During rehearsals for his fall men’s show, Rick Owens’ male muse Tyrone Susman suggested the designer reconsider showing his puffer coats and fuzzy vests with their hoods zipped up over the face, leaving only eye slits and some breathing holes.
Owens pushed back. “This is not Disneyland at this company. We get kind of intense,” he said during a preview.
No kidding! Owens’ blistering fall show featured Sisters of Mercy played at bone-shuddering volume, disorienting strobe lights, a sleeveless sweater bearing the word Urinal, sculpted helmets that sprouted lit fluorescent tubes — and clothes that were as fierce as they were majestic.
It was an exhilarating display as models whisked through a raw concrete space at the Palais de Tokyo wearing huge parkas spilling long goat hair trim, bomber jackets with sleeves slashed at the elbow, or tailored coats and jackets in Frankenstein proportions.
Owens explained in his press notes that he first designed exaggerated shoulders as a “parody of masculinity” only to discover he enjoys wearing them as “an excuse to take up more space around me. Camp has always been about exaggerating earnestly naive urges.”
And Owens’ brooding and sometimes menacing clothes are about skewering conservatism and puritanism, particularly all the strident judgments and superior morality trumpeted on social media these days. “I see it as my life’s work to balance out that energy,” he mused.
His dark, rebellious spirit was there in spades, along with an undercurrent of sensuality and glamour, with Susman opening the show in a metal mesh tank top woven more loosely than a chain-link fence — exalting his sinewy torso.
Owens invented a new adjective for the look — “glamasleazy” — adding the additional descriptor of “languorous.” Yet there was the usual rigor to his tailoring, more voluptuous than ever, and the finesse of luxurious, yet meaty fabrics, from cotton and silk duchesse to a canvas wool woven on century-old shuttle looms.
Back to that Urinal sweater: Owens went off on a tangent, as he’s portrayed the act of relieving himself on photos and sculptures of himself, in photos and exhibitions, as a metaphor for creative expression that is expelled, rejected and internalized.
Here it was more about “laughing at men’s baser urges” — and perhaps a sly commentary about excessive branding and pontificating. “In a world of logos and messages on T-shirts.…I think this is anti-that,” he chuckled.