In Which Rick Proves That He Rocks

Fashion cried “diversity please” and Rick Owens delivered.


Paris might be taking to the arrival of 15-second Instagram videos quicker and decidedly better than any other city when it comes to Fashion Week. Nina Ricci’s show opened and closed with a curtain that signaled the start and end of it–perfect fodder for a thinly-filtered short–while Dries van Noten had Radiohead’s bassist serenade the models as they traipsed. But no one has mastered the art of eliciting the urgency to drop what they’re doing and film quite the way Rick Owens did last night.

The thing about Rick Owens is that you always know what to expect and so maybe based on precisely that pretense can you also always find yourself satisfied. It’s never surprising, but it’s never boring either. The complexly wrapped layers and intentionally familiar drapery is just Rick, plain and simple–which should mean that there’s some wiggle room for creative license when considering his fashion show and more largely the true spirit of The Fashion Show (which is performance) right? Right.

His show venue, tucked into a distant corner in the 12th Arrondisement in Paris, was the setting for a spectacle that provided the deviation from model to three separate troupes of human-looking female dancers dressed head to toe in the new collection, rhythmically (albeit violently) stomping around to a melody that seemed to be beating in tandem with the audience’s severe amusement.

To give those reporting on Paris Fashion Week something to talk about in lieu of lithe limbs, especially when utilizing what have been called “real women,”–that’s always a venture met with equal parts enthusiasm and respect. Of course, it was only after the show that the important conversation started. Can this become the norm?

In this context, the innovation certainly works. The clothes don’t necessarily need to be written about at lengths so great though, yes, the artistry is still of note. But Rick Owens has positioned himself as a hero without having compromised any stretch of the integrity or sellability of his brand.

Even if he had, though, would it matter? I know it’s not Thursday anymore but I’d love to hear what you think about what will indubitably carve it’s way into the upper echelons of fashion history, so, Let’s Talk About It.

Get more Fashion ?
  • I must agree: truly a GREAT MOMENT – can’t get enough of videos and pics on the internet …
    Funny how such moments are still so rare, if you think of it. And how much praise they tend to get … as if it were not just a few individuals who think there’s enough space for everyone everywhere?

    Also, if it really wasn’t possible to see and/or predict the clothes those speedy dancers were wearing, my guess is he has garnered so much attention even people who haven’t heard of him before (je, même et moi :-)) will want to take a look at the collection, which would be kind of great. Power to the people! 🙂

  • Vie

    agree. was totally man-mazing.

  • Thamsa

    It’s not that the women in his show were any more “real” than the typical ones who walk the runway, it’s that they showed the diversity of body size and even race that exists in all parts of society. It’s a pleasure to see women of all ethnicities, body shapes and heights being shown for their talent and beauty, or being used as muses, models, whatever. It was fun to see and was a definite breath of fresh air.

  • Kim P.

    So….another white ‘hero’ at the mercy of commodifying an aspect of “black culture”..again.


    I’m as tired of making this claim as I know people are of hearing it. But alas, the truth must be stated.

    This is not going to be ‘the new thing’ It was a spectacle. Progress works best when done gradually. This will be praised as a great moment in fashion, and the beat will go on. We will see one or two black models among the legions of white ones on the runway as it’s been in the past. I smell no innovation or groundbreaking changes here. :/


    • Progress works best when done gradually That’s exactly what I thought: one show here, one show there, the word spreads that People With Money (aka customers) actually like that and one day, in the future, things might change, because it turns out People really loving that multiculture exist in far greater numbers than previously thought of.

      While typing that I am also imagining a group of protesters holding up signs like We Want Real Life Models or similar … and getting ignored because it smells like political spirit. What I am saying is totally perverse, but sometimes, changes are wrought the commercial way … no?

      Be that as it may, I am still happy to have seen that show. There, I said it, people in the Industry, there’s a WASP saying she wants multi models! (WASP standing for White … Anti-Monoculture … Shopping Protestant!)

      • Kim P.

        In all honesty, I don’t really think I understand the extent of your comment. But to address your question, I don’t completely disagree that change can come in commercial ways. When things are approved by a certain community, it passes. It’s revolutionary or ground breaking for a moment then becomes the norm, it comes in good forms, and forms that mimic capitalism.

        What is happening here however, is quite complex, and I haven’t fully processed it all enough to make suitable claims.

        To relieve a whole multitude of people who have accepted this one-dimensional view of beauty for decades (well, centuries) in one fashion show is not going to happen, and I don’t believe anyone actually thinks it will. I do appreciate his revolting through action as oppose to words though, it’s what I always say… “Don’t talk about it, be about it” and he was. I just don’t agree with the way he approached it, by any means.

        • When things are approved by a certain community, it passes This must be very significant, yes.

          I can be quite passionate about “real people” (you know, of the mixed kind) being represented in places where it counts and I always feel happy when it seems this is happening. This is not really an opinion I have, it is a strong feeling – I guess that’s why I react strongly to such events. And why I hope each of them is a small step towards a change.
          I could not really say anything appropriate about an event using black people as props if it isn’t as obvious as Miley’s “dance” … In this show, all of the dancers had really strong face expressions, they didn’t want to be loved for their sweetness or sleekness and they were of all colors and statures – that’s what I liked.

          The only community I could be an approving member of is “white, Gypsy like woman with glasses” and this already means quite a few things to judge 🙂

          (Oh and: since English is my foreign tongue, I generally expect not to be always understood 🙂 so don’t worry.)

    • APS

      I’m not convinced this is mere commodification of black culture. Skinny white models stepping would have been commodification of black culture (and a very poor approximation at that). To me this show was a celebration of a uniquely American, uniquely African American, competitive art form. These women were doing what they normally do, proudly and impressively, but on a Paris runway, directed towards a much different audience than usual.
      (Also, just from the perspective of someone that likes clothes, seeing clothing MOVE in a fashion show was great! That pom-pom skirt/dress looked amazing.)
      Now, I completely agree with you that there will likely be no groundbreaking changes. I doubt I’ll see many more college teams or athletes or black women or wrinkled or plump or muscular women invited to model on Paris runways anytime soon, and that’s sad. I’m holding out hope that the current thin/white/young landscape will change one day, though.

      • Kim P.

        You’re right. It isn’t completely a commodification. I actually got some clarity through creating my own blog post on it. I think the issue for me was that his intent could easily be misconstrued or overlooked. Was it the best way to go about this? Probably not, but I do appreciate his effort to be an ally in supporting the representation of all women. His spectacle however, is merely a spectacle. Hence why I said true progress only comes gradually. It was too rash to bring change but a good way to get a conversation going, one that I hope brings forth a meaningful result.

    • Get it grrl

      Rick isn’t white, and that you didn’t bother to figure this out before you replied to his show really says more than I ever coul.

      • Kim P.

        You’re very right. I didn’t. He may be of some other European nationality or a minority community, I don’t quite know nor have I been able to find a source. However, that’s often how race works, you see color, and color is judged on your proximity to whiteness, if Owen’s is not white, then he seems to be fairly close to it. Not to get heavy but Zimmerman wasn’t white either, and he benefited from being far enough away from blackness. Also if this counts for anything, based on my initial comment, I was very much responding off emotion as I had encountered race relations in the media so much during this time. If you look into my other comments, I would hope you see a different perspective. My apologies for my rash and ignorant comment. Thanks for calling me out on my shiiit.

  • Clara

    I don´t like it at all. I think Rick Owens has lost the focus: it’s good to innovate when you have an authentic idea, a new perspective or a new way of doing things but in this fashion show I see that he’s innovating for the sake of innovating.
    The “real women” thing has been made before and here he’s not even showing real women: Why do they have to wear their ugliest face and the hair on the face?
    I’m not against fashion shows being kind of an spectacle but you know it’s been excessive when you talk more about the spectacle than the clothes.

    • Laura

      If you are familiar with Rick Owens, you would know he is not about conventional standards of beauty. He usually doesn’t use models with perfect proportions so the “ugly face expression” is exactly suitable for his concept. Also the face is apart of stepping culture. Mainly male step dancers use those expressions in competitions.

  • Amanda Lu

    His show was simply amazing. To make it short: nice models, nice dance, nice collection.

  • It’s great to hear people talking more about how fun the performance of it was than the bodies performing, but yes, it’s always nice to see people who are shaped like the other 99.999% of us. Everything looks great on a 6-foot tall, 115 pound model walking in a straight line. I like seeing the clothes showcased not only on different shaped and sized bodies, but to see clothes in MOVEMENT as well. You can tell his collection is not only beautiful, but can look bad ass while on the dance floor as well!

  • Amatoria Clothing

    I may be the minority, but I felt that the dancing is taking away from the clothes. I also feel that the angry expressions are taking away from the beauty of the performers. From a marketing standpoint, though, this was brilliant, because it is all everyone is talking about.

  • Dana

    I am a such a huge fan of this blog, not just for the fashion but for social context that fashion is wrapped in. With that said, I am disappointed that no one ever mentions race and fashion. One would think that their would be some admission that the fashion world has not been welcoming to women of color. And that Rick Owens would get some adulation or at least recognition for producing a show with so many beautiful Black women. I don’t think its enough to say “real women”. Is someone going out of their way to ignore that there are not just real women, but Black women? And ignoring the inherent racism in the fashion industry just perpetuates an issue we need to openly and honestly discuss.

    • Jenna

      Lol This blog is run by a white woman. It’s obviously not surprising that she didn’t mention the term women of color and instead used the blanket term “real women”. There definitely should have been emphasis on what a milestone this was because [Black women] who happened to be full figured are chosen to appear on a runway. Black women who are 5’10 and 115 pounds hardly appear on runways.

  • kateaddict

    The show was a celebration of man repellers everywhere.
    I look at the show and the models and was excited because I thought ‘These are clothes I can wear’. I need to be able to move freely and you know what, I also feel angry a lot of the time – angry that when I shop for clothes I can rarely find anything wearable. I found the bodies of these models far more interesting to look at than anyone else I’ve seen on the catwalk over the last year and this, more than anything else, drew me to the clothes. Rick deserved his standing ovation.

  • JJ87

    Just to let everyone in on a secret, this type of “performance” or “dance” is actually called STEPPING, which both greek fraternity and greek sorority groups, typically in african american college/universities do. Although I am glad to see this diversity and many people loving the show and the girls, I for one do not like how it is being described as “violent,” or the girls have “ugly faces,” etc. which I feel takes the most away from the girls stepping and not the clothes. There is no dismissing the racial aspect of this, angry/ugly black girls stomping around in a mostly white room full of people who have no idea of what is going on; to merely pass this off as a “great show” or a “fun time” on the runway. I love that Rick Owens chose this, which works well with his line, but I wish people did more research on things before trying to discuss it within a context that it is not originated from.

  • Veronica Villalpando

    man-repelling brilliance. loved the show, loved how it got us all thinking and debating even more. and of course, LOVE your blog. am loooving your book. laugh-out-loud hilarious…subway riders beware ; )

  • Kristin

    I’m sorry, this just seems really disingenuous to me. I like the idea of “real” women on the runway, but this is on the edge of exploitation to me.

  • Why have models who look different from what we normally see on the catwalk pull such ugly and angry faces or wear awful messy hair? I love diversity and I love seeing normal yet beautiful people in fashion shows, but I don’t like this at all.

    Mafalda ❤

    • jenna

      The “ugly and angry face” is part of the dance- stepping. The “messy hair” is hair of some black people when it isn’t permed/straightened to fit into European standards. Diversity includes different hair and modes of expression.

  • Kim P.

    Susie Lau has written a great piece on her blog about this as well.

  • Andge

    I thought the show was like primal pre-battle par-tay. To me, this was much more about powerful women than a body shape or skin colour. These women were warriors and they brought to the table a level of confidence and self-expression that I think all of us ladies could rock a little more often.

  • Mary Ellen

    Yes! I loved the 11-minute celebration of female power and diversity. I
    wish the grit faces had been less pronounced, but only because I’m not
    used to seeing them on stage. And they certainly were a LOT more
    interesting than the BRFs the standard (read: boring) models sashay
    with. Didn’t like the shoes, but I definitely want more of this sort of presentation, please! I don’t want my daughter to consume only the usual, unattainable fare.

  • Bisous Natasha

    A breath of fresh air and if anything, this has brought attention to him from people outside the fashion industry. I just wish this was more common and not one of these things people do once every other fashion week. Let’s see how Rick portrays his collection from now until next Spring.

    Natasha (наташа)

  • arsarca

    Gotta say — so runways are dominated by skinny, tall, white women. So Rick Owens goes and picks short, fat (or more realistic, frankly) black woman who, instead of being conventionally beautiful, are angry. Fat angry black women. How is this revolutionary or even meaningful? It’s a simple binaristic inversion that plays to an awful stereotype of black women in order to make a commercial point. I like the idea of broadening mainstream (or privileged) aesthetics to include bodies of all types, but this is not doing anything so high-minded. It’s just a simple inversion to shock and awe — ultimately to make people think Owens is open-minded, when I see no evidence he actually wants to cater to a Latina or Black audience.

  • Sari R

    When I was scrolling through the images, I was thrilled. THRILLED. I’m a Jewish, white, ridiculously curvy girl who loves fashion. My first thought was not that the models featured were black, it was that they had muscular, healthy, robust bodies swathed and enveloped in exciting clothing. I identify much more with these women of colour and saw myself in their situation much better that I can envision myself on a 6-foot-tall lanky prepubescent-looking caucasian runway.

    To readers who state that they saw the performance as a “spectacle” or a commodification of black culture, I don’t entirely disagree (because one simply can’t without considering all sides of everything). I do, however, note that for something to become mainstream, it must first seem extreme. This bevvy of beautiful, bountiful, buxom women on the runway will hopefully not seem uncommon a short time from now.

  • Isabelle

    I really support the idea that not only the thinnest of the thin models run over the big catwalks of our world!

  • Alex

    I can’t believe some people are saying these women are fat when they all has healthy muscular bodies… It’s amazing how the media has really fucked our ideas of body image.

  • Rick Owens has intricately masted simplicity and this has taken things to a new level. Whether or not any one will admit to it theres an underlying love we have when the magic of fashion week is broken down with something as simple as sending “real women” down the runway in high end clothing. We love Owens, we love this, and we especially love the kicks.