Rihanna’s stylist created an incredible one-off collection for Equinox

Published January 16, 2018

Equinox, the luxury gym franchise which scans the retinas of its premium E Club members, released a new collection of clothes and accessories. It was designed and concepted by stylist Mel Ottenberg, whose work crafting Rihanna’s looks has made him a deity to the #RihannaNavy. He cherry-picked seven designers to create unique items—vinyl from The Stonewall Inn became an unwearable stiletto; the sweat of a Boston Marathon runner became the inspiration for a fragrance—all of which will be nigh impossible to acquire.

Entitled “Commitment,” the collection’s starting point was seven different design challenges. From there, Ottenberg chose a different designer or design team to help execute each of the ideas—designers whom he not only admires greatly, but ones who also represent, to him, this idea of unstinting dedication that the collection was founded on.

Among the seven one-of-a-kind pieces—which will be sold only at auction, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to various charities—is an Off-White-designed Scrubs Sweatsuit (above) that’s fabricated from the surgical scrubs of the oncologists at NYC’s Sloan Kettering cancer research center, and the Eckhaus Latta-designed Law Suit that’s made from the legal filings of environmental lawyer James Thornton’s non-profit ClientEarth. Oh, and the casual Stonewall Stilettos of course—which, aside from having an unparalleled name, are really just your everyday, unassuming, 11-inch-heeled shoes.

Below, Mel gives a rundown of the design details, inspirations, and stories behind his favorite pieces.

Stonewall Stilettos, designed by Shayne Oliver

MEL OTTENBERG: For the Stonewall Stiletto, we ripped the vinyl off of the seat cushions from The Stonewall Inn. I was thrilled to work with Shayne—he was the only designer that I really wanted to work with on this. I wanted him to design something really hardcore and sort of ridiculous. [For this project], I wanted to make things that weren’t really functional in the normal way. The heels are 11 inches, you can’t really walk in them, but I think that they’re perfect. The people from Stonewall were so great—it was really fun to go in there, talk to the owners, and rip up their seats and everything.

The Shades of Humanity, designed by Adam Selman

OTTENBERG: I had Adam Selman design these glasses with a camera lens from this guy Ruddy Roye, an amazing photographer who we really respect and whose dedication to what he does is really strong. There’s a skinny part and a wide part of the glasses, and the only part you can see through is the camera lens—the rest of it is solid chrome. They’re really, really heavy, really beautiful, and really fierce. I love those.

The Real Camo Jacket, designed by Y/Project

OTTENBERG: This is made from the uniforms and tools of veterans from The Heroes Project, including the uniform of Charlie Linville, who lost a leg after stepping on an IED, and then climbed Mount Everest after that. He’s amazingly dedicated, and gave us his actual battle uniform and part of the uniform that he was wearing when he stepped on this IED. This one was tricky for me because we were using things that people had been blown up in, in service to America overseas, and we wanted to weave those things together into a really amazing jacket and also have it look really fashionable. So I went to Glenn Martens from Y/Project, who I felt like I could trust with this sort of thing, and he did a really beautiful job.

Eau de Blood, Sweat & Tears, designed by Rafael de Cárdenas

OTTENBERG: I asked Rafael de Cárdenas from Architecture at Large to design a perfume bottle to house a custom scent by 12.29, who took the blood, sweat, and tears of Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon, to make this perfume. Rafael is an amazing architect and one of my closest friends. I love how they took the idea of form on concrete and told the story through the bottle.

The Truth Lipstick

OTTENBERG: I really wasn’t sure who to work with on the lipstick, so I designed the lipstick case myself. I chose a broken mirror, made of chrome to house this Washington Post newsprint-based lipstick. The idea behind this was: truth is under attack by the president and, because of that, is more important than ever. The idea was to take the newsprint and the pigmentation of The Post to make lipstick. I like this project coming up at a time when things like honor, the idea of honor, or Americans that are really honorable is in flux and in jeopardy. The truth is in flux and in jeopardy, gay rights are in flux and in jeopardy—all these things. I think it’s important to remember how hard people had to fight to get to this not-great-place that we’re in now. And it’s up to people today to not only keep the memories alive, but to learn from that and push forward into more uncharted territory.

But then it was also fun to make ridiculous clothes out of these materials. Like, all that said and done, it was about making a fierce piece that was going to make people gag. Or a really sick camo jacket that people will want to own but can’t.