Designer Rick Owens Puts Real Diversity on the Runway

by Katie Fustich

As the lights dimmed in preparation for Rick Owens Spring/Summer 2014 presentation, photographers and editors got comfy in their front-row chairs, likely expecting yet another stream of sample-size waifs to glide in front of them. After all, fashion week is that special time of year when all of our senses are bombarded with delicate clothes draped over ethereal human hangers. 

Instead, Rick Owens greeted the world with silhouettes of powerful, strong figures, marching in time to a minimalist drum beat. I can only imagine the eyebrow pop that went down behind Anna Wintour’s Prada shades.

When these silhouettes made their way to the lit stage, it became clear that these were not models—at least not in the traditional sense. Nope, these people were way, way cooler. Owens selected the members of four different American step teams to represent a raw, gritty, and confident aesthetic. 

While some designers aim for this same feel with, say, a “smoky eye” or dramatic pouts, Owens opted for complete and total individuality. And when I say individuality, I mean real individuality. Absolutely no two of the models performing in his show expressed themselves identically. Some wore a cold, icy gaze, and others an aggressive sneer. Hair flew free or was secured by a scarf–whatever made the dancer feel most herself. As for makeup…wait, what makeup?

I loved that you could hear the dancers throughout the show, even if it was just the occasional vocalization. To me, it was a constant declaration of “I am a human being, I am not a mannequin.” 

Rick Owens collection felt like anything but a “look at me! I am embracing diversity!” publicity stunt: the clothes and the dancers work absolutely seamlessly together; one never outdoing the other. The leather vests, Grecian-esque robes, and cycling shorts work with and complement the powerful movements of the women wearing them. The collection is a beautiful, cohesive work on its own, but is completely brought to life by the kind of women fashion so often neglects. 

Yet, by rejecting the beauty standards the industry has set in place for years, Owens has harnessed concepts of style and individuality that so many more women can relate to. Perhaps the designer himself puts it best: “[I]t was such a fuck-you to conventional beauty. They were saying, ‘We’re beautiful in our own way.” 


Thanks to The Cut

Images via The Cut

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