Righting some diversity wrongs: Rick Owens S/S 2014
Just before New York Fashion Week, models Iman and Naomi Campbell launched a campaign against runway racism under the Diversity Coalition banner in a letter shaming specific designers for excluding models of colour in their shows. Rodarte, Calvin Klein and Dior increased their runway diversity this season by a small margin, but Rick Owens shone the brightest light on one of the industry’s most prominent issues at hand.
Instead of the typical funeral procession of fair-skinned size zeros, Owens featured a cast of chest-thumping, stank-faced step-dancers draped in neutrals and leather to (quite literally) stomp the runway for his spring/summer 2014 collection. Seeing the garments dance with such aggressive movement seemed to be not only a more entertaining approach to showcasing the line, but a realistic one. The collection fell in line with the resounding sports theme of the spring/summer 2014 shows with influences rooted in martial arts, so it felt right to see the garments in such dramatic motion. Trainers from Owens’ collaboration with adidas were worn laced-up around the ankle, adding to the athletic feel of the show.
The cast was predominantly black, curvy in shape and powerful in stature; not of the “ideal” image that fashion so strongly promotes on its runways and magazine covers. In regards to the eminent race and size issues of the fashion industry, the lack of diversity isn’t just a complete misinterpretation of modern times and ideals, but a total bore. Many saw Owens’ show as the start of a revolution, or at least a step in the right direction. With such innovation and diversity on display at fashion’s grandest stage, other designers are (hopefully) sure to follow suit. In an effort to evolve and represent a broader, more realistic and accepting spectrum of colours and shapes, Owens faced the issues head-on in what’s going down as “the most memorable show of Paris Fashion Week S/S 2014”.
When you take risks like Owens, you’re bound to get a reaction. Some argue that the show was the perfect example of cultural appropriation or a sort of cop-out in terms of shock-value on par with the recent lewd acts of Miley Cyrus, who many accused of using black women as props for her 2013 Video Music Award performance. Rick Owens has been accused of stereotyping the angry black woman, and presenting her out of context in nothing but a gimmick for publicity.
Everyone has a platform to voice their opinion, with the internet as their megaphone. It’s almost impossible to make such a bold statement without insulting someone. So maybe he stirred the pot a bit, perhaps he ruffled a few feathers, but isn’t over-stepping the boundaries and pushing the limits essentially what fashion is all about? Owens brought a fierce and rebellious attitude we’ve found lacking in many of our contemporary designers’ repertoires, and addressed the industry’s sizing and diversity issues in a big way. His spring/summer 2014 showcase, overtly bold or not, was a strong effort with good intentions to right some diversity wrongs. Let’s be thankful we have risk-takers like Owens to spark the revolution, and take the industry into a more inclusive direction.
Watch Rick Owens’ S/S 2014 show here: