Meet Rick Owens, chairman of fashion’s anti-intolerance league.
His sensational, deeply poignant show on Thursday at his Paris home and headquarters waved the flag for dark and radical Darth Vader-esque dressing that might give average folks the heebie-jeebies, but that stand for dignity, defiance and, above all, hope.
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Consider his gourd-shaped puffers that nearly swallow the head, or the ones that look like two anvils propped on the shoulders, a newfangled strain of revenge dressing — against the standardized, unattainable esthetics exemplified by the obligatory duty-free beauty aisles at airports, and metaphorically against the greed and intolerance that Owens believes are at the root of all wars.
Ditto his fierce and flaring biker leathers, his hulking cardigans big enough to fit two or three grandpas, and his beloved donut loops, here in shearing and long-haired goat fur and creating a silhouette akin to a candy apple on a stick.
Owens writes the most eloquent show notes in all of fashion, and he called the proportions of his fall menswear “grotesque and inhuman in a howling reaction to some of the most disappointing human behavior we will witness in our lifetime.”
He titled the show “Porterville” as a wink to the intolerances he experienced as a “flamboyant, sensitive kid” growing up in that small California town, but which are small potatoes compared to what’s going on in Ukraine and Gaza. He considered the scaled-back, intimate show a “respectful move in observance of the barbaric times through which we are living.”
As a fashion designer, Owens sees his role as presenting “alternatives” as a “counterbalance” to what those airport beauty aisles are hawking. “It’s mocking the banal, mocking intolerance and mocking what is considered good taste and what is considered appropriate,” he said in his matter-of-fact drawl.
As models strolled through the high-ceiling salons — its parquet floors in dire need of polish and the white paint grayed and crackling on the decorative moldings — you could hear their freaky, balloon-like stretch boots rubbing against each other over the yearning David Bowie track “Warszawa.”
The alien-like, inflatable footwear heightened the futuristic vibe of the show, as did the furry superhero capes and astronaut suits, which made one think of Chewbacca if he got a crewcut and a promotion.
Owens acknowledged that futurism is present in many of his collections because it implies a search for utopia — “a frustration with the status quo, with the way things are and a longing to be somewhere more magical,” he said.
Imagine how amazing it would be if Owens costumed a sci-fi movie like “Star Wars” — although average folks might not immediately notice that he’s dressing the good guys.
Launch Gallery: Rick Owens Men's Fall 2024
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