Inside the Set Design of Savage x Fenty Vol 3 with Willo Perron
Architect John C. Portman, Jr.'s Brutalist Westin Bonaventure Hotel in L.A. played host to the third iteration of Rihanna’s cinematic lingerie show, which debuted on Friday and featured models and performers such as Normani, Troye Sivan, Gigi Hadid, and Nas. Here, the set designer and producer Willo Perron gives us a behind-the-scenes look at this year’s futuristic concept.
This is your third Savage x Fenty show. How have the events evolved from the first to the second to the third edition, and what are some of the revelations you’ve taken away from having gone through the first two shows?
The goal with these shows is to change the format every time. The first one was with an audience in Barclays and a big singular piece of scenic. The second was shot on set with separate worlds and no audience. This one was on location, really embracing the building and pre-existing spaces. We wanted to challenge ourselves to not stay stuck doing the show the same way each time, maybe next year we bring back an audience or switch it up again in some other way.
How did your approach change when designing a show for a building like the Bonaventure Hotel as opposed to events venues like Barclays Center and LA Convention Center? Was it easier or more difficult?
The reason we picked the Bonaventure was because of the architecture. So everything had to be integrated into the existing space, which was definitely more difficult for lighting and camera positions. But we loved the building so much it was worth it. We also wanted to bring it back to its former glory and make subtle additions that embraced the architecture without taking away from it.
How much of the set design and creative direction is influenced by the collection each year? Are they symbiotic or more independent from each other?
There’s difference acts in the show that represent different categories from the collection but there’s no direct link. We always pull some inspiration from the new collections.
What’s the creative collaboration process with Rihanna like? How does the conceptualization of a show unfold from beginning to end?
I’ve been working with Rihanna for so long that it’s a pretty easy communication process and I have a good sense of what she’ll like. I propose some ideas, big brushstrokes at first and from there we narrow it down. For this year’s show we proposed a few locations we liked and landed on The Bonaventure. From there we narrowed in on the spaces and the aesthetic of those spaces within The Bonaventure.
What’s your favorite detail/moment/feature of Savage x Fenty Vol 3?
The scale of the show this year. Being able to do things at this big of a scale is always really exciting and going from indoors to outdoors adds another element to it. Obviously the architecture of the building as well.
When the Savage x Fenty show first launched, it subverted traditional ideas of what a fashion show is. Each season seems to become more and more elaborate. Where does it go next? How far can you push it?
Personally I’d like to dive deeper into the fantasy aspect of these things, get more cinematic or more narrative and start telling stories. Fashion on film always feels very one dimensional and it’s always beauty beauty without very much storytelling so for me that would be an interesting future for this particular show.
As a multidisciplinary creative director and designer, does your approach change and adapt depending on the medium? How similar or different is your creative process when you’re designing furniture versus a set for a fashion show?
Furniture and interiors are really focused on details and finish, while live shows don’t need the same level of detail so they use a different part of the brain. If you look at a piece of furniture you want to touch it, it’s a slow love affair with interiors and home and space. Whereas with shows, it’s more of an instant thing so you need to appeal to different senses that you have to tap into when designing each of these things.