The Story Behind Rihanna’s Vintage Cover Look

Stylist Carlos Nazario talks styling Rihanna for GARAGE, photographed by Deana Lawson.

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Sep 4 2018, 3:23pm

“Ri is somebody who sees so much, and she, obviously, is constantly seeing current season samples,” said Carlos Nazario, who styled Rihanna for the cover of GARAGE Issue 15, photographed by Deana Lawson. “I felt like it wasn’t that exciting for her to only wear things that I’m sure she’s familiar with, you know?”

So the cover image features Rihanna in Dolce & Gabbana briefs, a pair of Y/Project stilettos, a necklace from Tiffany’s, and, in a surprising twist, a rose bolero from the 1960s. “I always like to incorporate vintage pieces, because it’s a whole world of clothing that people haven’t seen.”

Dressing celebrities often means finding clothing that makes them feel comfortable and confident—which can be code for something safe. But Rihanna and her style are anything but. “I think her comfort zone is to push it, right? I don’t think she feels comfortable when she feels like she’s worn it before,” Nazario said. “I think when she gets excited, and when she often feels the most beautiful and the most powerful, is when she’s wearing something that kinda feels unexpected.”

Nazario did his vintage shopping in London, working with Rellik and One of a Kind. The latter is owned by Jeff Ihenacho is “this incredible Jamaican guy who’s been collecting vintage since it was not vintage—since the ’70s and ’60s,” Nazario said. “His taste tends to veer towards the more theatrical, and his collection’s vibe is very Caribbean queen, which was one of the inspirations for this shoot.” Nazario called him a few days prior, and he dug through his extensive archive, delivering several pieces to the stylist, including that rose bolero and the yellow ball skirt. The ball skirt, paired with a Gucci top, was a piece of American couture; Ihenacho “couldn’t pinpoint the exact designer, but he was sure that it was American and probably from the ‘60s.”

Then, of course, was the rose bolero top that became the cover look—a piece of French vintage. “I loved the color,” Nazario said. But it also had the right silhouette to mesh with contemporary fashion—the kind of volume and dense tones we see in Pierpaolo Piccioli’s Valentino, for example, or the baroque frappe of Sarah Burton’s Alexander McQueen. “I didn’t want anything to feel period,” the stylist said. “That’s so not her vibe. She really likes to be modern, modern, modern. Her thing is always like, ‘What do I want to wear tomorrow?’ Not even like, ‘What do I feel comfortable wearing today?’”

The vintage cover look also reflects a growing affection for vintage—an interest in cataloguing and collecting great moments in fashion, rather than merely channeling another era in a wasp-waist dress. “Collectors have always loved vintage, but I think the general public hasn’t always loved the idea of wearing something pre-owned,” Nazario said. But between the rise of resale sites like Grailed and the prominence of high-profile vintage collectors like Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen, the perception has shifted. “As an individual,” Nazario said, “I think that’s how you set your look apart: by finding those rare pieces that make the outfit really personal and make people take a second look. I’m sure when people see that rose bolero, they will be thinking, ‘What’s that?’”

“Her thing is always like, ‘What do I want to wear tomorrow?’ Not even like, ‘What do I feel comfortable wearing today?’”

Lawson’s photography practice was, of course, also a major consideration in styling the shoot; this was Lawson’s first fashion project. “You can’t mistake Deana’s photographs for anyone else’s,” he said. “But I did want to give her something a little bit different. I wanted to take all the elements—their grace and presence, and Rihanna’s fashion energy, and Deana’s particular style of photography—and we wanted to create something that felt new.”

Photograph by Deana Lawson.