Fashion can be thought provoking, and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Some fashion designs set tongues wagging and leave an impression long after the show has ended. Here are five runway looks that shocked the world.
Yves Saint Laurent’s Libération Collection, 1971
Yves Saint Laurent’s Libération collection, unveiled on January 29, 1971, is one of the designer’s most pivotal and controversial moments. Though hard to understand by today’s standards, many his collection in “bad taste” and panned for being derivative. The Liberation collection, inspired by wartime era styles and flea market chic, was a massive departure from haute couture. Afterwards, Yves Saint Laurent defended his work by stating that his attackers were “narrow-minded petty people paralyzed by taboos. But I am also stimulated because that which shocks is new. Perhaps it did not please certain press or American buyers – but it pleased youth, and that is what counts for me. Fashion is a reflection of its time.”
McQueen’s Human Canvas
Design maverick, Alexander McQueen, stunned and delighted the audience during the presentation of his Spring/Summer 1999 collection, titled “No.13.” In a daring piece performance art, the show’s finale featured model Shalom Harlow standing on a rotating wooden platform wearing a simple yet beautiful white dress. While she rotated on stage, two mechanical robots on either side of her began to spray her cotton dress with black and acid-yellow paint, turning fashion into a canvas.
Rei Kawakubo’s “Destroy” Collection
COMME des GARÇONS founder Rei Kawakubo’s designs have consistently challenged Western notions of beauty and femininity. There has also been an undercurrent of feminism to her work. Her defiant stance against the sexualization of women is evident in her body of work and in her words. She once stated that her clothing was designed specifically for women who ‘pay no attention to their husbands’. When she brought her first collection to Paris in 1981, Kawakubo caused an uproar when her models stomped down the runway with smeared war paint on their faces while wearing a series of tattered, all-black clothing. Many perceived his The“Destroy” collection as a blast of barbarity, and it gained the label of “Hiroshima’s Revenge.”
Andrew Groves’ Surprise Jacket
In 1997, up and coming designer Andrew Groves had already generated interest in the fashion world thanks to his debut line. His graduation from Central Saint Martins included Hellraiser-style suits studded with six-inch nails and a hangman’s noose. He said the nails represented “inner pain”. The audience came his new show hoping to be shocked, and instead were repulsed. A model sauntered down the catwalk in a jacket with exaggerated shoulders. As she stopped near the front row, she opened her jacket to unleash a hoard of flies. The horrified reaction was instantaneous.
Rick Owens’ Fall/Winter 2015 Show
No list of shocking runway fashions would be complete without mentioning Rick Owens’ eye-opening Fall/Winter 2015 show at Paris Fashion Week. While female nudity has become the norm at many fashion shows, the male form has not. Rick Owens’ catwalk featured designs that had some revealing cuts and strategically placed holes, which provided a “peeping Tom” effect. A statement on the perennial taboo of male nudity in fashion, Owens explained his decision by stating, “I pass classical marble statues of nude and draped figures in the park every day, and they are a vision of sensuality — yes, but also of grace and freedom. As a participant in one of our most progressive aesthetic arenas, am I not allowed to use this imagery? Is it only appropriate for a Michael Fassbender movie? I thought this might be an interesting question.”
These runway looks shocked the world. What do you think of these fashion statements?