It was almost a year ago when Rick Owens presented his first collection of the COVID-hiatus near his home on the Lido di Venezia. Eight months on, he held his fourth and last show here, drawing a final line in the sand to mark the end of this excellent Venetian mini-Owens-epoch and augur the rebirth of something like before that will not remain the same. To be precise, the lines in the sand were mostly traced by the stacked soles of Owens’s platform boots, which were cut down this season from thigh-high to mid-calf and outfitted with special side pockets in which to stash mini fog machines (emitting purportedly non-toxic, sustainable fog) and create a vivid vapor trail. The models walked the shoreline of the beach directly in front of the Excelsior Hotel, whose cabana-renting guests watched enthusiastically, creating an accidentally serendipitous backdrop. A few feet offshore were installed four powerful waterjets, which spurted joyful blasts of seawater up, up, up into the flawless blue sky. Those vast and joyful ejaculations aside, the chief conceit here were the three sizes of portable fog machines after which this collection, “Fogachine,” was named. “I fixated on the whole fog thing because we are entering a period of celebration. And I just love fog in its ambiguity. It’s got religious overtones, it’s got amyl nitrate overtones, it’s got stadium rock concert overtones…and they’re all these celebrations of everybody getting together to reach a different level of experience, a different supernatural level.” As the twangily twisted techno soundtrack by Mochipet fired up, the models began their promenade. The opening look’s boxily baggy pant was a key silhouette piece for the season, and was worn under a panel-slashed eco-cotton bodysuit. Both were undyed and off-white, a highly unusual hue for Owens, as was much of the collection that followed – a natural, softer-than-often touch the designer meant to reflect a softer-than-usual sentiment beneath. As he said: “I sense this moment of excess coming, that I can’t really participate in because I’m not an excessive guy anymore. But anyway, I had recently said that I thought we had learned some humility in the recent past – however I don’t think we did. But I am suggesting that we still can, and that is what this collection is about. It’s softer. It’s hedonistic, but I hope it’s a responsible, gentle, nice hedonistic. Although of course I am always looking on the dark side. And you know, I was able to satisfy all my appetites and I would never wish for anybody else to be deprived. But I am a little leery of the intensity that is going to come.” Owens’s fog-fugged vision of sustainable, humanistic hedonism came clad in silk topcoats in panels of vaporous opacity that were ripped at the armhole and hip to create jagged scars of canvas and horsehair. There was a shamanically pagan piece of evening wear in a cock feather jacket made by Maison Février, the Parisian plumassier to Josephine Baker. There were foggily diaphanous nylon hoodies, and patchwork Japanese denim from an originally 16th-century mill that was worn with unlikely propriety, and almost ceremonial dignity, with a pair of delicately clutched opera gloves. More Japanese denim, this time 16 oz. and woven on vintage Sakamoto looms, provided a fiery punctuation mark in its orange weft, pink warp manifestation. Animalistic texture was rendered in the monochromatic hard-shouldered coats in by-product sustainable Pirarucu dragon-scale leather. Owens said one big influence for the collection had been the mystically fierce aesthetic of Robert Plant and Led Zeppelin. “It would be disappointing to go back to excess. Next season all of the houses are going to want to show their flex. And we’re going to join in too – we’re gonna flex – and I don’t know how exactly we will be able to manifest everything that we have learned, but we’re going to have to figure it out.”
“Live” collage by Edward Kanarecki.