Rihanna’s River Island Collection – haven’t we seen it before?

February 22, 2013

Singer Rihanna walks out onto the catwalk after the presentation of her Rihanna for River Island Autumn/Winter 2013 collection during London Fashion WeekSo, Rihanna is a fashion designer now, apparently.

Despite never being a staple of “best dressed” lists herself, the singer put her name on a collection for British chain River Island and debuted it Feb. 16 during London Fashion Week.

For the most part, critics are tearing it apart, but young women, apparently, can’t wait to get it in their manicured clutches.

I found two things interesting about this.

First, the 90s are back?

Second, it seems the designers behind some of Rihanna’s most eye-catching ensembles are going to notice strong similarities between pieces of her collection and the looks they designed for her.

As I’ve written about previously, I think the application of intellectual property tenets to fashion is as interesting as it is difficult. That everyone “inspires” everyone else is acknowledged to differing degrees in different fields of art. If you’re in the fashion industry, when do two concepts cross the line from “similar to one another” to “copies”?

Let’s take the Jeremy Scott denim crop top and skirt she wore in “We Found Love” her biggest hit to date. Rihanna has a very similar outfit as part of her River Island portfolio.

If I were Scott, I’d be a little peeved that Rihanna so blatantly aped the look I created for her. But do I have a lot of ground to stand on? Probably not.

It’s very, very difficult to argue that someone stole your general concept, because a general concept is not specific enough to stand on. So, you came up with the idea of a denim bustier? Great, but you don’t own the idea of a denim bustier in general. You just own the idea as you executed it.

So, unless Rihanna copied every single detail, it just isn’t likely Scott would win.

This is also an interesting line for Rihanna to walk. Assuming she doesn’t have a license from designers of her previous looks, she’s risking alienating them. Is that a good idea? I guess the answer will depend on how many tween girls want to buy denim bustiers from River Island.