Rick Owens knows we’re judging. He knows someone out there watching his fashion show will look at his wackadoo headgear — for fall, sweatshirt sleeves were rigged up on wire apparatuses hanging down, hooding the face — and take it the wrong way: Did anyone else see the long white sleeves dangling from geometric crowns and get a whiff of a hazmat mask?
Owens wasn’t feeling ominous or apocalyptic, at least openly, but ceremonial. “Improvised ceremony” was his main message backstage, where he made the point that ceremonies are one of the pillars of civilization. “People are coming together to collectively pursue common goals and ideas,” he said, adding that fashion shows are contemporary ceremonies. Yes, a gathering of people pursuing the common goal of judging your collection.
Headdresses aside, the lineup was striking, and very weird — but with moments of beauty, too. Below the neck, the silhouettes were mostly built out of major outerwear over long, lean skirts cut into flaps, front and back, though the lines blurred. Patchwork coats and capes came in sturdy mishmashes of thick wool, painted canvas and quilted puffer jacket pieces, arranged in different layers and lengths. Often it was hard to decode where one garment ended and another began. Some were more understandable than others: a bell-shaped cape in linear panels of black padded nylon, loden green wool, black leather and white canvas versus a bulbous faded red nylon, um, thing wrapped around the shoulders that appeared to have some sort of Army green outerwear undone and flapping from the waist. Accessorizing that particular look were two white sleeves peaked above each ear like bunny ears.
The best pieces conveyed a warmth and regal coziness derived from earthy colors and textured fabrics. The rest withered under the weight of their weirdness — there is such a thing as too many sleeves. As for Owens’ ritual, his tribe walked the runway, he took his bow and the community left for the next judgment session.