Before I get into the clothes or my thoughts or impressions about them, let me just say that one of the great pleasures of this season’s fashion week in Paris has been the hair coming off the runway. Whether it’s been severe or classically restrained (e.g., Céline, Valentino), in harmony with the minimalist geometries or an emphasis on a particular part of the body or overall balance; or just messing with your head (as he always does), the way those messed-up-flapper/Biograph Girl looks in Marc Jacobs’ fun/flophouse show for Louis Vuitton did (or for that matter those caged curls in McQueen); or those wild-is-the-wind frizzed-out manes at Rick Owens for those sisters-of-no-mercy calling out around the world for that brand new beat that’s been coming for about 5,000 years now.
Yeah, I guess you could say I liked Rick Owens’ show this season. My feelings usually oscillate a bit between Owens’ collections and those of his (and Michele Lamy’s) protégé, Gareth Pugh; but finally their shared affinities have evolved to a point where each seems to move in distinctly individual directions. Although I loved Pugh’s re-tracing of certain strains of 1970s and 1980s fashion avant-gardes this season, Owens’ show had a resonance that could almost be called poetic – both encompassing contemporary currents, and reaching back not merely into 20th century fashion history, but to the avant-gardes of centuries past, even to ancient cultures. The essential silhouette was the kimono, variously opened up or out, perforated, stitched or embellished; but at the same time, re-connected, restrained, wrapped or bound up. (Not the last place this motif turned up – if you read on.) There was austerity, even religiosity, here, but also something more elemental – something that spoke of earth, sky, even sea. The models came down the runway through billowing smoke-machines like boreal valkyries – as if heralding not merely aurora, but an erupting tundra. Even the parallel lacings that wrapped around the panels of some of the jackets and coats alluded to regimental stripes or braiding. (I assume they tied beneath the closure, though Owens also used button closures.) The lacing was repeated on the very high stiletto-heeled boots the models wore. The armorial/samurai-kimono aspect of the jackets and coats was carried through the entire silhouette front and back. The back panel stood off from the body at a slight angle, then falling in a straight line from the shoulder blades, in beautiful balance with the mostly full sleeves. But so was the quasi-liturgical aspect – both in the more opened-out and the narrower silhouettes – with layered surplice-like tunics or dresses (over leggings or divided skirts and the knee-high boots), long narrow coats like scapulars that sometimes became capes; or better still, those elongated Elizabethan-style collars that unfurled over one shoulder into a trailing cape, sash or stole.
The lacings both as closure and embellishment varied considerably among the various jackets and coats – in monochrome blacks or whites with varying textures or quilting, contrasting blacks against whites or whites against blacks, basket-weave or criss-crossed lacings that looked like origami (or, if quilted, looked like razor-clams). Even the toggle closures that Owens used on some of the coats looked like origami birds. The palette was restrained, but sharp, clarifying – mostly dense blacks, bright whites (or black-and-white), or charcoals, broken only by a few looks in soft pink or beige – which seemed to underscore that the strength of the look was in no way dependent upon chromatics.
There is, inevitably, an aspect of drawing back, close, almost cocooning here – though so forthrightly articulated, it seems consistent with the overall fearlessness here. Owens isn’t looking forward or back, but straight ahead. If the earth was once a ‘spaceship,’ it now seems more often like an unsteady life-raft. This could be fashion for a ‘floating world’ or a sinking one: who will drown and who will be saved?