Is Rick Owens’ 2014 Spring Summer Fashion Line Racist Or Satire?

Rick Owens 2014 Spring/Summer women’s collection is all angry Black women. I am not going to cry outrage here because I don’t understand what the intention is yet because it literally just happened a few minutes ago but when I first saw this collection I thought someone Photoshopped the faces of scowling Black women onto models to be “funny.”

At first look I feel uncomfortable (which means it’s doing its job as art). At second glance I wonder if I should be offended. At third gaze, I am hoping it’s a well-intentioned critique of fashion, race and body because I SO WANT TO BE ABLE TO LOVE THIS because a real fashion statement about inequality and beauty is what we need.

In case you don’t know, which, I can’t imagine how you don’t at this point in history, there is this great big old stereotype of the “Angry Black Woman.” This stereotype is used to dismiss women of color whenever they point out things like the fact that they are underrepresented, misrepresented and paid on average less than men and white women. Its serves the same purpose as the “Angry Feminist” stereotype that exists to dismiss women who bring up things like ¬†you know: underrepresentation, misrepresentation and being paid on average 77 cents to the dollar of every man.

The show opens with stepping, a traditionally Black form of dancing and I can’t help but wonder if he is paying homage to Black culture or making a mockery of it?¬†Imagine a fashion show where scowling women (of any color) burn bras and jump up and down like monkeys holding signs that say, “Don’t blame the victim!” You might think the show was making fun of feminists.

That’s why I am asking, I don’t know if Rick Owens, who is a man and not a person of color, is ironically portraying Black women this way or thinks this is who Black women are definitively. It gives me pause but I am leaning more toward the former than the latter.


I HOPE Rick Owens is subverting the fashion industry itself. Year after year not only are women of color underrepresented but women who are not rail thin are not represented at all. He includes women of color who have different, bigger, curvier bodies . . . so I am hoping he is making a statement about race and body politics in fashion.

Fashion has always had a huge problem with race. It often chooses to exclude women of color and then proceeds to put white women in black face. It almost completely excludes women who aren’t a size 00-4.

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via. Jezebel

I hope Rick Owens is PARODYING popular representations of Black women. Let’s face facts, with the exceptions of Scandal and Sleepy Hollow and few other TV shows and films, for the most part Black women are portrayed as sassy and Black or angry and Black. Or you know, completely absent altogether. By showing Black Women with angry faces he is pointing out that we are often misrepresented, dismissed and excluded from the conversation.

Because this is an art form I am willing to consider he is subverting cultural stereotypes and not just recreating a modern minstrel show, in which case the collection is absolutely brilliant. See the rest of the photos at Show Studio.

[Images Via. Show Studio]



  1. Gee says:

    I think he's racist or misguided but the result is racist. He is American and fully aware of the stereotypes that haunt women of color and women in general. On the heels of Beth Ann Hardison, Iman, Naomi and others push to get designers to use more models of color this feels like white backlash, "So you wanna see more black models, huh?". Rick Owens is no better than Tea Partiers or Birthers. It time to call it as it is, fashion is as right wing as it gets, fashion aparteid exist disguise as ART.

    1. seriously? says:

      holy shit. wow. you clearly know nothing about fashion.

  2. Tulip says:

    ^^ He is not racist. If you knew about him as a designer, you'd see that his aesthetic is pretty harsh and unforgiving. Google "rick owens rickzilla" and see a self portrait statue he had commissioned of himself to get a sense of his own aesthetic. He is into things / people that are harsh and severe and undoubtedly asked the girls to look tough and make grotesque faces. To him, that's interesting. I mean, look at his wife, for goodness sake, Michelle Lamy. She is not a traditional beauty. I don't think you should be so quick to make judgements about things that you do not appear to understand.

  3. Cheryl BC says:

    This is a complete FOOK YOU to the black fashion folks who called him out and many other designers for ONLY using white models in every show. This is far from art, but a blatant middle finger to Bethanne Hardison, Iman and Naomi's complaints about the lack of diversity on the runway. THIS is how he sees black women's beauty?! Really!!!? We are not attractive to him, but a schtick for amusement. If you saw his last show before this one, his aesthetics were edgy modern that featured high end models in the industry. They were BONAFIDE MODELS, meaning model slim, model attractive and presented themselves in an editorial, model way. For this insulting show, he consciously did NOT choose high fashion models of colour, but instead chose folks he knew his fashion community would NEVER take seriously in his small, exclusive world. His fashion colleagues that highlighted his lack of colour in previous shows, just asked him and all designers to add women of colour when casting. I guess that was a ridiculous request because THIS is what he presented instead. Rick Owen, you should be ashamed of yourself. I hope you will take a moment to self analyze as to why you would be so mean, petty and hurtful. (NOTE: My comments have nothing to do with these normal sized women. They are beautiful, but they are NOT high fashion models. Not everyone can be a model and that's OK. I don't mean to insult these ladies, but know they were being USED and not celebrated.)

  4. W.J. says:

    I'm not sure if you actually watched the Rick Owens show, but there appeared to be just as many white women as there were black.

    1. emeraldgritty says:

      I saw the photographs and there were 2 maybe 3 white models. So don't even.

  5. You Decide says:

    I work in the fashion industry and this is NOT a celebration of the average body – this is exploitation. They look terrible. There is nothing fashion forward, appealing, artistic, or unique about this show. All of the women look like they just walked out of prison. They look like dudes. Is this "Orange is the new Black" or is this "Paris Fashion Week" I describe the line as "high end prison gear" " modern slavewear" But let's not blame the artist – I personally am more appauled that women would subject themselves to this & participate in such a vile demonstration of foolishness. If asked, would you participate?

  6. Daniela says:

    I think that Rick Owens is this time a bit over the top. Usually I like his style however.

  7. Michael says:

    Dressed in ready-to-wear, these plus sized college pro-steppers have made a mockery of Black Women everywhere, and the choreography of Lauretta Malloy Noble has even less place on the runway then the several fat white women ALSO on the catwalk.

    This is sarcasm btw, Emerald and people like her need to pull the soap-box out of their asses and abandon the righteous anger that fuels their every observation… YOU further the stereotype of the angry black person, not women collected from 4 US sororities stepping in 'grit face' choreographed by an accomplished black woman.

  8. vggvygv says:

    Fart mode activate!

  9. lookagain. says:

    Fuck Fashion…wear that!! ..there are more important issues going on in society… Who gives a shit about who wears what.

  10. rightwaylimo says:

    At first look I feel uncomfortable (which means it’s doing its job as art). At second glance I wonder if I should be offended. At third gaze, I am hoping it’s a well-intentioned critique of fashion, race and body because I SO WANT TO BE ABLE TO LOVE THIS because a real fashion statement about inequality and beauty is what we need.

  11. Claus says:

    Dear Emerald, I makes me sad to read your text. As I first saw Rick Owens Show on the net, I was mesmerized and stunned by the diversity and beauty of the women in the show. I had to watch it over and over, because for me it carried a strong spirit of empowerment and freedom. At last, someone had the guts to break the standards of Paris Fashion Shows and bring a diversity of models on the stage. Models that expressed emotions, anger and at last behaved like proud ambassadors of a different view on beauty and normativity. Not in the least I had the impression, that anyone involved in the presentation was "used" or exploited. It is neither a parody nor ironic, it is a strong expression of beauty, anger an pride. Of course, anger can look awkward and strange, but your interpretation implies, that the angry faces you screengrabbed are stereotyped and ridiculous. What is "ugly" or "racist" about these faces? Nothing. They are beautiful. To call Rick Owens "racist" is a strong accusation, and I feel, that in a kind of knee-jerk-reaction it reverses all the energy and power, that this strong and emotional show actually presented.

    1. raul5050 says:

      Claus, black person here and I saw what you saw. Power and beauty. The audience was transfixed and cheering by the end of the show.

      As black people who's beauty has been reduced and undermined for generations it is not strange that some looking at this show would recoil but you have to put your personal agenda aside and take it all in.

      Perhaps the writers reaction comes out of their own sense of self loathing or perhaps their difinition of beauty does not include this type of female power…

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