Stylist B. Akerlund had never worked with Rihanna before she got the assignment to choose her outfits for the current issue of Rolling Stone – but she immediately had some ideas. "Her people told me the direction that we were going was if Kid Rock and Rihanna had a baby," she tells Rolling Stone. "So I tried to think of things she hadn't done. And everyone kept on saying super sexy, super sexy, and I'm like, okay, I'll give you sexy."
The result was a cover shot of Rihanna wearing a pair of barely-there, torn metallic shorts with a Levi's logo on the back, a midriff-baring white tank top and a red bandanna tied around her wrist. But it was the shorts that had everyone talking. Or as Popdust put it: "Rihanna is sporting a revolutionary booty-flaunting garment that’s part shorts, part apron and part nothing."
Akerlund commissioned the shorts from designer Michael Schmidt, whom she frequently collaborates with. "I like everything that sparkles, so I was just trying to think of, like, what can we do that's not crystals, because we've done a lot of it, and then I was trying to come up with like, what is the hottest short on the planet, basically," says Akerlund, who has worked with Lady Gaga, Madonna, Fergie and Kate Moss. "And then we came up with this concept of photo digitizing on top of metal mesh."
The stylist and the singer didn't have a chance to meet before the photo shoot, so Akerlund knew she was taking a chance with the shorts' fit. "I was just looking at the pictures online of like, her bum," she says, laughing. "I was just trying to figure out how she liked her shorts, and how they would end and cut."
The stakes were even higher because the shorts – which took a week to make – couldn't be altered after they were finished, because of the fine detailing along the ripped hem. "I just kept on saying, go shorter, go shorter," she says. "I knew we couldn't go much shorter, but I think the end result was just right."
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