Tuesday, 1 October 2013


For his S/S 2014 womenswear presentation, the message was clear. Rick Owens was angry. Angry about what, though? There have been several suggestions that the show was a promotion of racial diversity, or a commentary on the size debate that continues to rage on, but surely if it were just about these two issues he would have used an all-black cast (there were women of all ethnicities) or women that were all plus-size? There seems to be more to Rick's casting than just the issues of race and size. The overarching message was that Rick seemed to be angry about the constraints of the fashion industry in general, an issue which is becoming more and more pertinent with every day that passes. Talk is now more focused on which houses are selling well than which houses are showing innovativity, and headlines tend to be about sales increases or luxury investors such as LVMH pumping money into marketable designers such as J.W. Anderson. 

What's ironic is that Rick himself hasn't particularly given any kind of in-depth commentary on the ideology or casting for his show. He has said simply that he wants to redefine beauty, but for anyone with more than a casual interest in fashion, the implications are so much deeper. The fashion industry is a lucrative one, and it is one still plagued with issues - from the argument that the industry is too exclusive through to the exploitation of young models, there is so much that continues to be fundamentally wrong within the industry, but it is something which cannot be solved entirely and it is something that people are working to alleviate. The main way in which Rick's show was revolutionary was its presentation. It was not shown on a runway, the models stopped only briefly to provide the obligatory snapshot of the outfit and there was no attempt to glamourise the collection. The show was a return to what is so fantastic about fashion - it provides insight into a new culture, it captivates its audience and it provokes questions. Perhaps Owens was saying that there is a lack of creativity in fashion due to the tired formula of runway - that is, displaying the outfit, stopping to pose and letting the circulating images serve as advertisement for the collection. For example, this is one of the only recent fashion shows that I actually felt it necessary to see in video as opposed to a series of stills - it was a show, a performance, and the emphasis was as much on the model as it was on the clothing.

At one point the women arranged themselves in two straight lines and directly faced the fashion editors of the front row, looking as pissed-off as ever. The whole point of the 'grit face' (as it is known in the world of stepping) is to intimidate the opponent, but here the opponent seemed to be the fashion elite. Was this intentional or not? Fashion shows still follow the same hierarchical formula - you have to be invited to get in, and you have to be important to be at the front. But Owens appeared to be promoting diversity and a reformulation of outdated rules, so does this extend to the front row? It certainly shook up the front row - these women were terrifying both in expression and physicality, and I would definitely not want any of them staring directly at me, stood only centimetres away, performing this vicious ritual. I can only imagine Anna Wintour's reaction.

Another thing is that the guidelines for models are now stricter than ever. I have a friend that recently was scouted by a modelling agency, but upon a casting was told that they prefer women that are around a Size 6 (a US size 2) as to accommodate sample sizes. However, they also want women that are over a certain height, meaning that my friend (who is currently a size 8/10) would most likely have to resort to unhealthy methods of weight-loss to attain and then maintain this unrealistic size. It has also led to models becoming more faceless than ever - runway models are chosen in a formulaic manner, not selected for their charisma but instead as a clothes-horse. Of course some models have the talent to become well-known, and it is often these models that make the transition into editorial and become hugely successful, but the whole selection process still seems slightly bogus, especially considering that two of the most well-known and imitated models in the world (Devon Aoki and Kate Moss) were both considered too short for runway. The question is, would these models have been given the opportunity to model in today's day and age?

The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that Rick genuinely didn't have any specific subject that pissed him off. He was simply doing what he always does and following his own rules, yet this collection is so timely that you really can't help but analyse it. Whether he intended to or not, he has caused people to come to their own conclusions and form their own opinions, many of which probably never occurred to him (much like some of the arguments that I have just made probably weren't his intention). But Thank GOD that Rick created this collection and presented it the way that he did, because it has caused unrest. It has caused people to question the industry, and really try to understand the root of the problems. It is a return to fashion being a portal into new cultures, and it is a radical new way to display a collection - a shake-up which desperately needed to happen. More importantly, he has ignited passion in people, and he has made people think - something which I believe to be absolutely essential and completely separate from the 'superficial' elements of fashion that are often criticised. The show is said to be part of an upcoming documentary, and I sincerely hope that this rumour turns out to be true - the world needs to see more of Rick Owens.

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