Inside the Design of Rihanna’s Slick, Star-Studded Savage x Fenty Fashion Show

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Rihanna’s new Savage x Fenty presentation pushes the boundary of what a fashion show even is. Available to view on Amazon Prime now, the event is more like a star-studded, impeccably choreographed music video. There are performances from Normani, Daddy Yankee, Nas, Jazmine Sullivan, Ricky Martin, Jade Novah, and BIA. The show also features models of all shapes and sizes (among them, Gigi Hadid, Behati Prinsloo, Emily Ratajkowski, Cindy Crawford, Erykah Badu, Troye Sivan, and more) strut their stuff in the mogul’s lingerie line.

In this scene, Cindy Crawford ascends the hotel stairs.

Rihanna's Savage X Fenty Show Vol. 3 presented by Amazon Prime Video - Show & BTS

In this scene, Cindy Crawford ascends the hotel stairs.
Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Rihanna's Savage X Fenty Show Vol. 3 Presented by Amazon Prime Video

While the first two Savage x Fenty showcases took place in a typical performance venue and on sound stages, respectively, volume three was filmed entirely on location at The Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites in Downtown Los Angeles. The curving glass skyscraper—built in 1976 by Portman Architects—features a large atrium and outdoor elevators and provided ample space for numerous vignettes, stages, and what seems like miles of catwalk.

The hotel's architecture informed the many dance numbers.
The hotel's architecture informed the many dance numbers.
Photo: Kevin Mazur

“It’s always been a building that I’ve loved and it’s very iconic to downtown Los Angeles,” says Willo Perron of Perron-Roettinger, who handled the set design for this and previous Savage x Fenty shows, and has also created stages for Lady Gaga and Kanye West, and decorated Jay-Z’s L.A. office. He says the building lent itself to a large performance “in a postmodern Busby Berkeley type of way,” citing the late director and choreographer known for his elaborate synchronized dance numbers in films like 1933’s 42nd Street.

Gigi Hadid about to take on an outdoor catwalk during the show.

Rihanna's Savage X Fenty Show Vol. 3 presented by Amazon Prime Video - Show & BTS

Gigi Hadid about to take on an outdoor catwalk during the show.
Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Rihanna's Savage X Fenty Show Vol. 3 Presented by Amazon Prime Video

As much as the hotel’s architecture informed the run of show—for example, the elevators are used to transition between scenes—Perron and his team did intervene a bit to take the space from bustling, functioning hotel to camera-ready performance space. “As far as look, it was mostly about cleaning up the building and giving it some identity,” he tells AD. “There are a lot of storefronts in the main stair scene, so we had to camouflage and hide all of those using drapes. We also re-carpeted all of the inside areas and some of the exterior areas.”

Elevators were turned into beds for transition shots in between musical numbers.

Rihanna's Savage X Fenty Show Vol. 3 presented by Amazon Prime Video - Show & BTS

Elevators were turned into beds for transition shots in between musical numbers.
Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Rihanna's Savage X Fenty Show Vol. 3 Presented by Amazon Prime Video
See the video.

When viewers first see Rihanna, she’s writhing on a couch in an area that evokes a VIP section at a nightclub. “The seating pods existed, which are an incredibly iconic part of the architecture, but we remade them for the purpose of choreography and to match the show color,” Perron says.

Color is used throughout to define different scenes (at one point Normani performs inside an entirely red room), but much of that color is achieved using lighting, which makes for a very slick, action-movie inspired look. “I kept thinking about films in DTLA, these sweaty summer nights and highly saturated films like Heat, lots of Michael Mann films… it’s an exaggerated version of those,” Perron says.

Rihanna in the closing scene of the show.

Rihanna's Savage X Fenty Show Vol. 3 presented by Amazon Prime Video - Show & BTS

Rihanna in the closing scene of the show.
Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Rihanna's Savage X Fenty Show Vol. 3 Presented by Amazon Prime Video

The whole thing was filmed without any audience over the course of a few days, with the team juggling the complicated logistics of shooting inside an open hotel. But when you watch, it seems to all be one big late-night fantasy, and at the end morning dawns on Rihanna as she stands atop the hotel roof, soaked in daylight and clapping.

Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest

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