We were far from the only ones to be seriously stunned by Rick Owens’ above-and-beyond runway step show — it’s being called “one of the most innovative and exciting fashion shows” of recent recall. New York-based singer-songwriter Arin Lawrence, who performed as part of The Soul Steppers (just one of four groups featured in Owens’ show), regaled her story of the show, from its very germination last spring until last week’s ground-breaking performance, in an exclusive interview with BuzzFeed.
On the faces the steppers were making, and how the intensity is somewhat rooted in South African tradition:
I think one of the most noticed things from the eventual show was the faces we were making. Yeah. Rick’s people wanted us to make… intense faces, let’s say. They called them “grit faces.” Now stepping as a greater tradition, it’s rich in history. You’ll get some mixed opinion on this, but a lot of its roots trace back to South African gumboot dances. These were a form of entertainment for the coal miners there, but also became a form of protest by those same miners during the apartheid, when they were working under terrible conditions. Yes, it’s got a combative history on some fronts and so maybe that intensity comes from that … But I think the intensity that Rick saw, that he wanted to tap into specifically, probably came more from the [contemporary] fraternity culture of steppers. In the African-American Greek lettered tradition, there are nine historic black fraternities and sororities known for their stepping. One fraternity in particular, Omega Psi Phi, have a tendency to do what we call screw faces. Rough, tough faces. Grimaces. I think that Rick liked that. And I think that he wanted to pair that expression with female steppers — you know, we’re strong and intense and “fierce.”
On the pre-show fittings:
There were lots of fittings. We all sent in measurements before we even started rehearsing. I do believe some people lost weight as a result of the rehearsal schedule, but there was never any pressure on us to be a particular size. Our groups in New York had two fittings [during the summer], and we all tried on a variety of different designs. There were lots of questions about the material, and how any given piece affected our movement. Once we arrived in Paris we had a final round of fittings, and realized the outfits we’d be wearing were quite different from what we’d seen in New York. I think because of the nature of the show and, yes, the fact that we’re all not model-sized, there had to be some flexibility with the clothes.
On why she and her fellow Soul Steppers decided to appear in the show:
I can’t speak for all 40 of us, but for us Soul Steppers, we did the show because we believe in the power of step. We all felt that this was a huge opportunity for it to be presented on the world stage in an unconventional way, and just to widen the scope of anyone who sees and hears about it. If I go on Instagram and search for “Rick Owens” now there’s a lot about us there, which is weird — but good weird.
On Owens’ choice to include mostly black steppers:
Let’s say Rick wanted stepping in his fashion show but didn’t want any black people. If he’d said, can you have a couple of black steppers teach these white models some moves, I would have had a huge problem with that. We all would have, because it would have been unauthentic. I don’t know how many all-white step teams you know, but if you can find one, by all means call them. And maybe Loretta did find a team and call — as a matter of fact I believe there was a Latina group, but my understanding is they had schedule conflicts they couldn’t resolve. It was about the stepping. Step originated in Africa. Step dancers happen to be black. Stepping remains a tradition mostly within the black community, so Rick got mostly black steppers. You can say it’s racist because our groups’ makeup is homogenous like that, sure. At the end of the day, Rick Owens wanted good steppers and he got good steppers and this is what they look like.
The interview is quite a read, but it’s worth it. Check out the rest at the source! [BuzzFeed]