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Rita Ora’s urban chic

By Bee-Shyuan Chang
New York Times

More Information

  • Column: Silence the voice in your head
  • Book review: A guide to the over-40 wardrobe
  • The Rita Ora file

    The British dance-pop singer-songwriter, 22, had three No. 1 singles in the United Kingdom in 2012.

    A protégé of Jay-Z, her “platinum blonde hair, darkened brows, and crimson lips generated nearly as much buzz in the U.K. as her string of hit singles,” according to Vogue.com. Her signature color: Red.

    Music video single, “Shine Ya Light,” has topped 5.6 million views on YouTube.

    Hits include: “How We Do (Party),” and “R.I.P.”



New year, new girl.

If fashion muses bloom in the dead of winter, as ateliers begin to hum with sewing machines preparing for the fall 2013 collections, the singer Rita Ora might be a particularly flamboyant breed of English rose.

At 22, Ora, the prized protege of Jay-Z, has been rapidly winning over designers with her carefree style: a blend of hip-hop, designer bling and ’90s Gwen Stefani.

“Fashion has been so serious for so long, we’re ready to have some fun, aren’t we?” said Pucci designer Peter Dundas, who dressed Ora for several red carpet events last year and admires her “hip-hop and ultrafeminine yet tomboy look.” Dundas met the singer for the first time when he invited her to escort him to Bergdorf Goodman’s 111th anniversary party last October. Ora wore a classic cream column that matched her “Jean Harlow hair,” Dundas said, declaring his date “a ton of fun.”

Peroxide blond, and usually spotted with her full lips painted matte red, Ora seems as if she would probably find a spotlight in Antarctica. And this despite the fact that her first album, “Ora,” doesn’t yet have a firm release date in the U.S., though it was released (at No. 1 on the pop chart) in Britain in August and a music video single, “Shine Ya Light,” has topped 5.6 million views on YouTube at last count.

Vogue’s ‘Best Dressed’

Along with wearing the glamorous Pucci designs, Ora has proved an able mannequin for stacks of gold accessories, including a couple of Cartier Juste un Clou bangles, newly acquired Birkin bags, mannish suiting, and wacky House of Holland outfits, one of which earned her a spot in Vogue’s “Best Dressed” selection in November.

For fashion party bookers, Ora seems to meet all necessary prerequisites. “I like her sound and I like her look, and in order to become mainstream, you need to have the look, the sound and a strong social media following,” said Janjay Sherman, a publicity and talent relations director. “She has the three things.”

Music meets fashion

Despite Ora’s youth, the English designer Henry Holland of House of Holland is already sensing a maturation of her fashion choices. “From her first video she was very urban, and now that she’s become more successful, she’s got more of a polish to her look, but it’s nice to see that she still adds an urban twist on things,” he said. “She’ll still pair a gown with trainers. She’s not having an identity crisis.”

Holland suggested it’s because music and fashion often collide in London circles. “These girls have a really strong sense of self and what they want to look like,” he said. “They’re more educated and aware of designers. They’re not being pushed around by music executives.”

In fact, Ora will argue with her stylist team, led by Jason Rembert in New York, and her best friend, Kyle De’volle, in London. “We fight all the time, and she won’t back down,” Rembert said. “But on the other hand, I can respect that. A lot of girls will say they’re into fashion when they’re not. That’s not the case with Rita.”

More designer clothes

And Ora sees more designer clothes in her future, particularly as invitations to fashion shows come flowing in. (She has already been in the front row at Louis Vuitton and Vivienne Westwood.) She’s inspired by “what the designer was thinking, how did he choose fabric to how he sewed the embroidery,” Ora said.

“One day, I want to do a line. But maybe after I do like 11 albums. Music is my first and foremost.”

Notably, though, she has sought out a sartorial signature. A photo of Daphne Guinness adorns her living room, focusing on the heiress’ fingers, completely covered in rings.

And her heels, of course, are usually high, like the nude mesh Christian Louboutins she wore recently – scored at a sample sale, she said.

“Like the kitten heel, I hate,” Ora said, cringing. “Either wear a heel or don’t wear a heel, OK? I really despise those wedge trainers, too.” (Though she loves Air Jordans.) “I understand they want the lift, but I think they’re a sin. One hundred percent sin.”

And perhaps redemption is to be found on the red carpet. “I am committed to glamour,” she said.

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