Rick Owens AW22 was a masterclass in transcendental fashion
In a feast for the senses, the designer delivered one of the most poignant, emotional collections of the week.
Fashion is a creative medium that relies on imagery to communicate. When come to us to read a review, for example, you’re likely here as much for the sake of checking out the runway imagery as for relishing our top-tier prose. All that said, accurately conveying the experience of yesterday’s Rick Owens show in Paris, through image or text, feels like an almost impossible task.
For starters, there’s the simple fact that the images here don’t do the best job of clearly capturing the intricate details of the clothes. In the hands of a good number of the models were toolbox-sized portable fog machines, which spewed thick clouds of mist, obscuring the photographers’ lenses – much to their dismay, and to the snickering delight of the seated attendees.
Beyond that technicality, this fashion show was an enrapturing sensorial experience – an exquisite conflation of sight, texture, scent and sound. The gently descending curtain of fog through which the models emerged diffused an incense tinged fragrance – created in collaboration with Aesop, and set for release in a couple of months’ time – fostering a quasi-religious sense of ceremony. And in what felt like the first Rick Owens show in quite some time not to be soundtracked by nosebleed techno or anarchic noise – they strode to the soaring strings of Mahler’s “5th Symphony” – “a piece I would have considered too sentimental in the past,” Rick wrote in his seasonal show-accompanying all-caps letter, “but better suited to the sobriety and search for hope in our current condition”.
Now, onto the clothes. If the setting cultivated an expectation for transcendent beauty, they more than lived up to the task. Where last season saw Rick lean into a gentler feminine energy, this season saw the designer channel a poetic glamour. Statuesque column dresses in dusty khaki, champagne and inky black with bulbous architectural drapes dripped in sequins, their scaly finish echoed in the python and pirarucu leather carapaces worn over easy slip gowns in velvet and aggressively washed denim. A similar clean elegance informed rib-necked grey cashmere sweaters with flared sleeves and hoiked-up shoulders, trailing riding capes, and the collection’s opening look – a cream alpaca felt coat with wrapped shoulders, the choice of the material being a nod to the work of Joseph Beuys, a perennial source of inspiration for Rick.
That sense of poise was counterposed by the pageantry and camp of cropped, linebacker-shouldered boleros, devil-horned shoulders, lurid pops of sherbet yellow and mandarin, hexagonal azure shearling jackets trimmed with pony-hair fringe. Reinforcing that was the hard, armoured protection that one instinctively associates with Rick Owens – chain prints on silks, thigh-high shinpad iterations of the Kiss boot, hulking quilted puffers in sugar pink. At a time of global crisis, when many have questioned the relevance of fashion shows, this felt like a well-rounded justification for their continuation – gauging by the dewy eyes of many audience members, it was the sort of show that reminded you of the raw emotional force that fashion — at its best — can speak with.
All images courtesy of OWENSCORP.