Whether it’s torching $100,000 designer bags, donning head-to-toe outfits made of raw cow meat, or letting rats loose on the catwalk, we’ve compiled a list of fashion’s 10 most “fuck you” moments.

Held up by strict beauty standards and abiding elitism, the ever-powerful fashion industry is sometimes faced with the occasional side-poker – individuals daring enough to defy its strict societal codes. From enfant terrible antics to revolutionary radicalism, fashion’s affiliates are constantly seeking ways to shift the norm, stretch boundaries of creativity and set aside social mores – with some individuals going the extra mile in their efforts.

After exploring some of the most influential moments in androgyny, we continue to shed exposure on the ways in which the fashion industry has been shaped and reinvented throughout the years, listing 10 shocking moments that said “fuck you” to the system.

Swimming With Sharks in Designer Suits

What would one wear if they were to spend a night on the town with one of the world’s most feared predators? Well, if you’re notorious illusionist David Blaine, it would have to be in some dapper designer garbs. In the collaborative 2011 short film “Dressed For Dinner,” NY-based menswear connoisseur Adam Kimmel transports his creations from the runway to the depths of the Pacific Ocean, suiting up Blaine in his finest formalwear as he submerges himself to elude the appetite of a great white shark. We’re sure Kimmel has endured the wrath of Anna Wintour at some point in his career, so surely Jaws was a fair match.

Torching a $100,000 Bag in the Name of “Art”

Being the daughter of one of Hollywood’s most prolific actor/directors awards certain material luxuries most people can only dream of. Take, say, a $100,000 crocodile Hermès Birkin bag, which famed socialite and daughter of Clint Eastwood, Francesca, decided to publicly demolish back in 2012 with then-boyfriend, artist Tyler Shields, by torching and taking a chainsaw to it – all in the name of “art.” The act aroused a wave of public outcry, with many claiming that the stunt was a cheap attempt at shock value that warranted little to no artistic merit.


Rats on the Runway

Fashion week can be quite a distressing affair – hectic schedules, bloated egos, blinding flash photography and hoarding into small, often cramped venues. Throw 250 free-ranging rodents into the mix, and the event just turned into something on par with a Steven King novel. During their infamous debut show in 2001, Australian fashion label Ksubi (fka Tsubi) made headlines when they decided to release a pack of rats onto the catwalk, leaving many a fashion editor squirming in disgust. Perhaps one front row seat you wouldn’t necessarily covet.

Gaultier Swaps Size 0 for Size 20+ Catwalk Model

Back in 2006, the debate over the fashion industry’s employment of size zero models erupted when news broke out that two severely anorexic models had starved themselves to death. In response to the controversy, notorious enfant terrible French designer Jean-Paul Gaultier placed a blatantly larger sized model onto the catwalk during his 30th anniversary Paris Fashion Week show. Dressed in provocative black corsetry, the voluptuous model strutted alongside her waifish peers in grandiose, true Gaultier-like fashion.

Catwalk Crashers

Brazen British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen ruffled the feathers of more than just a few uptight attendees at Spanish designer Agatha Ruiz de la Prada’s show during Milan Fashion Week in 2008. Under the guise of his flamboyant film character Bruno, the audacious funnyman hijacked the affair when, after managing to sneak his way backstage, he walked down the catwalk only seconds before he was snagged by security and later detained at an Italian police station. Needless to say that the city’s stylish elite were not amused by the stunt, with national newspaper La Repubblica stating, “The incorrigible Sacha Baron Cohen violates the sacred rituals of high fashion.”

Cold-Cut Couture

“Less is more” is an alien concept to eccentric pop phenomenon Lady GaGa, whose career is more or less defined by garish get-ups and bombastic performances. After donning everything from Kermit the Frog heads to diamond-encrusted lobster headpieces, the singer decided to opt for a more “organic” look at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards. With the help of designer Franc Fernandez and stylist Nicola Formichetti, GaGa attended the show in a dress comprised entirely of raw, premium-cut beef. Dubbed the “meat dress,” the butchered ensemble was widely condemned by animal rights groups and ranked number one in Time’s top fashion statements of 2010. GaGa stressed that the dress was an assertion of individual human rights, saying “…if we don’t stand up for what we believe in and if we don’t fight for our rights pretty soon, we’re going to have as much rights as the meat on our own bones.”

McQueen’s Human Canvas

Late design maverick Alexander McQueen solidified a historical moment in fashion during the presentation of his Spring/Summer 1999 collection, titled “No.13.” Melding catwalk with performance art, the show’s finale garnered a particularly arresting moment when model Shalom Harlow, while standing on a rotating wooden plinth, became a human canvas as two mechanical robots began to furiously shower her angelic white cotton dress with black and acid-yellow paint, creating a bespoke garment in the process.

Rei Kawakubo’s “Destroy” Collection

Japanese avant-gardist and COMME des GARÇONS founder Rei Kawakubo’s designs have consistently challenged Western notions of beauty and femininity for over three decades. When she brought her first collection to Paris in 1981, the designer, then relatively unknown in the West, caused an anti-fashion uproar when a cadre of disheveled models donning smeared war paint stomped down the runway in a series of tattered, all-black vestments, marking the end of the French Fashion Syndicate’s influence in the fashion industry. Dubbed the “Destroy” collection, Kawakubo’s neo-Gothic designs defied the glitz and lurid materialism of ’80s fashion, with many perceiving the show as a blast of barbarity, tagging the look as “Hiroshima’s Revenge.”

Margiela – Fashion’s “Invisible Man”

In an industry consumed by self-promotion and stardom, there exists one designer who’s managed to rise above (or rather behind) his peacocking peers. A conjurer of one of fashion’s most enigmatic brands, Martin Margiela has built a revered empire shrouded in mystery and anonymity – from his discreet 0-23 cloth trademark, to his repeated employment of the color white, to his über reclusive persona. During his tenure at Maison Martin Margiela, the Belgian designer reacted to the fashion industry’s exhausted commercialization by refusing to be photographed, grant interviews, or provide the customary appearance at the end of his shows, conducting communication with the press exclusively via fax machine. While the media often dubbed Margiela’s antisocial behavior as a publicity stunt, spokesmen of the brand have stressed that his disappearance is a genuine attempt to return the focus of fashion to the clothing, not the personas behind it.

Rick Owens’ Floor-Shattering Dance

Brutalist fashion designer Rick Owens has a knack for yanking on the hair of fashion’s well-groomed ponytail. A radical in presentation and design, Owens has a way of flipping his audiences off without overtly conveying his effort in doing so. However, during his Spring/Summer 2014 “Vicious” show, the designer made a not-so-subtle attempt to shake things up when he recruited a troupe of female step dancers to deliver an assaulting 11-minute performance on a vast stage surrounded by Parisian spectators. The volatile production incorporated aggressive hand-claps, floor-shaking tap dances and thunderous chanting over a hypnotic drumming soundtrack, leaving even the most composed fashion victims in attendance shaken to the core. The show left people wondering whether the stunt was Owens’ response to the persisting debate about racial diversity on the runways. However, the designer stressed that the dance was a celebration of American traditions, saying, “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.”


Honorable Mention

Rick Owens’ “Free the Willy” Show
This list wouldn’t be complete without an honorable mention of the now infamous “Rick Slip” that graced the runway during Owens’ eye-opening Fall/Winter 2015 show at Paris Fashion Week. Through some revealing cuts and strategically placed holes, the designer’s garments enabled a peeping display of male models’ genitalia while they strutted down the catwalk, leaving many crowd members snickering in embarrassment while simultaneously leaning forward to catch a better glimpse. A statement on the perennial taboo of male nudity in fashion, Owens tells i-D, “Well, isn’t it time? I thought it was the most simple, primal gesture – and you know I love a simply tiny, little gesture that packs the wallop.” No pun intended.

Words by Nico Amarca
Fashion Editor, North America