PFW Spring 2014: Don’t Get It Twisted—Rick Owens Was Furiously Fierce.
As soon as I saw the model board backstage at the Rick Owens show, I knew it was going to be a bucket-lister of an evening. Instead of the usual big names, the board was full of women of colour who were clearly of average height and build. No famous model-of-the-moment faces sat in MAC makeup artist Lucia Pieroni’s chair while she cheerfully filled in their
eyebrows and powdered skin to a matte but natural finish "to showcase the
natural beauty of really cool girls." These 40 young women were dancers from four different American step dance crews (Maintain, Zeta, Soul Step and W. Diva). Amidst the hum of hair dryers and bustle of equipment-carting camera guys, they formed an intriguing group: starstruck when Lenny Kravitz popped back to greet Owens, frustrated by yet another powder touch up, unsure what they were in for. They were brimming with pre-performance tension, just wanting to get out there and kill it.
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I felt anxious watching the rehearsal. The dancers stomped and clapped and whipped their bodies, all with their game faces on. Or, I as I prefer to call it, their “bitch, please” on full blast. Grimacing. Brimming with attitude. Unapologetic. No photograph would ever be able to capture the mood and spirit of what was happening on that wide, concrete runway. I began to anticipate that this would drum up deep feelings of discomfort in those watching these openly aggressive women on the runway. Would it make anyone face their own demons? Acknowledge that they even have any? Or would everyone simply accept this show for what it was meant to be—a fashion riot? The thing is this: the dancers’ angry expressions didn’t feel to me like an overarching statement by Owens (though considering the recent dialogue in fashion over the lack of diversity on catwalks, it truly can’t help but be one.) And, if so, Owens took this message as far as possible: We Will Not Be Denied. I don’t
actually know what he wanted it to mean – as of posting, I haven’t spoken to the American master of radical wearability or read a post-show interview. What I took away from Owens’ choices—and his models—was less about anger and more a message about being furious. Fiercely so. Let’s be real for a minute. This style of dancing (stepping, please, don’t call it tribal) is meant to be aggressive, in your face, and above all, confident. Something covetable, not to be feared. During the show, as in the rehearsal, the audience gasped, cheered, roared and spontaneously broke out into applause several times. I heard several people exclaim that they would never be able to explain why they felt so emotional. I certainly felt like crying, my heart and mind walloped by the display of creativity, bravado, talent and just plain old fashion magic. I watched many, including Luigi Murenu, the out-of-this-world talented hair-dresser who has worked with Owens for years, wipe tears away.
The hair was classic Murenu. Some dancer-cum-models sported chignons and many had hair reminiscent of last season’s ethereal
brushed out frizz—this time brushed forward from the crown and pulled out a little from the sides of the head to give it a more structured feel. Murenu said the hair was designed to “emphasize the art of movement” in the show. This was done by straightening with an iron, then crimping, brushing and using copious amounts of hairspray. After the show, I slipped away from the manic crowds of well wishers gathered around Owens and the models, who were all being interviewed and congratulated. It was a true fashion moment. Rick Owens is exceptional because he creates beautifully crafted clothes for the outer circle. Those who don’t have any interest—or need—to fit in or belong. That, to me, is the best part of the legacy he is building season after mind-blowing season.