NEW YORK - When does fashion rock? When two talented young artists - one a musician, the other a fashion designer - get together for a star-studded event that celebrates their industries and raises money for charity.
Rihanna and Zac Posen are teaming up to create the outfits the Barbados-born singer will wear for the Fashion Rocks concert, the kickoff to New York Fashion Week. The concert, which includes headliner Elton John along with Christina Aguilera, Beyonce, Kanye West, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw and the Pussycat Dolls, was held Sept. 7 at Radio City Music Hall and then be televised on CBS tonight. All proceeds benefit John's AIDS foundation.
"Rihanna's incredibly beautiful and a good dancer. She's a rare star with a full complement of talents," said Posen, 25, during the final fittings for her dresses earlier this week. "I started watching her on 'Video Wake-up' on MTV."
Meanwhile, as 18-year-old Rihanna saw her star rise this summer with her top 10 song "Unfaithful" and she posed for more and more photo shoots, she noticed that the clothes she always seemed drawn to were Posen's.
Once she found out that she'd be performing at the Conde Nast-sponsored concert, she contacted Posen about her wardrobe: She'd need a dress for the red carpet, another to perform and another for a "secret appearance," she explained.
Posen said that meant she'd need to be able to move in all her outfits. No problem. "Our clothing is made for dancing," he told the Associated Press with a smile.
And Rihanna is no fashion newbie. She came to Posen's downtown Manhattan studio in a ladylike jacket - that also served as her top - with trendy skinny jeans.
Soon after disappearing into a changing room surely much smaller than the dressing rooms she's used to, she emerged in a clingy pink V-neck sweater dress with a pink and silver chiffon satin slip as an overlay.
Posen said: "She can flirt with the camera in this.... It's naughty, it's sweet. There's a touch of nostalgia. It had to be elegant rock 'n' roll, not gaudy rock 'n' roll."
The next outfit was a seafoam green babydoll dress with a V-neck halter and gold sunbursts around the hem.
He was trying to play up her "real figure," Posen explained. "Young people look up to her. Rihanna has an ideal body for clothing."
"I love that it makes my waist look like it's two inches!" Rihanna gushed. "But there's also movement and I'm comfortable because it's not too short."
The duo (and their rather large entourages at the fittings) seemed to like each dress that came out more than the one before. Other outstanding looks were a white stretch satin dress with a V to the navel, pleats at the waist and a bouncy, flirty skirt - think of Marilyn Monroe's famous dress that blew upward with the subway wind - and a silver gown with a halter top and mermaid-style bottom.
"Choosing is the hardest part," Rihanna said.
As Posen nipped and tucked the dresses with pins, Rihanna said the whole experience of Fashion Rocks and being personally outfitted by a well-known designer seemed unimaginable only a year or two ago.
"Growing up in Barbados, I was just a regular girl," she said. "But I was always interested in fashion. Barbados is so far away from everything else, my friend and I would look at magazines and say, 'So that's what's hot in the rest of the world.' We'd wear sweaters, boots - we didn't care if that's what was in style."
If it seems like Rihanna is a fairly new on the scene, you're right.
First of all, she's only 18. Second of all, she only moved in 2005 from Barbados, where she was born and raised, to the United States.
Her first big hit, "Pon De Replay," was No. 18 on Billboard's ranking of 2005's top songs. The song "Unfaithful," from her second album "A Girl Like Me," reached the top 10 this summer.
She won a Teen Choice Award as breakout female artist and appeared on the MTV Video Music Awards.
Acting is also in her sights. She's in the upcoming movie "Bring It On: All or Nothing."
Her full name is Robyn Rihanna Fenty.
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