Enchanted woods? An alien invasion? Fantasia on speed? Rihanna’s fourth Savage X Fenty presentation—Savage X Fenty Show Vol. 4—takes place in the trippiest of settings. The 40-minute video, which was released last week as a stand-in for RiRi’s usual IRL runway extravaganza, starts off in an unmarked burial ground, with slick, stunning models emerging from the earth and falling immediately into formation. Think Blair Witch with a dash of sex. Couples dance together in glistening, floral, velvet, and satin garments and undergarments before the camera pans away to the first main character of the production, the rapturous Precious Lee. Other fitting and surprising faces pop up during the video’s duration—Instagram’s favorite comedian Rickey Thompson, actress Taraji P. Henson, and, perhaps most controversially, Johnny Depp (to a soundtrack of early Outkast).
The collection, which is a dizzying combination of bondage-inflected accessories, boudoir appropriate textiles and colors, and elements of the natural world, shines in an environment designed specifically for it. Set designer and producer Willo Perron, a longtime collaborator of Rihanna’s, is the mind behind this wonderland. And like all wonderlands, it was born out of dreams for an alternate reality. “This set started by thinking about our featured guests and how we could turn them into superheroes in a nonconventional way,” says Perron. “We looked at old cartoon styles and animations...[the 1973 Japanese anime film] Belladonna of Sadness, for instance.”
The animated superworld created for these real-life superheroes has the utopian feel of a future of inclusion. Nineteen-nineties R&B heartthrob Maxwell performs in an oversaturated desert, dancers connected by one ongoing braid (the work of radical hairstylist Jawara Wauchope) writhe in tandem to G-Unit in a forest clearing, and purple velvet–clad dancers wind at the foot of a mountain to the tunes of Nigerian musician Oxlade, right before another Nigerian superstar, Burna Boy, performs fittingly at its peak.
“I want people to be able to leap over mountains, to do things humans cannot physically do. Empowerment is central to the show,” says Perron. “The idea is that everybody has a right to be sensual, sexual, wanted.” The production is a celebration of flesh and fun, eschewing traditional representations of what sexy means or should look like.
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