Paris Fashion week had it all. Kendall Jenner, lace slippers and…women used as human backpacks.
Fashion, like any art form, is all about self-expression and pushing the boundaries past the norm. Of course, we cant pretend it isn’t actually supposed to be about the clothes. During his SS16 show at Paris Fashion week, Rick Owens showed everyone just how far outside the box he can step. Showcasing his latest collection, he strapped models to other models and sent them sauntering down the runway, model-bag bobbing in tow. Usually, designers strap backpacks to their models. But for this show, the accessory of choice was a fellow human, contorted into positions that were suited to a circus show. Evidently, this wasn’t a circus show but a fashion one, and the bizarre display was all a metaphor on behalf of Rick.
His collection was called Cyclops. Of this he told Dazed during an interview:
“In the Spring men’s collection which shares the same name (Cyclops), that focussed vision was propulsive and aggressive. When applied to women’s, I see that focussed vision being more about nourishment, sisterhood/motherhood and regeneration; women raising women, women becoming women, and women supporting women – a world of women I know little about and can only attempt to amuse in my own small way…Straps can be about restraint but here they are all about support and cradling. Straps here become loving ribbons.”
It doesn’t seem then that Rick Owens expects us to throw away the spring-time layers and pick up our friend instead, securing them into a position reminiscent of the human centipede. The show is intended to be a display of support and strength. I completely back this case. Solidarity amongst women is absolutely essential in the bid for equality. However, I struggle to see how one woman’s legs flailing around another’s head as if they have had just one too many to drink is the best way to showcase this.
Sure, the models grace the catwalk with a confident stride and you get the sense that the human-rucksack weighs next to nothing and is no hindrance. This is something you could take down to an emotional and mental level, and you’ll start to know what it is to be inside Rick Owens head. It’s weird, bewildering and inspired all at once. Rick Owens took “sending a message” to a whole new level and he sure caused a storm. Everyone’s talking about it, and everyone; from fashion maverick to one-shirt-Sarah, has an opinion, be it positive or not. This show has done exactly what art is intended to do.
This isn’t out of character for Rick Owens either, who sent male models down the runway with their privates on full display. It begs the question though, of whether this is still fashion and when it transcends into pure madness. As I watched the show, I knew I should be feeling the sisterly power and love, but instead I felt an unwanted bubble of amusement rise up. The collection itself was beautiful; true to his usual dystopian way and effortlessly urban in neutrals and black. The disappointment, for me, came when I couldn’t truly appreciate the designer’s vision, or even look at the clothes for that matter, because I was too worried about the amount of blood that must have been rushing to the models heads. Was the human accessorizing really necessary? Is this even the point?
When a creative choice overshadows the clothes themselves, we have really lost a sense of what fashion week is for. On the other hand, we see some pretty ourtlandish garments across all catwalks, they just don’t tend to be body-related. This is representative of a society that isn’t content with the usual and instead wants things to be bigger, better and new. Some catwalk collections are ready-to-wear and the key trends filter down to our local high street stores, the style and tone set by the biggest names in fashion. Others just shock us.
Perhaps this ‘girl-on-girl’ catwalk choice was not meant for the literal minds; those of us who just don’t ‘get it’, and will only sit well with the metaphorical dreamers amongst us.
Let us know what you think in the comments below!