From muses to step teams to feminist statements to statements we’re not even entirely sure how to interpret, this fashion month has been serving up a lot to digest. And much of the serving — relinquish any conventional gender roles you might associate that action with — is being done by the fairer sex. Paris might be yet to come to a close, but here are some of the fiercest affirmations of
girl woman power we’ve heard this Spring 2014 season.
1. Rick Owens’ Step Teams
Designers and casting agents who blame modeling agencies for the lack of diversity (size and color) had their arguments forcefully shut down by Rick Owens. Owens eschewed the agency route in favor of enlisting stepping teams from four sororities – Washington Divas, Soul Steppers, The Momentums and The Zetas – to literally stomp his Paris runway. The steppers’ synchronized dance moves were so ferocious the clothing had to be hiked and slit to accommodate the extra movement.
“We’re rejecting conventional beauty, creating our own beauty,” Owens said of his casting choice. Almost as invigorating as the performance itself, which set Twitter and Instagram ablaze, was its almost resoundingly positive reception and guaranteed longevity. The steppers faces, contorted into mean mugging expressions called ‘grit face’ will certainly be a welcome admission to the archives of WWD and Style.com.
We are 95% sure that ‘Miuccia’ is Italian for ‘genius’, but Prada’s brilliant statement this season was as much about feminism as it was about fashion. First there was this season’s signature print of blown-up female faces, secondly there were the bras worn over dresses, and then there was the soundtrack. Say what you will about Britney Spears‘ latest sonic incarnation, it was an awesome moment when ‘Work Bitch’ started pumping through the speakers.
But the show’s strongest statement seemed to be about ugliness. While most designers use Resort or Instagram to give sneak peaks into their Spring offerings, Prada used an interview with the Telegraph’s Stella magazine:
“When I started, fashion was the worst place to be if you were a leftist feminist. It was horrid. I had a prejudice, yes, I always had a problem with it… I suppose I felt guilty not to be doing something more important, more political. So in a way I am trying to use the company for these other activities.”
Of her fascination with ugliness, she argued:
“Ugly is attractive, ugly is exciting. Maybe because it is newer. The investigation of ugliness is, to me, more interesting than the bourgeois idea of beauty. And why? Because ugly is human. It touches the bad and the dirty side of people.”
You don’t get much more ugly or exciting than leg warmers worn with Tevas.
3. Tom Ford’s Muscular Muse
The majority of London girls were wrapped in gauzy chiffons and embellished with delicate flowers, but not Tom Ford’s girl. Or, rather, his woman — for his proclaimed inspiration for Spring 2014 was a “strong, powerful, woman” and the first four of them to hit the runway were cast based on the muscularity of their legs and shoulders.
Not one to waste a good canvas, the collection showed off those features with plenty of confidence. Ford knows his customer, and she eschews billowing silk in favor of second-skin leather, shards of fragmented glass and crotch-high boots for stomping all over this season’s Birkenstock fetish. With so many celebrities already wearing Spring 2014, we’re a little disappointed Beyoncé’s not all over this already.
4. Robin Givhan
No words that flow from Robin Givhan’s fingertips are not wonderful, whether her arena is The Washington Post or a Reddit forum. She echoed our exact sentiments about Rodarte’s spangly bra tops only with both more poise and more grit, and may or may not have made us tear up over this heartfelt defense of peacocking:
“While i don’t necessarily think that the all of the people who hover around the outsides of fashion shows are the most stylish or the most sophisticated in their displays, i find their energy and enthusiasm delightful. They’re no worse than the face-painting fans outside a sports arena. They’re the diehards. The loyalists. Every industry needs them. i hope that if any of those folks who are part of the circus decide they want to make a career in the fashion industry, that they will remember what it was like being on the outside, that they will hold designers accountable to their customers and they will help make the industry a more inviting place.”
But we were particularly impressed by her considered takedown of Hedi Slimane’s latest collection for Saint Laurent. While it’s taken other outlets only two seasons to jump off the Slimane-bashing bandwagon and onto the zealot one, Givhan didn’t waste paragraphs heaping praise onto Slimane’s Le Smoking homage while ignoring some obvious eyesores:
“This time, the collection was a sucker punch to sophistication; a jab at the very meaning of luxury, a humorless impersonation of cool. And worst of all, it was ugly.”
It makes us sad that the show was such a let-down, because Slimane is a magnificent artist in so many arenas, so we’ll hide behind Givhan’s words and whisper quietly that yes, some of those pieces do have Miley stamped all over them.
5. Bethann Hardison, Iman and Naomi Campbell
On the eve of New York Fashion Week, Bethann Hardison, Iman and Naomi Campbell launched a campaign against runway racism under the Diversity Coalition banner. The women wrote a letter to the governing bodies in New York, London, Paris and Milan naming specific designers guilty of using only one or zero models of color, shaming Victoria Beckham, Céline, Balenciaga and Chanel for committing the ‘racist act’.
It appears their claims didn’t fall on deaf ears. Fashionista noted that in New York Rag & Bone featured eight models of color, while Calvin Klein, Proenza Schouler, Rodarte, and Narciso Rodriguez all featured six. Not a large ratio, but a vast improvement considering they all featured only one or zero models-of-color last season.
The girls Nasir Mazhar dressed in his Spring 2014 collection represented a range of ethnicities and sizes. Again focusing on the intersection of fashion and music, he cast Tokyo-based American model Kiko Mizuhara alongside DJ Mademoiselle Yulia, Korean-American musician Yoon and photographer/designer Alis Pelleschi.
The outfits are a bit like the rebellious teenage love-children of Tumblr and a Chola rave, and not the sort of things we currently have in our own wardrobe, but we love that no one looks bored or sad.
7. Rei Kawakubo
There is possibly no show so thought-provoking and challenging to interpret as Comme des Garçons. This season Rei Kawakubo further gave us the sense that she’s not so much trying to please as she is silently mocking us, sending out a parade of sculptural outfits that refused to adhere to a single theme and were each soundtracked by a different song. Some models even walked to the sound of static.
We’ll settle for it as a retrospective — pieces referenced both her exploration of volume and her shocking 2D Fall 2012 collection — and as a reminder that she’s one of the most anarchic forces in fashion.