Rick Owens’ Bauhaus Aztec priestesses were some kind of bad-asses. Gliding around the Palais de Tokyo fountain, they presided over a ceremony of wands and bubbles while sporting chrome headdresses glinting like car hood ornaments. It was a kick.
Owens was feeling nostalgic, as it turns out. Using blasts of Luis Barragán color, folkloric sequins and volumes with the grandiosity of couture, Owens mined his Mixtec heritage. (His mom, Connie, is Mexican, and his dad, John, worked in the public court system as a Spanish-English translator defending farm workers’ rights.)
He said backstage it was President Trump’s border wall and the potential of being cut off from family still living in Mexico that got him thinking about how the culture, high and low, shaped his aesthetic sense growing up in Southern California. The memories run deep, from the run-down movie theater he frequented in Porterville, Calif., that catered to migrant workers and screened films starring María Félix, to the East L.A. low riders obsessed with clothes and custom cars whom he met as a young adult living in Los Angeles.
“I do think East L.A. lowrider [guys] have been a big thing with me forever — those low-crotched baggy things, for example…I mean, I worked at Taco Bell and I used to get rides home from them. There was a crispness in the way they ironed everything and an economy of doing the best with what you’ve got, elevating a T-shirt with ironing.…I’ve always had that kind of pageantry with my clothes, the stiffness, volume and dragging,” he mused.
All of those elements were here, but with a fiesta’s worth of color and pattern, and a new level of cinematic glamour that was thrilling.
Consider the Aztec gold cotton duchess tunics, architectural marvels of pyramid points the ancients would have envied. Or the gilded sequin tunic dresses worn with the designer’s hyper-shoulder coats, or rebozo shawls for priestess presence. Owens even showed a few gowns that looked destined for a red carpet — micro-pleated infantas that were positively regal, and a black jersey column, geometrically cut and slashed to sexy perfection.
His L.A. relaxedness came out in the color-saturated T-shirts that topped side-slit skirts giving the collection a down-to-earthness; the bombers with lacing details snaking up the sleeves, and the peeled-off blazers with straps holding them to the hips.
Owens’ famed platform boots — Marc Jacobs took his runway bow in a pair this season! — morphed into cowboy boots with clear heels for Western cool, his new sunglasses were skinny and shield-like and his favorite leather bum bag stretched into something resembling an extra arm stretching across the hips — for when you need an extra hand? Whatever it was, viva la vida loca!