Watching Rick Owens’ models ascend the winding staircase inside the Palais de Tokyo, their hands lifting their elephantine pants, their sculptural puffer outerwear trailing behind them, with Montserrat Caballé’s moving voice on the soundtrack, was to imagine what Cristobal Balenciaga could have created had he designed menswear today.
And yet, Owens didn’t have the 1950s, Balenciaga’s heyday, as inspiration. For this collection, Glitter, he looked to a period in the 70s celebrating sleaze, transgression, sexual liberation, and anti-conformity. For most designers, this would have translated into bell-bottoms, sequined tailoring, and cuban heels. For Owens, it meant models ambling down the runway in outerwear so convoluted it almost defies description. Call it soft sculptures or Salvation Army splurge.
The collection was actually about sophisticated, tasteful, and dignified dishevelment. Down jackets were artfully tied, askew, and bound together. Capacious pants, many in textured leather and what looked like taffeta, swept the floor. Overalls were worn undone, creating bunching around the waist. Even fitted jackets, normally commercial items, had their sleeves elongated by way of knit tube inserts. Jackets with wide 3D zippered pockets that could easily replace your airplane luggage were outstanding. Powdery greens, browns, and grays lightened the black palette.
Fusing couture-like elegance, gritty edginess, and tender poetry, the collection had an originality that is increasingly rare. Today, many designers concoct cool hoodie and sweatpants-dominated collections that are truly appealing, but often fail to impress. If Rick’s collections often impress you, that’s because he’s a designer who’s not afraid to take risks. He’s done all that draping before. This time he took it a step further. He could have failed — but as usual, he didn’t.