Rick Owens let it burn. Nihilism. His less-than-idyllic California youth. He threw it all metaphorically on the pyre he erected in the courtyard of the Palais de Tokyo for his spring show and lit the match. Across the Atlantic, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford was wrapping her testimony that might prevent a man who stands several times accused of sexual misconduct from coasting into a lifetime appointment on the highest court in the U.S. The culture is going up in flames.
Owens’ structure was a crude model of Tatlin’s Tower, the Russian Constructivist monument to communism and modernity that was never built. “I wanted to burn down a utopian monument,” he said before the show, going on to describe the women he conjured in the collection as witches. “California witches because they’re in hiking boots and cut-off jeans. Where I grew up, that’s what we all wore….So I brought my utopian California youth to Paris and I’m setting it on fire.”
It was a powerful, prescient concept. Around the burning tower walked a parade of witchy women decked in jackets, hoodies, bra tops and short destroyed denim. The silhouettes were short, all jutting angles, topped off with angular wire headpieces and bug-eyed sunglasses that gave the models an insect quality. There were soft-draped dresses trimmed in fringe. Some had a long rectangular stick that looked like a piece of kindling, but actually might have been a clutch, protruding from the waist. Shiny armor-like structures had geometric cutouts. A navy and rust wrap top with extra-long handkerchief sleeves over a column of faded denim alluded to dirty American flags.
“It’s not that calculated when I go into it,” Owens claimed. Please. He’s no simpleton. As he pointed out, getting permits to set a fire next to the Palais de Tokyo is a nihilistic revolution of its own in this city. Owens is a tenacious, intrepid voice in this industry, one who knows the value of torching the establishment whether by way of bare balls or burning the Tower of Babel. He also knows the value of staying on message extends to the product, not just the production. The collection came dressed up in helix coats and headgear, but underneath was the dark, regal draping that’s his signature, a sartorial logo of sorts. “Signatures are more important than ever,” Owens said. “That’s the most valuable thing I can propose.” Fuel for the commercial fire.