It’s safe to say that Rick Owens’ shows have become the buzziest of our time. There was Zebra Katz, then the sorority performers, and those fleeting penises. But this time around, the buzz didn’t come from the maverick. Halfway through his spring 2016 men’s show, one of his models, Jera, brandished a piece of fabric that read “Please Kill Angela Merkel Not,” with the Not part somewhat obscured. [Honoring the house’s wishes, we have chosen not to run the image here.]
The model has walked the designer’s shows for many years, even wearing one of the body-revealing tunics that caused such an uproar last season, however no information is available about the his motivations. His agency, the Berlin-based Tomorrow Is Another Day, could not be reached for comment and his pictures could not be found on their website. Reportedly, Owens reacted backstage by punching Jera in the face.
Other than that, the show’s biggest novelty was a sort of tunnel hairdo — think pompadour gone wild — that made recognizing faces difficult, and should make kissing more so. The tunnel shape was a reference to cyclops, the mythological creature with a unique focal point, but it also served as a metaphor for the designer, a practitioner of creative tunnel vision. This is meant in a positive way. He’s an outstandingly focused, forward-looking provocateur, and this new line-up crystallized his obsession with military attire and draping.
The starting point of the collection was the classic M-1965 field jacket, a staple of the US military, translated here as sleeveless jackets, often in black leather with frayed hems. Intriguing transparent tunics were made of leather or snakeskin, rendered sheer through a no-dye waxing process. The tops and outerwear were ecumenically paired with asymmetrical black shorts and worn with hefty boots or open-toed sandals. The show ended with bunched and draped tunics with metallic touches, echoing Owens’ admiration for sculptor John Chamberlain and painter Steven Parrino, both known for a wrecked, destroyed effect in their work.
It all made for a surprisingly commercial collection that had the ambitious goal of “contributing to the perpetuation of cosmic love,” or so said the show notes, if you don’t include rogue models.