EXCLUSIVE: Mel Ottenberg and Adam Selman Talk Rihanna’s Scandalous CFDA Look
“It’s so naked,” said Mel Ottenberg while en route to the CFDA Awards with Rihanna, the 2014 Fashion Icon of the Year. “I don’t know if it’s shocking—I’m with her all the time, so my shock gauge is off, but I told her that I thought she was ready for this dress a while ago, and that I wasn’t. I’m the prude, and I’m just catching up.”
Naturally, Ottenberg was referring to RiRi’s translucent CFDA gown—a mesh number smattered with more than 230,000 Swarovski crystals. Designed by the star’s collaborator (and Ottenberg’s boyfriend), Adam Selman, the look leaves little to the imagination. So if Instagram explodes tonight, it’s Rihanna’s fault. “We definitely wanted to make it a little bit scandalous,” Selman told Style.com right after the chanteuse walked out the door. “The dress is just fishnet and crystals and a couple of fingers crossed. But fashion is about beauty, and the [female] body is part of that.”“So many people didn’t sleep last night,” admitted Ottenberg. “I would say at least eight people worked nonstop from 8 p.m. last night to 3 p.m. today putting on the finishing touches.” Equal parts Deco showgirl and Hollywood glam, the gown was conceived last month in L.A., while Selman and Ottenberg were dressing Rihanna for the MTV Movie Awards. “We started talking about it, and I sketched it shortly after,” said Selman, noting it was a heavily collaborative process. In fact, the matching do-rag was all Rih’s idea. “It brings such a Rihanna feel to the whole thing,” said Selman. “It seals the deal.” Selman’s initial sketches of the outfit debut exclusively here.
Further accessorized with a pink Pologeorgis fur stole, Manolo Blahnik heels, a ring and earrings by Paul Morelli, and a pinky ring by Jacob, the look is decidedly less tame than what we’re used to seeing at the CFDAs. Gasps and whispers no doubt echoed throughout Alice Tully Hall. But did you really expect the pop princess—who was recently banned from Instagram for her nip-pics—to turn up in a standard DVF wrap dress?
Seeing as Rihanna’s every move is photographed ad nauseam, one would imagine that designers were chomping at the bit to dress her for the Oscars of fashion. So why did she go with Selman? “We wanted to do an American designer, and he was just the right choice,” explained Ottenberg. “He’s worked so closely with us, and so hard for us. He’s turned it out for her so many times, and we were excited to do this with him.”Selman, who has not only crafted custom tour costumes for Rihanna since 2011 but also co-designed her River Island capsule, was touched by the choice. “She could have had any designer make any dress, so for me it’s an exciting statement that she chose to wear me on such a big night of fashion. She has really put me in the spotlight.” Selman won’t be attending the ceremony with Mme. Rih (“I’m having a cocktail instead,” he laughed), but he’ll be meeting up with the singer for dinner to celebrate their sartorial coup.
“I did this look for her so she’d have a good time,” offered Ottenberg when asked what he was going for. “This was the perfect night do to something fun, and I wanted her to have something great that you couldn’t find anywhere else in the world.” To that point, it’s doubtful that anyone else on the planet could have pulled off the ensemble—which, for the record, I’d have to say she did. “She’s daring, she’s bold, and she’s not afraid of fashion. She doesn’t let fashion overcome her,” said Selman of the Bad Gal’s icon status. “She embraces it and makes everything she puts on her own. Not many people do that.”—Katharine K. Zarrella
Photos:David X Prutting/BFAnyc.com; Adam Selman; Neil Rasmus/BFAnyc.com