Upon further research, these women were all 'steppers', a genre of dance somewhere between step dance and military drill. They were divided into four gangs - the Washington Divas, the Zetas, the Soul Steppers and the Momentums. each gang had their own uniform , each gang performed their own choreographed routine before merging to exit the stage together, arms interlinked. The message was clear from the intimidating grimaces on the faces of Owens' chosen 'models' - this was not intending to tick any boxes, to conform or to please anybody in the fashion world. It was a reaction to the current state of both the fashion world and the world in general, a reaction to hierarchy, false economy and a lack of cultural acceptance. These were not women, they were warriors.
Owens' work has always been branded 'cult', and it is, in a sense, true. You rarely see someone wearing just one piece from Rick Owens, his collections are designed to be worn in their entirety, and his aesthetic is so recognisable and distinct that people tend to fall in love with an entire collection as opposed to one piece. This has led to Owens' followers being easy to distinguish, and they are seen as a sort of 'tribe' (tribe seems the most pertinent way to describe it, given the often aggressive and tribal nature of Owens' work). So, this season, Owens seemed to take this notion to a new level and literally deck the women from head-to-toe in what were essentially uniforms, different from one another only in colour.
What is depressing is that many will probably ignore the clothes in favour of the presentation, and although the choreography of the show was obviously designed to break boundaries, it can't be overlooked that Owens went above and beyond his work as a designer by featuring women of all sizes on the runway. He didn't just create sample sizes, he looked at each woman as an individual and considered her role. The clothing was functional; the women needed to dance, to move, to be free, and Owens' relaxed silhouettes worked perfectly for the occasion. Even the pharaoh headpieces were an accompaniment, and the hi-tech trainers were geometric in shape, seemingly modeled on the shape of rocks and boulders - another nod to the aggressive nature of the collection.
Owens spoke after the show and stated that he wanted to 'redefine beauty, to create a new beauty', and it is true that this was definitely not beauty in its traditional sense. Society sees beauty as something alluring, something desirable, whereas these women were the opposite - their aggressive dance and expressions gave the impression that they were formidable, and seriously not to be fucked with. In terms of social commentary, this collection spoke volumes about Owens view on the modern fashion industry, and I will be writing another blogpost about the intention of the show, the ways in which it was 'revolutionary' and how it will undoubtedly be the one collection of this season that will be endlessly analysed not just for its aesthetic purpose, but for the aim that it hoped to achieve.
At the end of the show, the partition doors opened to reveal a brief glimpse of the man himself, shrouded in darkness. Owens has always been an enigmatic figure in a sense, and this set-up made him appear to be a leader, a cult figure, a god. At this point in time he is hailed as a genius. He has created the most memorable fashion show this season, he has redefined the rules of a fashion show and he has provoked unrest. People are questioning exactly what the collection is a reaction against, and it is making people curious. At one point the models were all looming over the front row, continuing their aggressive scowls and dances but staring straight into the faces of the fashion elite. It seemed like a direct challenge. Owens and his warriors are here to shake things up, and they have already achieved their goal.