rick owens explores his mexican heritage

The collection was devoted to his mother, Connie.

by Osman Ahmed
Sep 27 2019, 11:16am

“I never really explored my Mexican-ness but the debate over a border wall made me more conscious of who I would be separated from,” Rick Owens explained of his proposition for the next decade, which took place outdoors amid a dreamscape of bubbles floating through heavy grey air. It was devoted his 87-year-old Mexican mother, Connie, and explored his own Mixtec heritage, a follow on from the theme of his SS20 menswear show earlier this year.

The designer offered a different perspective to the Trump narrative -- one of beauty, regality and goddesses. “Stoic Bauhaus Aztec priestesses in an Art Deco Valhalla filled with bubbles animated by Fantasia-era Disney,” was how he actually described the show, possibly one of the most memorable of this decade.

Of course, there wasn’t a Serape blanket pattern in sight. Instead, Owens looked to an array of esoteric references that alluded to history and his own personal memories, like the shimmering China poblana skirts that Connie would wear to church pageants while she was growing up in Puebla, transformed into sheaths of block-colour sequins. Aztec headpieces came via Fritz Lang’s seminal Metropolis, geometric Bauhaus patterns and motifs via Josef and Anni Albers, who explored Mexican archeological sites after leaving Germany in the 1930s. The vivid colours -- mustard, pink, red, iridescent oil-slick metallics -- took their cue from the Mexican architect Luis Barragán. María Félix, the glamorous Mexican cinema icon who became known simply as La Doña, could be heard over the soundtrack, repeating the phrase “Corazon, tu diras lo que hacemos” (“My heart, you decide what we do”).

The clothes were sculptural, almost confrontational and mechanical in the way they jutted around the body. There was a severe elegance in the perpendicular volumes; a sexiness to the seemingly slinky dresses with triangular cut-outs (Rick is a fan of a plunging deep V-neck himself). And though pictures may warp the sense of practicality, there was actually plenty of it -- blazers and shirts had integrated straps, so that they could be worn buckled around the hips on the dance floor, as Rick explained.

Pooling together those references and transforming it into an energetic collection was what made the show so prescient. There wasn’t a raging anger about what’s going on politically -- rather, it was simply present as a backdrop to a deeply heartfelt expression of beauty. Borders are being closed, walls are being built, stereotypes about cultures and races are being perpetuated -- but the point is that this was a celebration of the rich tapestry of cross-cultural exchange, underscored by the “bucolic lightheartedness” of the bubbles. Rick may have mentioned Fantasia, and those bubbles certainly brought out the child in every member of the audience. There were even opulent mega-pleated Watteau-back gowns, sweeping fairytale princess dresses. But this was a Rick Owens show, where nothing comes without a razor-sharp edge of intellect. The bubbles pop, after all, and those dresses are a reminder that we’re living in a dark tale that may not have a happy ending.



Photography Mitchell Sams

This article originally appeared on i-D UK.

Rick Owens
Paris Fashion Week