Never let it be said that Rick Owens doesn't know how to put on a show. Today, his Spring 2014 runway presentation was one of the most um... "comprehensive" examples of social commentary to come out of fashion in a while. His angry, amateur models tackled issues like models' weight and body image, race and discrimination in the industry and notions of socioeonomic status all in a single presentation. Whoa, Rick! But was it effective? Will it actually make people think? Was it even intended to make people think? Or was it just another designer shock and awe moment?
Fashion shows are four-dimensional aesthetic expressions of brands' or designers' points of view. So, of course, creatives have 100% carte blanche to show pretty much whatever they'd like. But, my initial reaction to this show - to be completely honest - was "these people are ugly and those clothes don't fit." If the intent is to celebrate unconventional concepts of beauty or attractiveness, shouldn't the people be presented as attractive? Can a scowling face and animalistic aggression be attractive? Step is highly revered in black communities and in the south and I've seen many Deltas and AKAs step in my day. But, while step shows are definitely impressive, I don't think anyone I know would ever describe them as "attractive" or "flattering." As a matter of fact, letting loose and "getting ugly" is part of the art. So, what is challenging about a group of people society already writes off as "ugly" acting, well... "ugly?"
Also, fashion is a language. If fabric and material are the words, fit and construction are the grammar. Owens is a master at draping and parades complex pieces (almost origami-esque at times) down his runway season after season. So why were so many of the looks today ill-fitting? If a designer uses "real women" (which I am only scarcely in support of to begin with) those women ideally should be treated with the same respect and attention to detail as a model. You'd hardly find in any other presentation a pair of shorts drawing up, pressed between touching thighs or straight zippers contorted by a tummy bulge beneath the material. Models are meant to be hangers, but many-a-dress has been altered backstage to prevent the unsightly bulges that pop up when a seem cuts into the waistline of a size 2 girl (Yes, ladies. Models have extra skin too). Why not this time? It seems these women were treated more like props for a spectacle than ambassadors for unconventional beauty.
But, Rick is brave and deserves credit for swimming up-stream. So far, the fashion crew seems to have enjoyed the show even though the clothes seem to be inspired by the wardrobe in Netflix's absolutely not "fashiony" Orange is the New Black. As the urban, hip-hop and black communities continue to make headway in the fashion industry, it's great to see everyone's take on them as creative inspiration. It's great to see it open for discussion. As Cosmo's new Fashion Market Director Shiona Turini put it, "[This is] representing a culture so often overlooked in this industry. This meant so much to me it's unreal." - Court Williams
Runway photos are courtesy of Style.com and photographer Marcus Tondo