In a powerful event that transcended fashion, Rick Owens recruited female dancers from four American college step teams — Soul Steppers, Washington Divas, Zetas and Momentums — to perform at his Spring/Summer 14 show, entitled Vicious, in Paris.
An energetic fusion of hip-hop and traditional West African dance, stepping has its roots in African-American fraternities and sororities from the mid-20th century.
Pulling angry expressions and thumping their chests to a hypnotizing soundtrack of percussive beats, the dancers marched down asymmetric metal staircases to access the catwalk, breaking into rhythmic choreographies incorporating hand-claps, tap dance, and chants.
The mood was at once primitive and futuristic, evoking a scene from Star Wars. The dancers were grouped in military formations according to black, beige and white-themed tribes; clad in Owens’ signature leathers, sandy robes and fur pom-pom skirts; and accessorized with chunky sneakers from his Adidas collaboration.
For the finale, they clung onto one another and formed a human caterpillar that marched off the stage, still grimacing and pulling moves in unison to whoops from the crowd.
The show felt like Owen's response to the perennial debate about racial diversity on the runways, though for the Paris-based designer who hails from L.A., it was simply a celebration of American traditions, performed on a European stage. “Step teams are an American phenomenon,” he told fashion daily WWD. “My aesthetic has always been about an American’s interpretation of European glamour. To put these girls on the Parisian runway was a culmination of everything I do.”
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