rick owens invites instagram artist salvia to join his post-apocalyptic glam tribe
“It’s a grim, determined, clenched-teeth glamour. In my resistance, I’m going all-out glam.”
“I've been down and gloomy the past few collections talking about decline -- ecological and political -- and I just decided to stop complaining, to shut the fuck up and do the most fierce, glamorous collection I can do,” Rick Owens explained post-show, dressed in a tank top and platforms. “It’s a grim, determined, hard, clenched teeth glamour,” he added with a smile. With teeth clenched, we were presented with powerfully provocative glamour that stirred both desires and repulsions, rekindled nostalgia and transported us all to a dystopian daydream.
Rick's recent shows have been anger-fuelled acts of resistance in response to the sociopolitical shitstorm and impending climate change apocalypse that we’re living through today. Now, with the world on fire forever the independent design force has turned to the optimism found in mutated, modern glamour. “There’s a lot to react to right now and clothes are often the first step,” he explained. “That’s why these clothes are excessive, they’re a reaction to how the world is right now. We all have to deal with adversity so shut up and put on some make-up.”
The collection built on the mood and inspirations of his autumn/winter 19 men’s collection, this too was named after Larry LeGaspi -- the New York-based visionary mind behind the iconic looks of Labelle, Grace Jones and Divine -- but pushed possibilities as he mixed everything from old Hollywood nostalgia to Instagram body mods. Owens has recently finished writing a book on LeGaspi which will be released when this otherworldly glam collection lands in stores. “Larry was the man responsible for the silver and black space-sleaze looks of Labelle and Kiss in the seventies, he introduced a camp ferocity to the mainstream and helped set a lot of kids like me free, with his mix of art deco sexual ambiguity and raw, black leather bombast,” Owens show notes told us. “There was a sweaty elegance to his vision that has stayed with me.” As an extended remix Lavascar’s Infinite -- a song which features his wife Michele Lamy reciting words by Lebanese/American poet Etel Adnan -- pulsed through the Palais de Tokyo and rattled the rib cages of showgoers, Owens continually clashed worlds and collaged influences as the collection morphed from fetish-infused deshabillé dressing through to couture-led tailoring and sexually-charged draped forms.
The body was stretched out by platform boots on one end and a high, sharp shoulder on the other,” Owens explained. “It’s more nostalgic than I usually go for, but this 70s vibe reminds me of an era thrilled with potential liberation.” LeGaspi’s iconic lightning bolt motif, which traced the thighs of Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley’s original jumpsuit, was used as a charm dangling from bags, pouches, and duffles long enough to be worn as leather capes. Cashmere coats, spliced with raw silver fur cowhide and patched with soft padded nylon cargo pockets, were cut with a Bauhaus shoulder that was inspired by the 30s futuristic epic Metropolis, a film that both Larry and Rick himself continually looked to. “I have also knocked off a Charles James cocoon coat and reinterpreted it in raw-seamed shearling, nutria, and duvet,” he confessed in the show notes. Hours after the show, Owens -- who wrote the preface of the book -- hosted the release of Charles James: The Couture Secrets of Shape in the Joyce Gallery close to his Paris store. As he shared his inspirations, we were invited deeper inside his mind. From James’ secrets of shape, Owens worked in another great couture designer of the 20th century. “I have always cited Mariano Fortuny as an influence and always delight in passing the original factory on Giudecca when I take the ferry to my summer studio on the Venice lido,” he explained in his notes. The Fortuny house allowed Owens’ inner fanboy the opportunity to delve deeper into the archives and exclusively print them on signature angora viscose jersey, which he then draped in ropes of fabric that echoed the original pleated silk dresses.
Despite the homages to his couture and costume heroes, Owens dedicated the show to an 18-year-old radical make-up artist, performer and Instagram phenomenon he had only recently discovered online. A click and scroll later and Salvia was brought to Paris to add an element of the sci-fi inspired grotesque to his already otherworldly models. "This generation has to reject tattoos and they're doing that through body modification and face work, botox and implants, which is really interesting to me,” Owens explained. “It's supposed to offend my generation and it does. It's wonderful, it's transgressive, it's inventive, it's provocative. Ultimately it's an insult to the generation before which is exactly what it's supposed to be!” As he spoke, Salvia quietly joined us backstage. "Did you like the show, are you happy?" asked Owens. "I loved it," she says. “She has this shy act but I don't believe it for one second,” Owens tells us, “because it takes a lot of aggression and drive to do everything she's doing at only 18, I hadn't done anything close by that age. This is my homage to her. What do you think of glamour today?” he asks her. "You can use glamour in a way that is political, a way that pushes things forward and challenges perceptions," Salvia explained. Couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
Photography: Mitchell Sams.