Fashion rules are made to be broken, Rihanna told a glittering crowd of fashion industry leaders on Monday, and her outfit dramatically conveyed that message: a sheer fishnet gown, sparkling with thousands of embedded crystals, that left little underneath to the imagination.
The singer cemented her role as a fashion luminary by receiving the 2014 Fashion Icon Award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America. Her trophy was presented by Anna Wintour, the powerful Vogue editor, who said that with Rihanna, “the point is to be audacious — even jaw-dropping or button-pushing.”
Accepting the award, Rihanna spoke of her origins in Barbados, where “I didn’t have a lot of access to fashion.” But, she said: “Fashion has always been my defense mechanism.” Even as a child, she told the crowd, she used to think: “She can beat me, but she can’t beat my outfit.”
“I can compensate for all my weaknesses with my fashion,” she said, adding: “There are rules, but rules are meant to be broken.”
An emotional high point of the ceremony was the bestowing of the prestigious Founders Award to Bethann Hardison, a former model and modeling agent, who has been a vocal champion for diversity on runways.
She was introduced by model Naomi Campbell, who choked up when she described her admiration for Hardison. When Hardison came onstage to accept her trophy, so did 16 models of color, standing behind her and smiling. She spoke passionately of the need for diverse runways — “just let them model,” she said — and added that things were improving throughout the industry on that score.
The annual CFDA show, hosted this year by director and screenwriter John Waters, always draws a mix of fashion insiders and Hollywood stars. This year, one of the biggest names was Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o, who presented the womenswear award to Altuzarra.
Nyong’o, who has become as famous for her choices on the red carpet as her skyrocketing acting career, told the crowd that if there was one thing she had learned in a year of film festivals and awards shows, “it is the power of fashion.” She wore a cropped Suno jumpsuit, in multi-colored stripes.
Other Hollywood stars in attendance included Blake Lively in a short Michael Kors dress, and Emmy Rossum in a green chiffon J. Mendel gown. Greta Gerwig wore a bright orange Zac Posen gown.
But none made as big a splash as Rihanna, in her translucent outfit designed by Adam Selman that was embedded with more than 200,000 Swarovski crystals. The gown was accompanied by matching, elbow-length gloves and a glittering headscarf.