Latin Music Week

The Fenty Puma by Rihanna Pop-Up Goes Beyond Mere Merch

Courtesy of SIX:02

The line of fans forming outside the Fenty Puma by Rihanna pop-up store in Manhattan on Tuesday (Feb. 6) seemed at first glance no different than the lines that formed outside Drake, Kanye and Justin Bieber’s recent pop-ups. But what awaited eager customers behind closed doors felt more fashion week than concert merch.

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Though the collection features t-shirts and text-heavy pieces like many other musicians’ pop-ups have, Rihanna’s line also includes more complex, fashion-forward pieces like tear-away track pants, oversized jumpsuits and lace-up sweatshirts. With a luxe, gender-bending aesthetic inspired by Japanese streetwear mixed with a little bit of goth, the collection comes across as sexy, tough-as-nails, and generally the kind of thing Riri would wear herself. The variety represented in the capsule makes it feel more comprehensive and, along with the inclusion of shoes, justifies the higher price point, with pieces ranging from $80 to $650.

The upscale feeling of the garb was enhanced by the atmosphere of the pop-ups, one of which was hosted by Foot Locker fitness boutique SIX:02. Complete with neon lights, a live DJ remixing jams from M.I.A. and Rae Sremmurd, well-constructed displays, stylists on hand and waiters roaming with trays of champagne and hors d’oeuvres, the ambience felt significantly more polished than that of the average merch sale.

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Further amping the shoppers’ anticipation was the chance to win a lucky key that might unlock a locker inside the store filled with gift cards, Fenty Puma by Rihanna gear, or concert tickets. Keys were given to the first 100 shoppers, with an additional 2,500 keys being dropped in nearby studios, restaurants and more for potential discovery by fans in the coming days.

The collection launched today at two SIX:02 pop-ups, one in New York and one in L.A., in addition to a pop-up at Bergdorf Goodman, making it less exclusive than pop-ups like Drake’s Views t-shirt giveaway. But Rihanna fans in New York had extra cause for excitement, as the Anti singer herself appeared at the Bergdorf Goodman pop-up in the afternoon dressed in head-to-toe Fenty and staged a meet-and-greet at the SIX:02 location later in the evening.

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“I have Kanye tickets for tonight, but I will skip his concert if that’s what it takes to see Rihanna,” said one 19-year-old who had camped at the front of the line overnight. “I still remember the first time I heard her music. Hers was the first CD I ever owned.”

Other fans who had been waiting for hours affirmed that they were similarly gunning for the chance to see Rih in the flesh, but asserted that the clothing was a huge draw, too. “I skipped my first day of class to stand in this line,” one fan explained. “I’m hoping to cop something good for myself, and maybe something for my girlfriend.”

While there were a few customers who appeared to be merch-heads — the kind of fans who show up for any buzzy limited-release clothing drop, be it Supreme or The Life of Pablo — the majority seemed willing to wait in line more because of their Rihanna fandom than anything else.

“I wouldn’t do this for just anyone,” one fan explained. “No one wants to wait in a line all day. But I’m a die-hard Rihanna person.” A group of girls having an impromptu picnic further back in line seemed to agree, nodding from a sitting position atop blankets they had spread out on the sidewalk to wait.

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Considering that Rihanna was declared the most marketable celebrity in the world this past January, fans’ dogged loyalty to music’s favorite “bad gal” should perhaps be unsurprising. While she’s unlikely to tweet about moving millions of dollars of merch in a few days, Rihanna has already been credited with Puma’s uptick in sales this past year.

If the front-of-liners were any indication, that trend won’t be over anytime soon. “I plan to drop a few hundred dollars on this,” one young man remarked. “It’s worth it.”