Rihanna makes history: 'Did I ever imagine that I would see a durag on the cover of Vogue?'

Priya Elan

Rihanna has made history, becoming the first woman to appear on the cover of British Vogue wearing a durag.

The garment, which is used to help the development of braids, waves and dreadlocks, has had a storied history in the black community. From being worn by slaves through to members of the Black power movement, it is a potent sartorial symbol of African-Caribbean survival and celebration.

After a period of criminalisation (it was banned by some high schools in the US), it has been reclaimed. As Observer beauty columnist Funmi Fetto wrote in Vogue: “The tainted fabric has been reclaimed as a symbol of black beauty, a signifier of style worn on the streets, the catwalk, the red carpet ... And now, in a powerful mic-drop moment, the durag is making its first appearance on the May 2020 cover of British Vogue.”

Rihanna in a durag at the CFDA awards in 2014. Photograph: Rabbani and Solimene Photography/WireImage

“Did I ever imagine that I would see a durag on the cover of Vogue?” asked the British Vogue editor Edward Enninful on his Instagram page.

In the lengthy post, Enninful revealed that it was the singer’s idea to wear the headwear, which was designed by the famed milliner Stephen Jones. “For this month’s shoot, she wanted Rihanna for a new decade,” he said. “We worked through a substantial archive of visual references (her fashion and cultural knowledge is encyclopaedic) to find a new proposition,” he explained. “Then suddenly, at 2am, my phone pinged with the latest WhatsApp: ‘How about we go with a durag?’”

It’s not the first time the singer has worn the garment. At the 2014 Council of Fashion Designers of America awards she paired a sheer, Swarovski encrusted Adam Selman dress with a crystal durag. Two years later, she she opened the 2016 MTV VMA’s wearing a black and white design by Moses Gauntlett Cheng.

Guapdad 4000 wearing a 10ft long durag. Photograph: Steve Granitz/WireImage

More recently, versions of the headdress were worn by singers Solange and Janelle Monae at the 2018 Met Gala, while in January, the Californian rapper Guapdad 4000 wore a 10ft-long durag on the Grammys red carpet, designed by Faded NYC.