Rick Owens’ groundbreaking Spring 2014 show was the talk of the town during Paris Fashion Week. The designer’s decision to cast a troupe of step dancers of all shapes, sizes and races made his presentation one of the most talked about that year and was a perfect example of how wonderful it is to see diversity of all kinds on a major fashion runway.
Knowing fashion’s ongoing struggles with diversity, Rick Owens tells Another magazine that he was trying to figure out how to approach the topic without seeming disingenuous. “We’re going to have to talk about race at some point. And how does someone like me do that without sounding completely condescending?” he said. “I don’t know; it’s a delicate thing.”
As a white male, Owens realizes that making a comment on diversity might not be his venue, but he carefully pursued his mission to create a great presentation that showcased the beauty of women of different ethnicities. “I knew that, at the first level doing the show in that way was cool and that at the second level it was not something I’m supposed to mess with,” he explains. “I wasn’t presenting black women as Naomi Campbell. They weren’t glamazons. I was presenting them as tough and strong. They weren’t wearing beautiful make-up. They weren’t wearing pretty things. They were wearing athletic clothes, even aggressive ones.”
His show was greeted with overwhelmingly positive reviews, but Owens realizes that one presentation isn’t going to dismantle fashion’s problems with diversity. “I can see that the show was not necessarily what the black community was looking for,” he said. “It could have been seen as offensive. It could have been seen as insensitive. Or it could be so insensitive that it was like a big ‘fuck you’ to everything, like, ‘we’re just doing this because we want to’. And that’s basically what it was. To me, the dancers looked sexy, totally juicy – wonderful. I wasn’t so nervous about a negative response. I never really am.”