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STYLE & FASHION || RICK OWENS PARIS S'14 COLLECTION -RACIAL IMPLICATIONS AND BODY POLITICS- [4]

Okay. For about a month, I have been seeing nothing BUT black bodies being commodified, demoralized in a way that strips them of their essence, and repurposed for the sake of someone else's vision. If you can't already tell, this will be a heavy post, but...AM I ALONE HERE? Am I loosing it or has popular culture just decided to take a stab at marginalized communities this month? Maybe it's my eyes that are opening and not that things are really intensifying? Yikes. 

In the latest round up (conveniently for this blog overtly fashion related), Rick Owens decides to take a "stand" at Paris fashion week and attempt to...Wait. I'm sorry, what was he attempting? I don't think we have established that fully yet. After all we've all drawn our conclusions on what we think is happening, but we haven't actually heard anything from the designer, the orchestrator of this spectacle himself? Well, we've all painted him with our brushes saying he's "contesting stereotypes" or "forging a new face of fashion" but what is his collection really doing?


Despite Owen's aim, I'd like to talk about how this show is working, because no matter the intentions of a person, I still have ownership of my interpretation and the way I feel towards a topic, issue, or, as people have called it, 'performance art.' I mean, come on. Can we all at least agree on the fact that the ONE time we see a full runway of black women 'modeling' for a designer, they're all angry? I was bewildered as to Owen's intent. I cringed at the bombarding images as I viewed the photos and videos of his collection, and marveled with disbelief. "No", I said, "not this way." This just isn't the way I envisioned a statement on diversity. I also never pictured it coming from a man who I assume is white identified? Ha. It is quite interesting, but we can welcome you as an ally. Many people might think that doesn't matter..."Why does it matter if he's white, or not?" Well, it does. It is important that the person who brings issues of color to the center of the table discussion, are people who have some sort of agency in the conversation. The easiest (and most valued) form of agency is obviously identifying with the very marginalized group you advocate for. It's same with researchers. Where's the qualifications? Why did you choose this area of study? What is it's importance to you? Now, Rick Owens doesn't have to be black. Of course, there are numerous people out there who have educated themselves on the experiences of various groups of color, so they have some degree of agency to discuss things that plague that community. However, to go out singlehandedly (in the way I believe Owens did) to protest their ideas on the matter, isn't always the best move on their part, and quite frankly, not very inclusive. How effective are you really, if you leave the people you are defending, out the authorship? Is anyone really talking about the women, or even care that they are an established group of steppers out of NYC? We reference the women of course, but we're all really just talking about Owens. 

Depite all of this, leave it to Susie to stop your engines and make you mull over your thoughts:

"Many just cheered it on as thought it a pure aesthetic and cultural showcase and celebration of what stepping is about.  And somehow, most that have written about it has skirted around the issue of what a performance like this means in the context of fashion at large... I was incredibly grateful that the steppers were the stars of the show as opposed to the bit part intro to the "real" models - that would have been a mooted statement.  Instead, most of us who weren't just thinking "Oh, isn't this FIERCE and exotic?" were invited to examine the state of fashion as it stands in its undeniably warped attitudes towards size, race and beauty...Instead, he chose to celebrate, and in turn to make a point.  One that needs making.  Where exactly have all the salient points gone in fashion?

I mean, damn. In many aspects, I not only fully agree, but I identify. This is what I call designers, editors, bloggers, journalists, writers, and thinkers to do all the time! Indubitably, these are the conversations fashion needs to have! ALAS fashion is not a world outside of a world fashionistas! We exist under the same umbrella the universe exists under, where all matters of socialization convolutes our expectations, ideas, and stereotypes. Aspiring and established fashioneers? We engineer this world. And we do so with the biases that plague the rest of the world. Unfortunately. So we must make an effort to change (or at least minimize) that. 

However, this still begs the question, was this the right approach?

No. ...But sometimes, I guess we must stop endlessly weighing the outcomes and just do? Did I just say that? Yes. Rick DID. And I applaud his zeal. I now look to Rick, to stand behind this great statement he has made, and prove his ally-ship to changing the face of beauty (again, he hasn't actually verbalized his intent). Amongst people who aren't doing jack shit to change the industry, I really do commend him. 

But Rick, maybe next time a little less anger. Huh? We don't want to build up stereotypes simultaneously as we attempt to break them down. 





This collection has already been covered by Leandra Medine over at The Man RepellerSusie Lau of Style BubbleJake Woolf at Four Pins has a pretty 
silly write-up on it. 

If you have an hour to spare, because, don't we all? You can check out SHOWstudio's panel discussion on the collection. They begin talking about Rick Owens 
at about the half way mark but their opening discussion is quite a treat. 



--kim

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