Rick Owens is his own study in body transformation: Chubby California kid gym-hewn into the sinewy Paris lord of glamorous Goth.
He went out on a limb with his spring show — by actually doubling up on limbs. “Women carrying women,” he said before the show, explaining how he conscripted gymnasts and dancers to portray the acts of supporting, cradling, even giving birth. It was a disquieting spectacle — impressive in the strength required, occasionally queasy in the lifelessness of the carried party, heads bobbing over the concrete floor in the brutalist basement of the Palais de Tokyo. (Although once you got over the shock, you started noticing the carried women wore wicked gladiator heels.)
Reflecting on his career, Owens said he realized his fashions are about “distorting the figure” — and here he decided that one way to, say, extend the elbow is to add another elbow.
He attenuated the silhouette more subtly in the actual collection, paraded by models marching in flat boots. Employing robust fabrics, he crafted a range of short dresses, whorling silk organza to create extra volume at the shoulders, or lovely folds around the hips or the small of the back. Metallic leather allowed for more extreme and jutting protrusions, not all of them beautiful, resembling John Chamberlain car-crash sculptures.
But this is the essence of design, and why hasn’t anyone thought of letting a tough military bomber dissolve in the back into a free-falling tumble of organza? More straightforward Rick Owens fare included long, slim black vests with pinched shoulders and cool Windbreakers, one in transparent leather.
Having courted controversy on the runway before, “framing the penis” during a recent men’s show, and enlisting step teams for a memorable women’s outing, Owens was aware that people might only see bondage whereas his intention was “admiring the mystery of what a woman is.”