Rick Owens: Grace amid darkening clouds
With war clouds darkening all of Europe, one witnessed a moment of grace and grandeur at Rick Owens Thursday evening in Paris, as an ethereal cast emerged out of giant engulfing clouds - statuesque, solitary and sensational.
Many of the cast carrying portable fog machines spouting plumes of faux fog which gradually engulfed the entire show space inside the Palais de Tokyo. Suggesting a medieval enclave of holy folk carrying fashionable thuribles.
A collection imagined before the very idea that Putin’s Russia might invade Ukraine, yet somehow a prescient vision of society and fashion. And an oblique comment on the duty to remain noble, amid the brutal reality of a megalomaniac gangster’s attack on a neighboring sovereign state.
Rick Owens operates at the frontier of fashion and art, rarely more so than in this show, staged at the mid-way point of the nine-day Paris Fashion Week. No wonder the two hippest gallery owners in London and Paris – Jay Jopling and Thaddaeus Ropac – sat front row, perched on socially distanced metal benches. A busy Thursday in Paris with seven official calendar shows; and scores of digital displays and presentations. Though the unquestioned highpoint was Owens’ collection, entitled 'Strobe Women'.
A softer, subtler Owens, ironically – given the images of Kyiv, Kharkiv and Kherson - devoid of the post Armageddon aesthetic of recent shows. Models towering over the audience, over everyone really, in massive platforms with mini radiator shaped toes; or cut-out thigh boots in shearling. Made in the bi-product of the food industry and sourced from LWG-certified family run tanneries. Even the reflective fabrics were woven from yarn made from glass.
Wrapped in huge cloaks; substantial tunics and cowls in combinations of recycled nylon, velvet, washed denim and alpaca felt, in a reference to Rick’s great muse Joseph Beuys. Coats finished with elusive materials at collar and shoulder – like snakeskin or pirarucu, a Brazilian fish-skin sourced from a tannery, which guarantees that the fish are used as food, before their skins help support a local community.
“I don’t mention this out of virtuousness, we definitely have room to improve. I just like promoting the conversation fashion is having about responsibility,” remarked the California-born, but latterly Venice, Italy-based, designer.
Though the most beautiful passages were the exotic grand gowns composed of what Big Rick called “gobs and fistfuls of dust colored sequins.” Cut as columns or bias cut dresses, and finished with huge chunky knots of fabric at the top. Wafting in and out of the misty plumes, appearing and disappearing to the soundtrack Mahler’s 5th symphony, sadly ideal given the current horrendous war, and the cowardly invasion of Ukraine.
A point addressed by Owens in his final remarks: “I have always found great comfort that in the history of the world good has somehow always managed to triumph over evil. During times of heartbreak, beauty can be one of the ways to maintain faith.”
Pulchritudo bello victos.
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