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Rihanna for River Island Collection — Does it Float your Boat?

Ever the chameleon, Rihanna has gone from beach-frolicking island girl in her  ”Pon de Replay” days to ravenous seductress in her “Unfaithful” era to the dish-breaking, leather-loving rebel with the asymmetrical, jet black ‘do in her Good Girl Gone Bad stage; the bondage-loving, tattoo-flaunting, blond provocateur  in the Rated R era,;the spunky redhead with the playful pin-up side in the Loud era; and the often brash and in-your-face persona she’s embodied with the release of Unapologetic. Her eagerness to experiment has manifested itself in her hair choices (jet black to blonde to redhead and back again), her demeanor, and, of course, her personal style. As of late, the Bajan beauty has been toying with a borrowed-from-the-boys look  that’s rooted in both traditional blue collar worker wear and old-school hip-hop fare. But, since she’s hardly one to shy away from her sexuality, Rihanna has managed to don trucker hats, baggy jeans, baggy but cropped T-shirts and sweatshirts, overalls, and studded parkas while making them look foxy and feminine via unexpected hints of bare skin and the juxtaposition of fbody-hugging and loose, generous fits. Teaming up with UK-based retailer River Island, Rihanna has created the limited-edition Rihanna for River Island collection, which features a subdued color palette consisting of black, white, gray, beige, and, for a punch of color, bright canary yellow (I call it the Jail Rock Tweety color scheme).

The pieces in the Rihanna for River Island collection aim to exude a laid-back coolness via side knot accents, high-low hemlines, slashes  and slits in unexpected places, and the illusion of layers. The Rihanna for River Island Yellow Rihanna Tied T-Shirt Dress ($175 at RiverIsland.com), shown at top, looks like a  short-sleeved T-shirt dress in a shiny, punchy yellow material but it also features a second layer of material that’s knotted at the front, as if  a matching long-sleeved shirt had been wrapped around the waist line and tied haphazardly. The Rihanna for River Island Tied Shirt Parka Jacket ($350 at RiverIsland.com), pictured fourth above, also boasts this tied shirt waist for that laid-back cool feel, so that the long sleeves dangling along the front of the jacket have the stitched cuffs and button accents you’d find in a button-down shirt, as well as the rounded hemline along the back  you’d expect to find in this classic garment. Other fun details include the many patch pockets (one at top and two along the hips), the oversize hood, and the striped gray-and-black  piping lining the inside of the hood. Similarly, the  Rihanna for River Island Navy Rihanna Tied Denim Shirt Zip Front  Skirt ($125 at RiverIsland.com), shown sixth above,  also incorporates this effect but, this time, it’s done in two shades of denim so that it appears as if a light blue, long-sleeved, snap-front denim shirt had been tied over a darker denim skirt with a chunky zipper along the center. In the case of this denim skirt, the effect is less successful because  the layers add bulk to the hip area, which is an unwelcome illusion for most women. 

Another key element of the Rihanna for River Island Collection is a black-and-white striped print with a painterly quality, so that the edges of each vertical line look slightly unfinished and smudged or, quite literally, rough around the edges. This print is most prominent in the Rihanna for River Island Black and White Rihanna Painted Stripe Shirt ($112 at RiverIsland.com), shown second above, a button-down shirt with a longer hemline at the back featuring a side knot, but also pops up on the Rihanna for River Island Black and White Rihanna Striped Bra Top ($75 at RiverIsland.com), pictured last above, a Madonna-esque cropped bustier with slightly pointy bra cups that’s meant to be worn with high-waisted shorts or pants, and the Rihanna for River Island Black and White Rihanna Painted Striped Shorts ($87 at RiverIsland.com), shown fourth below, which features a high waistband and slightly flared leg openings that make the shorts  slightly resemble a skirt.

Since so much of the collection is based upon an idea of layering and laid-back attitude, there is an abundance of cropped tees with 3/4-length sleeves, midriff-baring  short-sleeved turtleneck tops, and cropped camis with a side knot accent along the front. The Rihanna for River Island Yellow Rihanna Knot Front Cropped Cami Top ($45 at RiverIsland.com), shown fifth from top, is just one example of the many garments meant to be mix and matched and just layered ingeniously. And, of course, since Rihanna loves showing skin, it’s only right that many of her garments would include sky-high slits, among them floor-length skirts like the Rihanna for River Island Black Rihanna Thigh High Split Maxi Skirt ($100 at RiverIsland.com) pictured next to last above.

Collegiate elements and men’s workwear details also inform the collection so that such garments appear as a hooded utility jumpsuit (not shown), a maxi dress with a sheer skirt and a bodice resembling traditional overalls, with wide straps and a patch pocket at its very center (as pictured fifth below). The abundance of denim could also be attributed to this blue collar inspiration — from the denim skirts, micro shorts, and overall tops to the quirkier and more head-scratching pieces like the Rihanna for River Island Double Top Straight Jeans ($150 at RiverIsland.com), shown ninth below, which are meant to look as if two baggy pairs of pants had been layered, one sagging slightly beneath the other. Even the accessories nod to  the gear donned by truckers and construction workers, with shoes like the Rihanna for River Island Beige Rihanna Tie Front Trucker Boots ($237.50 at RiverIsland.com), pictured third above, incorporating chunky lugged heels and lace-up fronts, and details like the Rihanna for River Island Black Rihanna Tattoo Pendant Trucker Hat ($62.50 at RiverIsland.com), pictured eight above, which features a mesh fabric along the back and a faux leather panel and rim at the front, with a golden metal pendant of a winged Isis inspired by one of Rihanna’s tattoos.

Overall, the collection incorporates some standout pieces — among them the hefty trucker boots, plaque-adorned trucker hat, striped blouse, and tied shirt parka jacket  shown above — but many of the thigh-high skirts, denim shorts, and cropped tees, turtlenecks  and camisoles feel like standard fare that could be found pretty much anywhere (and for a considerably lower price). And, yes, there are even some downright fugly pieces: the double top straight jeans chief among them since they look like a gimmick straight out of a Kriss Kross video.

Check out the pieces in the Rihanna for River Island collection above and below and let us know: which pieces sink and which swim?

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