Fashion is art, a fact made obvious when viewing the presentation during fashion week. Several times a year, in the world's meccas for art and design, fashion houses and designers create fantastical shows for magazine editors, buyers and ravenous fans. The frenzied artistry controls trend and creates consumers. Presentations are the inspired beginnings of a garment. Inevitably most will simply be knocked off or will hang limply, sometimes forgotten on a sale rack or in back issues of fashion mag. Because of this fate and the world's economy, the fashion presentation has moved away from art toward practicality and commerce. The runway has been reduced to pop music, pale models and stream of predictable goods.
Enter, Rick Owens. An artist, foremost, who just happens to make clothing, furniture and anything else he pleases. Owens' designs are consistently utilitarian and hint at a brewing rebellion. His men's and women's Spring/Summer presentations were both aptly titled Vicious. (Perhaps, signaling he could be fill the vacancy left behind since The Metropolitan Museum killed punk- with some help from Hello Kitty and Hot Topic...but I digress). Although the presentations were scheduled nearly four months apart, men's and women's shows are shown separately in the Paris, both were valiant efforts to unearth the post modern dichotomy of aesthetic. Ironically, Owens' Vicious Men’s collection was well received, but his recent showing for Vicious Women struck a nerve.
The men's presentation was angrily beautiful. Young men marching around to the live cacophony of Estonian death core band Winny Puhh. The lead singer, an entity that can only be described as Gandalf meets Kung Fu master resurrected from the frozen tundra in Game of Thrones, held court center runway in a disturbing mystical manner. (It must be viewed to understand.) It is important to recognize that the men's show began with glowing white bald men, perhaps enlightened skin heads. It concluded with a frantic meltdown from Winny Puhh and the militarized gait of long haired models, enraged hippies if you will. Everything in between was de-sexualized and de-humanized. The conclusion resulting in men suspended in mid air, harkening a tarot image of The Hanged Man. The show was well received and confirmed Owens as our new dark lord.
The women's show, however, was met sharp criticism and analysis. Rightly so, as Owens’ literally 'stepped' into a new arena when he replaced industry standard models with predominantly African-American women from college step teams. Some would claim the casting decision was based on a recent internet outcry to the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America) for model diversity after New York's fashion week. Others would applaud the presentation for rejecting 'conventional beauty' and the use of 'real women'- both arguments polarizing when one considers the average 6 foot model is actually 'unconventional' and all living, breathing woman are considered a 'real woman'?). Few would recognize Owens’ had simply swung his Vicious pendulum back to the feminine. And for many, it landed square onto their faces.
Granted we are living in a worl post the Miley Cyrus' twerking debacle and the debate over appropriation is at the forefront of our minds. So, the discomfort may stem from a new cultural sensitivity and is worth discussing. However, Rick Owens’ presentation cannot be reduced to be only one thing. What the fashion world needed was a steady stream of sexless men and defiant women to stomp, step and kick the industry back to being art - fashion is an expression of the state of world in the form of trend as seen by the wearer.