Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Most Memorable Event of 2013 - Part 2. Rick Owens S/S '14 "Vicious Women"

..."And God Created Woman" - or should it be Rick Owens created "Viscious Women"?

Is September 2013 a turning point for women's fashion? Is it the date when designers finally pull their fingers out their asses and face up to the reality of women's wear? How long can they continue creating images of an idealised female body shape that does so much damage to women's body image and psyche? Anorexic-looking teenagers on catwalks or billboards do no one favours. The buyer who can afford those clothes are middle-aged with a figure of a middle-aged woman. How can the customer relate to what she sees advertised? How do these unrealistic images lure them in the shops? There seems to be a disconnect and designers need to wake up - for their own, the manufacturers's and the entire business's sake.

Hence the Rick Owens show's revolutionary effect on today's fashion. Beyond the clothes (some certainly wearable) the show's impact is more socio-cultural. The first obvious difference is the race of most of the models. Has there ever been a globally significant show dominated by black women like this? Most likely not. But the even more culturally relevant issue is the size of the models. Clearly, these are professional step-dancers, therefore don't necessarily represent the average, but the message Owens is sending out is clear. Photoshopped, stick-thin women are not the norm, designers therefore had better start paying attention to their true audience/market!

Putting aside these hefty issues, there is then the performance. Are catwalk shows - with their recent instant worldwide exposure through the internet - the new THEATRE? Simply because of their populist reach, shows like this or Owens's "Vicious Men" S/S 14 and, especially, Meadham/Kirchhoff's A/W 12 extravaganzas can affect global change in attitudes to body image or women's place in society but can also have a transgressive influence on an international level. But above all, as we have seen in the above mentioned examples, they can be (deep breath in) cathartic. It is no longer enough to send 16 year-olds down a catwalk to a house track, the potential of such setting must be explored for dramatic purposes with a narrative arc, attention to performing to an audience and music.

"Vicious Women" was exactly such a theatrical experience. It was fresh, eye-opening, dramatic, spine-tingling, intensely emotional and, yes, absolutely cathartic! A performance that has permanently seared itself onto our collective consciousness - a seminal cultural moment.

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