Get to know Rihanna *** via the people who made it
Our book, Rihanna *** is a hugely luxurious and wildly revealing new publication, which captures the superstar and her lifestyle perfectly
Our latest edition, Rihanna ***, is an impeccably produced, sumptuous large-format book, with 1,050 images, 7 gatefolds, and 11 special inserts, including 9 bound-in booklets, a die-cut tip-in sheet, and a double-sided removable poster <CHECK SPEC>.
Those images may capture a life might be lived on private jets, stadium stages and the front rows of Fashion Weeks around the world, but the book itself was designed and laid out in the unassuming London studios of Barnbrook, one of the world’s leading independent creative design studios, before being put together by an elite production team.
Barnbrook’s senior designer Marwan Kaabour had the huge but highly enviable task of turning these candid images into a compelling, revelatory narrative. “We were definitely not interested in a cold, clean, quiet book where there’s one image per page,” he told Phaidon.com. “We wanted to signify the insanity of the universe she occupies. We did toy with the idea of having chapter openers and having the book in sections but I think Rihanna was more excited about the idea of having something that flowed from beginning to end, without stopping. And the text comes in at certain points to annotate the story. So it doesn’t work like an ordinary book. It enters when it needs to say something, or to be a comment, or a note or a caption, or even a location locator.”
Studio founder, Jonathan Barnbrook agrees. “The pacing of the book was dictated by Rihanna’s life,” who has worked with such prominent creatives as David Bowie and Damien Hirst. “She is right in the middle of this crazy universe and she is this incredible energy attractor so the book and the design had to reflect where she is at.”
Sue Medlicott was the production guru we tasked with overseeing the incredibly complex production process needed to bring this craziness together into a beautiful, luxurious, oversized format book.
“The large size restricts how much can be done by machine so a great deal was assembled by hand,” Medlicott says. “The actual cases are all made by hand because there is no machine big enough to do what we require.
“It takes four or five people working on each book to carry out the various steps: gluing, cleaning, aligning everything to the degree we need. It’s very time consuming. It takes between three and four days to make one book,” she goes on to reveal. “The book is then also covered with a very special fabric called Vanta and it has to be handled - literally - with kid gloves This material was actually found by the artists the Haas Brothers who designed the end papers for the book. It’s actually a material used for high end sneakers. When Rihanna saw it, she wanted it."
The paper stock was created by the 150-year-old Japanese paper company Oji, and the endpapers used feature a custom design by LA artists The Haas Brothers, in spot gloss on a rich, black paper stock.
“One of my favourite parts of the book are the endpapers, which have a print of the vermiculation pattern in clear gloss over black paper,” Simon Haas says. “It shimmers almost like a spider web. And it has Rihanna’s name hidden in it. It's really beautiful,” Haas says.
Of course Rihanna’s name stands out most clearly on the cover, despite it being struck through with a boldly incised dash. Ever wondered why that’s there? Here’s designer Marwan Kaabour again to explain. “As you can imagine we went through a lot of different options throughout the process,” he says. “In the end we settled on this particular one for a number of reasons. One of the main reasons is that it evokes Rihanna’s very energetic attitude and her presence in popular culture. In one way, the line evokes a censorship bar, or the striking out of something. The idea of strike through text is us playing on the idea of what’s being said versus what is not being said. So it has a conceptual depth to it.”
To explore those luxurious depths order a copy of *** here.