lot of boxes in one particular scene of the show actually.”
Volume two of the Savage X Fenty spectacular—which was cast by fashion industry titans Samuel Ellis Scheinman and Piergiorgio Del Moro and choreographed by the equally highly regarded dancer and frequent Rihanna collaborator Parris Goebel—revolves around four different vignettes that take the viewer into a dream state.
“The ‘Garden’ is influenced by the floral motifs of the Savage X Fenty collection, which felt very psychedelic and with touches of eroticism,” explains Perron of the set down which Fenty model veterans Cara Delevingne and Normani lead newcomers including Paris Hilton and Demi Moore. “The ‘Dear Diary’ fabric tunnel feels like Rihanna’s mushy brain matter as she’s high and day-dreaming. The ‘Factory’ is about bringing things to fruition in an industrial, but very caricature [kind of] way, like Rihanna’s own Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory. The last vignette is everything coming together, the product getting shipped out. Travis Scott is the culmination of the whole show.”
It’s a psychedelic, no-holds-barred departure from volume one, which played on the mood of the autumn/winter 2019 campaign imagery and had a pared-back Mediterranean energy. Rihanna, who met the creative director through Kanye West when she opened the rapper’s “Glow In The Dark” tour over a decade ago, trusts Perron implicitly. “She really gives me a lot of freedom to create,” Perron muses on their latest project, which seamlessly merges concert and catwalk. “We always land somewhere we’re both happy with.”
While it took four months to realise volume one’s hybrid set in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, the second show was conceptualised in separate pockets of the globe during the pandemic. “Unlike last year, we never met in person until we began shooting [at the Los Angeles Convention Center],” explains Perron.
Not having an audience due to COVID-19 restrictions meant that less was riding on a single performance presented to members of the press and filmed for Amazon Prime. “You lose something and gain something from that,” notes Perron. “You don’t have to shoot everything in one direction, so we had the chance to evolve the amount of scenic and performative moments. You also don’t have to protect as many of the shots, so we could play with a lot more tricks.” Translation: brace yourself for close-ups up of Lizzo swathed in lace and a PVC-clad Bella Hadid holding her own against Goebel’s gyrating dancers.
A modest Perron, who is also the brain behind the blockbuster tour concepts of Jay-Z and Lady Gaga, says that the Savage X Fenty show comes to life because it’s a sum of its parts: “The movement of the dancers, the performers, the lighting, everything comes together at once to convey the emotion.” That super-charged BBE (Bad Bih Energy) is thrilling to watch, too.
This article was originally published on British Vogue.