Designer Talk: Rick Owens

While I usually offer readers fashion advice, tips and tricks, this week I’ve decided to do something more self-indulgent.

Those who follow fashion as I do have a favorite designer: one whose runways we’ve memorized, whose looks we’ve coveted, and whose pieces are on the top of our wish lists (and often too far away to reach with a college budget). For me, it is Richard Saturnino Owens, or Rick Owens. Business of Fashion has a bit more information about him here if you’re interested in reading up.

Here, I present two remarkable fashion shows, my personal favorite and the most recent: Spring 2014 and Spring 2016.

Spring 2014 was a remarkable season for Owens as he thundered his way onto the runway with a step team instead of a traditional fashion show: this collection of women’s clothing was one that won’t be forgotten. The energy was fierce and raw, punctuated with the sound of stomping feet and the clapping of hands on thighs and chests. There was absolutely no emphasis on “runway beauty”: the models grimaced and sneered at the audience as cameras recorded them during their performances. The step performance was about movement, about power, and in my opinion, the fashion took a back seat.

While the show was a creative way to display his collection of black, white and nude sportswear and jackets, it did far more than that. The models were mostly women of color, and a variety of different body sizes, two things lacking in the fashion industry. It was something never seen before, a revolutionary new way to display fashion. Owens makes a very brief appearance at the end, leaving the audience to reflect on the show they just witnessed. Interested? Watch the 12 minute presentation here.

Continuing to push the boundaries, Owens presented his magnificent creation on the Spring 2016 runway this week: eight-limbed models. Several models had other women harnessed to them in different positions. Vogue described the spectacle as “a cross between an elegant Dr. Frankenstein-like experiment and what a troupe of skydivers harnessed together might look like once they landed on earth.” Styling varied from model to model, some had huge, blown-out hair, others with sleek styling, but the makeup was universally minimalistic. Each one of the 42 looks were unique, yet functioned well as a collective.

Again, the runway featured more women of color than is seen on other runways. These “backpacked” models did fantastic things to the body and fashion visually. It showed that the body is just as ever-changing as fashion is, it is flexible and malleable, and can be used in unexpected ways to present a vision. While the show is so new there isn’t a full recording of it yet, when it becomes available, it is absolutely worth a watch. However, Vogue has all the looks posted here.

These two runway shows have a common theme: women working together. In an industry that often pits women against each other, it is nice to see some cooperation on the stage. I am especially fond of the use of women of color and of different sizes in his shows, two extremely underrepresented groups of people. Which designers are your favorites? Are there any fashion shows that you think are revolutionary? Let me know by e-mailing [email protected]