Men’s / Babel. Rick Owens SS19

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What happened at Rick Owens‘ spring-summer 2019 runway show was extremely beautiful – even if the designer’s aim might have been quite very different. Dyed smoke has suddenly appeared all over the courtyard of the Palais de Tokyo, giving the entire scene an ambiguous atmosphere. Is Owens about to send out a riot? Or some sort of angels? Well, there were models, but the clothes were far from ordinary.

Coats covered up in ‘brutalist sequins’ looked as if constructed of broken glass; the masks some of the boys wore had something fierce, neo-tribal about them. But what really made this collection so spectacular was the closing line-up garments, which were inspired by the dynamism of Russian Constructivist movement. “They’re nylon parkas,” Owens assured, “and they are going to be shipped as nylon parkas, with the poles separately. So you can build them if you want to. But what you are going to see on the hanger is a nice, soft nylon parka—the poles represent what this parka can be. That’s the idea of hope; that is what the poles represent in a way.” The effect was mind-blowing – the models looked out-of-this-world in these storm-cloud-like, floating pieces.

(Vladimir Tatlin and his apprentices constructing the model of Tatlin’s Tower, a monument to the Third International.)

The collection’s title – Babel – was as well meaningful for the designer. Babel, Vladimir Tatlin’s never-built tower, commissioned by Lenin to highlight the Bolshevik dominance in Russia. “It’s such a symbol of hope, and there is something so compelling about how it looks. A Constructivist tower is about control, and the Tower of Babel is about confusion: everybody splitting up and too much information, too.” How accurate can this also relate to our today’s world, drenched with the horrifying political absurdities and tensions. Rick is an aware designer, who speaks his thoughts and current emotions through the clothes he shows on the runway. This one certainly is a vividly, strong collection that has a lot to say.

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Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

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