Men’s – Sharp Gothic. Rick Owens AW23

Rick Owens wanted to imbue his latest collection with an “elaborate modesty,” partially drawn from the British queen’s 19th century reign. Said the designer: “It’s a Victorian silhouette. There’s a prudishness. We remember that era so much for suppressing sensuality, but doing it in such an elaborate way that you couldn’t help but think about it.” Cloaks, skirts (some almost pencil), tightly gathered parkas, and voluminous pyramid-paneled shearlings that had a ladylike grandeur, heightened by the handbags, were the chief protagonists in Owens’s pivot to would-be primness. A further act of withdrawal, of self-containment, was played out in the ‘donut’ padded pieces – wearable soft furnishings – into which some models were inserted. “That’s me trying to reduce garments to the simplest shape I could. They’re literally duvet donuts. They’re like the fog machine of clothes – dumb and super-simple.” There was much more in this collection to relish, including many fine denim and cow-hide spike shouldered jackets, and the increasingly amazing pieces that Owens’s team is crafting from pirarucu. Because the runway was raised around a meter or so we got an eyeful of the footwear, which included a powerful new orthopedic variation of his glamorous platform boots. However the central tension rested in Owens’s urge to consider modesty in a collection that was as typically laden with sexuality as ever. There is always a sly irony secreted in this designer’s gothic bombast, a space where he posits questions despite, or more likely because of, the lack of an easy answer. And there is a highly autobiographical element too. He said: “I’m indulging in the exercise of taking my misdirected uncertain youth and reshaping it as a 61 year old man at the height of my powers. Being able to revisit that and create what I wanted life to be then, it’s so fun.” This comment led me to propose that Tyrone Dylan, who has now opened so many of Rick’s shows, has become a sort of personified cipher for Owen’s idealized youth. “Absolutely! Tyrone is like an idealization of that kind of vitality that I don’t think I ever actually really had – although I probably had moments of it. But I’m able to really project it on him. And also, you know, having him open each men’s show it’s sending a message about values; about not having things be so disposable. It’s about loyalty, about family, and about how my personal life is completely connected to what I put out there.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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