It seems Rick Owens has an infatuation with YouTube. It was only last year that he discovered the unknown Estonian black metal band Winny Puhh on the site. Known for being quick to bring the radical and the deranged to the fashion world, he invited them to perform at his SS14 menswear show – their aggressive and otherworldly performance going viral within a few hours.
Yesterday, as we waited for his womenswear show to start, the sounds of chanting and screaming came from backstage. This was Owens getting his warriors ready – his own ritualistic take on a pep talk. As the show began, this noise made perfect sense: this season his model army was made up of “vicious” step-dance crews from Atlanta, DC and New York – each one discovered on YouTube and part of their own sorority.
Their full-throttle, hair whipping and teeth-gritting performance became a massive statement about the “vicious” and almost grotesque nature of fashion week
For Owens this wasn’t just another spectacle – this verged on the radical. Their full-throttle, hair whipping and teeth-gritting performance became a massive statement about the “vicious” and almost grotesque nature of fashion week (the circus, the drama and the hierarchy). These girls were fearless – violently stomping at the front-row who sat there shocked and amazed. The show took five months of planning and shook us to our very core. It went far beyond fashion and, of course, the clothes – this was about destroying everything. Then, giving us rebirth.
They became his own dark sorority, violently moving, interweaving and aggressively posing on the runway
In a strange way, Owens’ show came at a very appropriate time. In the last few weeks, we’ve seen the minimal and the banal on the catwalk, most designers adhering to our pre-conceived notions of how a collection should be presented. Then there was the big announcement of J.W Anderson's new appointment at Loewe and his acquisition by LVMH - suddenly Paris fashion week was overshadowed by money, economics and commercial concerns.
In complete contrast Owens, being ever rebellious, hired four sorority groups: the Zetas, Washington Divas, Soul Steppers and Momentums, to not only perform, but also model in his show. Each dancer was dressed head-to-toe in Owens – pharaoh headpieces included. They became his own dark sorority, violently moving, interweaving and aggressively posing on the runway - rumour has it that this is part of an ongoing documentary by Danielle Levitt.
The show closed with Owens' appearance on top of a tiered platform. As he took his final bow from above, he took on the role of god: we’d just witnessed the resurrection.
About half an hour after the show, Dazed contributor Stéphane Gaboué spoke to Lauretta Noble Malloy who, with her daughter Leeanet, a dancer, writer, and choreographer on Broadway, masterminded the stunning spectacle - with Rick’s input, of course.
Dazed Digital: How did you first get in touch with Rick ?
Lauretta Noble Malloy: He actually discovered us on YouTube. That was last June and we’ve been intensively training ever since.
DD: Did he give you any instructions?
Lauretta Noble Malloy: “Vicious”, he told us. He wanted “royal street edge.”
DD: Where are all the performers from?
Lauretta Noble Malloy: The girls come from different places in America: New York, California, Silver Spring Maryland, Connecticut...They all have different backgrounds. Some of them are tap dancers. Forty-one of us arrived on Monday and this is actually our first time in Paris.
DD: What was the choreography about?
Lauretta Noble Malloy: My daughter, Leeanet, actually takes the credit for it. She did the choreography, but also handled the administrative part of it all. The spectacle was a mixture of several things: African movements, tap dance, soldier movements, and stepping.