In an exceptional show of epic, Cecil B. DeMille proportions, Rick Owens laid to rest all those assumptions about fashion shows’ irrelevance in an internet age. The experience of attending such a stellar performance, with its 15 meter-high scaffolding runway set against the monumental building of the Palais de Tokyo, and its pitch-perfect combination of clothing, music, casting and venue, left the convincing feel that the show is still the thing. True, such moments are rare, but they’re worth waiting for.
The show started when, up on the scaffolding, a tiny bare-chested silhouette advanced, its slow yet determined gait framed by a tourmaline-bright sky and the sun-lit, massive architecture of the Palais de Tokyo. He was followed by other models sporting various hairdos and outfits at once solemn and provocative, producing indelible images. The last time a distant runway has been effectively used in fashion was when Raf Simons staged his show at La Villette in the summer of 1998.
By the time the models reached the more traditional runway, which covered a strip of the pool around which skaters usually practice their hazardous stunts, Egyptian Lover’s 1987 song “I need a freak” blared on the soundtrack, transporting the audience to an orgiastic place Rick Owens himself best defined in his show notes: “Kurtis Blow meets Kraftwerk meets camp.”
The big fashion news were sexy, modern-day utilitarian leather chaps covering one leg, with bulbous zippered pouches that offered room for storage worn over sexy tiny briefs. Futuristic tops with tarp-like pouch effects (they were actually woven lurex) and terrific lattice tops gave the impression of beholding the inner parts of the wearer, an idea another great fashion mind, Hussein Chalayan, explored back in 2002.
The designer also made a jacket statement, an item that for him stands for “respectful uniform, and a symbol of civilization.” They were roomy yet structured, or cropped, partnered with wide overalls or high-waisted pants.
The show actually had a lot of Owens trademarks — the elephantine overalls, the greenish palette mixed with black, those utilitarian pouches, even those scaffolding, which served as a backdrop for his historic summer 2014 women’s show. The great thing is that he showed them all in a new light, both literally and metaphorically — for the first time, he abandoned the bowels of the Palais de Tokyo for its majestic exterior, letting the sun shine into one of the most impressive fashion oeuvres in modern fashion history.