LVMH, Rihanna to pause Fenty fashion venture, focus on lingerie, cosmetics

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FILE PHOTO: Pop superstar Rihanna poses in a pop-up store to present her first collection with LVMH for the new label, Fenty, in Paris

PARIS/MILAN (Reuters) - Louis Vuitton owner LVMH and music star Rihanna have agreed to suspend her fashion line Fenty less than two years after its launch, the French luxury goods giant said on Wednesday.

LVMH said in a statement that Fenty's ready to wear activity, based in Paris, would be "put on hold" pending better conditions - a rare setback for the luxury group, which has weathered the coronavirus crisis better than most rivals.

The R&B singer and LVMH launched the Fenty fashion brand in May 2019, only the second time the French group had set a label up from scratch as it looked to tap soaring demand for luxury celebrity collaborations.

LVMH did not elaborate on the reasons for hitting the pause button but after a big launch and debut collection, the brand kept a low profile and never followed up with major marketing events, even before the COVID-19 crisis.

Trade publication WWD, which first reported news that the label was being suspended, said on Wednesday that a skeleton staff remained at the Paris headquarters to wind down remaining operations.

Asked about the fashion venture during the group's third-quarter earnings call last October, LVMH's finance chief Jean-Jacques Guiony called it "a work in progress": "We are still in a launching phase, and we have to figure out exactly what is the right offer. It's not something that is easy."

LVMH also said on Wednesday that private equity fund L Catterton, which is connected to the group, had taken a stake in Savage X Fenty, Rihanna's lingerie line.

"LVMH and Rihanna reaffirm their ambition to concentrate on the growth and the long-term development of Fenty ecosystem focusing on cosmetics, skincare and lingerie," it added.

Fenty - after the "Umbrella" hitmaker's full name, Robyn Rihanna Fenty - was meant to build on the singer's joint cosmetics venture with LVMH, with a full range of clothing, shoes and accessories.

It was the first label the acquisitive group - also home to storied couture houses such as Christian Dior and Givenchy - had fully created since Christian Lacroix’s eponymous brand launched in 1987. It eventually sold that on in 2005 after it struggled to ever turn a profit.

(Reporting by Silvia Aloisi and Sarah White; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)