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.
Here is what I HOPE RICK OWENS IS DOING:
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.
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]