Photographed by Nick Knight and styled by the publication's Editor-in-Chief Edward Enninful, the cover image is a tight shot of the singer/beauty mogul/fashion designer/philanthropist/insert-every-other-impressive-hyphenate-here, decked out in an intricate floral headpiece, moody oxblood lips and super-skinny brows evocative of Marlene Dietrich.
Incredibly striking for its visual impact alone, the cover — which is Enninful's first September issue for British Vogue — takes on added significance when considering that with it, Rihanna has become the first Black woman to front the fall fashion issue in the magazine's history. (It seems that so far, September is shaping up to be a month of momentous firsts when it comes to representation for people of color in fashion shoots; on Monday, it was reported that Beyoncé brought in American Vogue's first-ever Black cover photographer for her yet-to-be-confirmed shoot.)
"I always knew it had to be Rihanna," writes Enninful of the September cover choice in his editor letter. "A fearless music-industry icon and businesswoman, when it comes to that potent mix of fashion and celebrity, nobody does it quite like her."
For the cover shot, shown above, Enninful outfitted Rihanna in a Prada dress and gloves, Savage X Fenty bodysuit and a floral headpiece — yes, made from actual flowers (!) — designed by Makoto Azuma. Azuma also crafted several other pieces for the in-book shoot, which shows Rihanna against a stark gray background to offset the elaborateness of the styling.
The images also feature stunning makeup by Isamaya Ffrench, a slightly off-beat combination of Rihanna's patent, glowing skin (she hates a matte complexion), lacquered, dark-red lips and the unexpected element of those ultra-skinny, penciled on eyebrows. The entire shoot is a visual representation of the many, many fashion and beauty choices Rihanna — and few others — can so effortlessly pull off.
To put it in Enninful's words: "No matter how haute the styling goes, or experimental the mood, you never lose her in the imagery. She is always Rihanna. There's a lesson for us all in that. Whichever way you choose to dress the new season, take a leaf out of her book and be yourself."