The last time fashion had a big encounter with Vaslav Nijinsky was back in 1995, when, in a landmark extravaganza, John Galliano filled the Théatre des Champs-Elysées with models in tutus. The Ballets Russes dancer and his famous Afternoon of a Faun ballet resurfaced at Rick Owens’ terrific show for summer 2015. But this was hard to guess until the designer revealed his reference backstage.
That’s because Owens is a subtle storyteller. Many less savvy designers would even have used a predictable Claude Debussy soundtrack. He instead went for parental-advisory rap, with a feisty female singer repeating very dirty words. But then, as he said in his press release, in the ballet Afternoon, “a faun chases some nymphs, and left with one of their scarves, masturates to it — primal urges, artificially expressed.” So maybe Nijinsky and dirty rap are closer than we might think.
A cutting-edge yet somewhat unhurried designer, Owens continued his ongoing exploration of tunics and, short drop crotch jumpsuits, this time occasionally cut in denim with frayed edges, and worn with winged, sci-fi sneakers that open a new chapter in his hit collaboration with Adidas. An adventurous creator, he wrapped strips of nylon to reveal the body of his gaunt models, some covered with chalk. He also dabbled in subdued tones on color-blocked tunics, and showed naive appliqués decoration drawn by one of his favorite models, Benoît, who opened the show.
I couldn’t help thinking about Helmut Lang, not only because the models walked the runway twice, but also, because the jackets hanging like backpacks and the strips of fabrics dangling from the clothes recalled the Austrian designer’s greatest hits. And that is not to be taken negatively. Both designers have distinct identities, and they share the same fascination with grittiness and sophistication. Lang is still sorely missed, but Owens safely carries the modernist torch.