Not sure how Paris-based designer Rick Owens could top the political protest and subsequent backstage scuffle of last season or the penis-bearing looks from the season prior or the squad of stomp dancer models who took the runway the season before that? Here is what happened at Rick Owens's Spring/Summer 2016 runway show today … Owens sent a handful of models carrying other models - some on their backs, others on their fronts - down the runway. Per Dazed Digital: "This was quintessentially Rick Owens, artful, provocative and profoundly innovative." The London-based publication caught up with Owens, who had the following to say about his S/S 2016 collection and runway 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.
Regardless of whether you buy Owens's overly-intellectualized explanation or not (I'm certainly not sure I do), it doesn't actually matter. In fact, it is largely beside the point. What matters is that Owens has yet again ensured that his collection will be the most Instagrammed, Snapchatted and Tweeted of the month. Nowadays, isn't that almost the entire point? He is trending on Twitter as we speak - that is a relatively rare feat for any high fashion designer.
With so many shows taking place over the past several weeks - in each of the fashion capitals - and every brand fighting for the level of attention required in order to weed themselves out of the increasingly saturated market, Owens is certainly coming out on top. New Rick Owens fans were born today; new potential clients were put on alert because in between the spectacle of models carrying models (which is sure to keep the Twittersphere buzzing for awhile), some of the looks were actually quite appealing. Commercial, even. Clothes that Cathy Horyn has since labeled his "best yet." While I doubt many - if any - of those looks will make it to Instagram, they will make it to stores and deep pocketed fans will shop them. Remember: none of this is worth while if garments (or licensed products) are not sold as a result.
The press that Owens generated today (and there is a hell of a lot of it so far) and his perceived sense of next level fashionability (if that's what we are going to call it) will be what piques people's attention and thus, drives them into his stores and onto his website. It will result in the sale of some runway pieces, as indicated above, and the sale of a lot of more affordable items (think: more basic garments or any of his footwear or other accessories) that will carry him into next season.
At the end of the day, runway shows - while obviously a chance for editors to see the collections and buyers to get an idea of what to stock for the season to come - are really an opportunity for brands to achieve more than that. (Because showroom appointments and press previews/post-show views would be sufficient to meet the aforementioned needs). Runway shows allow brands to attain a level of press and widespread visibility that a traditional print advertising campaign simply does not - either because it would be too expensive or because not everyone reads Vogue magazine to see said ad campaigns or both. It enables them to either remind the world or inform the world (depending on the age/stage of the brand) that they are high fashion and their garments and accessories are worth paying a higher price for. In this way, they are like showing couture collections. As Pierre Berge, one of the founders of Yves Saint Laurent, famously said: “No, we don't make a profit from couture. It's our advertising budget." And for most houses, this extends to what they show on ready-to-wear runways, as well. Hence, the over-the-top garments that we see during fashion week and that never make their way onto the store floor, and in some cases, the over-the-top staging, guest lists, etc.
As more and more houses compete for the coveted title of the most talked-about show of the season, the stakes are higher than ever, and using models as backpacks (or parading out with a live horse à la Jacquemus, creating a large bay of water in the center of your runway as Tommy Hilfiger did in New York, or recreating a casino (or brasserie or super market or jungle) full of celebrity guests like Chanel) is what does the job.