Rick Owens SS14 and Body Image in the Fashion Industry

The SS14 runway shows were nothing short of thought-provoking.  From the cheerful mod looks all over London to the mournful showgirl getups at Marc Jacobs’ final show for Louis Vuitton, designers aimed to say something with their collections.  Fashion houses- especially the Parisian ones- didn’t just lean on clothing to make a statement, though.  Entertainment and production value played a huge part in the SS14 presentations:  Jean Paul Gaultier’s runway turned into a dance-off pitting the likes of Coco Rocha against Karlie Kloss; a tribal drum trio started off the Givenchy runway with a literal bang; and Rick Owens’ show featured a team of American step dancers, sizes 12-16, stomping down the catwalk.   rick

I’m sure by now you’ve all seen the Rick Owens runway show, as it was lauded and applauded by pretty much the entire fashion community.  On the morning of the presentation our Instagram feed was positively overflowing with pictures and Insta videos, all captioned with messages of congrats to Rick Owens for challenging the industry standard of beauty and embracing “real” girls.  Of his collection Owens stated, “We’re rejecting conventional beauty, creating our own beauty.”  Even Style.com said, “All those body types today added up to as inclusive a catwalk vision of womanhood as we’re ever likely to see.”

Well, not to be a bunch of Debby Downers, but we don’t agree.  Yes, Rick Owens did swap out traditional size 0 models for some average American size 14 models- but could you call what Owens did embracing all body types?  We say no– because the clothing on those models was made for smaller girls!

rick2 If Owens really meant to embrace the beauty of all body types, you would think he’d design clothing to flatter bigger bodies.  Instead, he sent a collection of ill-fitting garments that accentuated a size 14 body in all the wrong ways down the runway.  No stylist would ever send a client out in clothes that fit them this poorly! Zippers about to burst open, overstretched leather, short shorts that rode up on the inner thigh, and sheath dresses that masked curves didn’t “reject conventional beauty;” instead, they sent “real” girls the message that they’ll never look as good in clothing as a size 0 will- which is simply not true.

If all body types are to be truly embraced, designers need to acknowledge the difference between a size 0 and a size 6, a size 10 and a size 14.  The same things that look amazing on a pear-shaped size 4 girl would look god awful on an athletic size 10!  Recognizing a new standard of beauty doesn’t leave room for generalizations; and when Owens designed for thin models, supersized his designs, and hoped it would work, his efforts fell flat.

karlie kloss

Karlie Kloss airbrushed to look bigger


crystal renn

Plus-size model Crystal Renn slims down for high-fashion attention

We have to give Owens props for taking a step towards breaking down the sizist barriers of the fashion industry, though.   The past few years have seen some small strides in alleviating the pressure to be stick-thin (magazines photoshopping models to appear healthier, the rise of plus-size model Crystal Renn), but for every step forward we seem to see one back as well (sickly-thin models-of-the-moment like Hanne Gaby Odiele, Crystal Renn’s astonishing weight loss and subsequent rise to even bigger fame).  Once power players in the fashion industry realize that “embracing” all body types isn’t a surface issue that a catwalk full of fierce step dancers can fix, they can focus on truly embracing all shapes and sizes.

Do you agree?  Sound off in the comments!


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