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Rick Owens SS16
Rick Owens SS16Photography Chloé Le Drezen

Women wear other women at Rick Owens

The designer is known for pushing boundaries, but this season he took it to the next level with a deeply symbolic show

Each Rick Owens show seems to surpass the next. Today at his Paris Fashion Week show, models came down the runway with other women strapped upside-down to their bodies, their limbs hanging limply. These people were tied to their torsos like rucksacks, and along with a group of regular models, were wearing the designer’s monastic SS16 collection.

It felt like there was something profound and emotive to Owens’ vision. The objectification of people seemed like a subversive take on the controversial work of sculptor Allen Jones, the British pop artist who famously made furniture resembling the bodies of women. Here though, it was a comment on incredible female strength and sisterhood – the weights women have to carry, their ability to support and nurture each other.

A live singer named Eska soundtracked the show, singing “The Exodus Song (This Land Is Mine)”, which added a cinematic sense melancholy to the proceedings. The lyrics of this song “With the help of God I know I can be strong” were particularly resonant given the load that these models were bearing. 

“Straps can be about restraint but here they are all about support and cradling. Straps here become loving ribbons” – Rick Owens

As the cast made their finale (walking en masse instead of in single file), they were met with shouts and rapturous applause. Even as the designer took his bow and left the set, the woman continued her song, as a crowd of people swarmed around her to get a picture.

This was quintessentially Rick Owens, artful, provocative and profoundly innovative. In his own words, he explained the symbolic meaning behind this performative show:

In the Spring men’s collection which shares the same name (Cyclops), that focussed vision was propulsive and aggressive. When applied to women’s, I see that focussed vision being more about nourishment, sisterhood/motherhood and regeneration; women raising women, women becoming women, and women supporting women – a world of women I know little about and can only attempt to amuse in my own small way…Straps can be about restraint but here they are all about support and cradling. Straps here become loving ribbons.

…The music for the show is Unkle’s arrangement of This Land – the theme from the movie ‘Exodus’ - a song I use here as a reflection on the timelessly female way of protecting way of protecting and nurturing a tribe, sung, live by a vocal powerhouse Eska.

If you want to ask the designer more about the show, head to our Tumblr at 4pm tomorrow, where the designer will be doing a live Q&A