When I think of the title Creative Director, I think of a fancy Manhattan office with a bar, a comfy couch, a lot of sleeping and showing up to sales meetings late and dropping killer pitches with very little effort. Basically, I think of Don Draper from Mad Men. In my mind, Creative Director sounds like the greatest job in the world and it’s a title I aspire to hold one day, even though if the reality of what they do is far from the fantasy.

Anyways, when I first heard that Rihanna was going to take on the title of Creative Director of Fashion Sportswear at PUMA, it sounded more ceremonial than official. Not because the idea of an artist of her stature taking on a new position in a different world was crazy – it’s been done before to varying degrees of success – but because I didn’t think that Rihanna had the time or the patience or the dedication to pull it off. At its most derivative and maybe even derogatory, a celebrity with no prior experience in the creative side of fashion might just be handed a few samples and their task is to just pick out what they like and call it a day. But as the weeks in the months went along and I spoke with other people in the industry, whether they were retailers, media types, or people at different brands, the common thread was that Rihanna was in it; she is fully invested in making her Fenty collaboration with PUMA the biggest thing in the world.

PUMA
PUMA

Anything Fenty turned to gold for PUMA in 2016. It could have been furry Slides, Trainers that were designed for both ladies and men in mind, or the aforementioned Creepers, as long as Rihanna’s name was involved, it was gone. I mean, who else could convince grown men to rock red velvet sneakers? I’m not sure ‘Ye, LeBron James or any other male celebrity or athlete in the world could set that trend, but that crossover was possible thanks to RiRi.

The accolades kept coming from all sides. According to multiple outlets and from the brand itself, PUMA sales were up this year and a lot of that was credited to Rihanna. Late this year, she walked away with the coveted Footwear News Sneaker Of The Year for her for the Fenty Creeper. Pop-up shops for her apparel and footwear collections had her fans in a frenzy that was not unlike the release of a hyped sneaker, but with more women and a classier atmosphere. Her ability to draw a crowd was obviously a main reason PUMA wanted to work with her, but the diversity of her fans, whether you want to go by background, race or gender, might be unmatched by anybody not named Beyonce.

That’s not say that Rihanna should get all the praise like Don Draper would normally do when he collected awards. There are the Peggy Olsons and Stan Rizzos of PUMA as well, if you want to call Kylie Jenner a building block for the amazing foundation the brand developed in 2016. I might be out of the age range of people who would consider Jenner an icon, but she clearly made an impact for the brand when her own Fierce sneakers dropped and had the kids itching for a pair.

2016 was also the swan song for one of the most popular athletes in the world, Jamaica’s Usain Bolt. While his real retirement will come at the 2017 World Championships, he competed in his final Olympics (allegedly) and brought glory and gold medals to his not only his country, but to their official sponsor PUMA as well. How many times have we seen Bolt break records while having the iconic logo on his gear? It’s hard to imagine him leaving at the relatively young age of 30, but his spot in the PUMA pantheon is secure.

As for the man who really made PUMA a household name in the world of basketball, Clyde Frazier is to the brand what Stan Smith is to adidas. The trends may come and go, but the timeless quality of the PUMA Clyde will endure even if Jenner or Rihanna were to move on to other endeavors in the future. To end the year with a Diamond Supply Co. collaboration means that PUMA is interested in blowing up the Clyde in a way that maybe we haven’t seen since the man himself was blowing our minds with his forward-trending attire in the 1970s.

You know PUMA has had a great year when the only thing we can really say about their recent signing of The Weeknd as a Brand Ambassador is that it feels like most traditional thing they’ve done this year. Well, that and I hope they start playing “I Feel It Coming” – maybe the most unsubtle subtle song ever made – in his commercials. But the resurgence of the brand in 2016 was a convergence of so many things going right for them coupled with a supernova that made it all work.

The post #KoFBestOf2016: Rihanna And PUMA Makes The Dream Work appeared first on KicksOnFire.com.

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