On a gloriously sunny morning, Rick Owens returned in splendour to his grand open air stomping ground at the Palais de Tokyo. It was a comeback that felt like a ritual celebration of survival – and a show of strength – both intensely personal and collectively symbolic. And who else but the high priestess Michèle Lamy, Owens’s spouse, oracle-in-chief and eternal inspiration, to head the triumphal procession? Plumes of white smoke poured from the central fountain. Two black-robed women standing high on a Deco rooftop a hundred feet above scattering something to the winds. It turned out to be “dried jasmine leaves gathered from plants on my Lido terrace, in memory of the Covid shows we had there,” wrote Owens in his show notes. A little earlier he’d explained how, for four seasons at home in Venice, “we showed, performed this ceremony in front of nobody on the beach. And it was the most bonding, beautiful thing. There was a melancholy to it, but there was also kind of this defiance: that we’re going to do our very best under the circumstances. That we’re going to strive for excellence, under any threat.” Going through that period emboldened and sharpened his philosophical resolve about why and how he would make his re-entry to Paris. Amid all the soul-searching about the raison d’être of fashion, its wastefulness and its justifications for its existence, and measuring that against all the trauma and adversity of these times, he had no doubt: this was not to be any timid or apologetic comeback. “I always considered myself somebody that would do anything in the pursuit of beauty, and to maintain a certain standard of beauty – and that was the meaning of life. So we have to flex here,” he said. Who else can signal the siren glamor of old Hollywood draping, sculpt wildly freeform shapes from haute couture materials and fuse it all together into such a modern armory of erotic power? If we’re talking about sex and body-exposure this season – and everyone is – then Rick Owens is the past-master of all that. The empowering art of his cutaways to skin never looked more faultlessly engineered, wired into bra-tops with no central fixing, structured into stretch bodysuits glimpsed through sheer layers and multi-strapped into thigh-high gladiatorial robo-boots. There was a grandeur to it as well: caped dresses with the solemn dignity of robes; his vast-shouldered leather jackets; the off-handedly cool ’30s elegance of his trailingly beautiful bias-cut skirts and dresses. Quite humbly, he put it this way: “I concentrate on making good stuff that has value, that people want to buy and that is worth it. And that is so recognizably me that you can’t get it anywhere else. I was thinking: that is the right thing to do.”
Although it’s been a while ago, Andreas Murkudis hosted a temporary pop-up store feauturing Rick Owens and Michele Lamy‘s furniture line. I wanted to see those designs for such a long time, and it was worth the wait. There’s something truly incredible in their raw beauty. When Lamy and Owens first started out making furniture, it was purpose-built; their marital bed was the first thing that they created, long before they thought that their work might evolve into the sort of thing to be exhibited at global art galleries, because “we don’t buy; we do,” as Michele told Another Magazine back in 2017. “We have always been this way, always building spaces; small or big. Rick with his studio, me with Les Deux Cafés…” Formed from basalt and petrified wood, crystal and oxbone and alabaster, such objects might easily appear sterile, but they are instead imbued with resounding warmth. “Part of the romance invested in the furniture is the look on the faces of the guys who work on it when she sweeps into their studios in the jewellery, furs and smoke – her love for them and their love for her is a big part of every piece,” writes Owens in their book dedicated to their furniture. Most beautiful things are made with love.
Rick Owens‘s wife – the magical Michele Lamy – was laughing wildly in the show’s soundtrack. The fountains of Palais de Tokyo’s yard blasted, sparkling water on the guests (who were given black plastic rain coats). The models wore massive, cocoon-like garments (Comme Des Garçons mood) and huge fanny packs. As far as Owens is concerned with the climate changes, and has moved that global issue in his previous collections, there was a disturbing impression: those were the climate refugees in a dystopian world, where nature takes a revenge. But is the story behind the spring-summer 2018 collection so drastic? As it appeared, not entirely. “It’s a show about hope“, the designer said. The sculptural pieces were more like an armour of rejection to our world’s threats, while layered up dresses and fluid-in-motion tops spoke about human mobility. As equally complex as Rei Kawakubo’s Comme Des Garçons, Rick’s collections are always food for thought.
Continuing the Mastodon theme from his menswear collection, Rick Owens investigates his “uneasiness about environmental change” in the most elusive, and captivating way in his women’s show. And his response to climate problems, as he explained, is heading straight to his studio and drape. Drape, drape and drape – this word describes the clothes, which look eerie in their Dali-esque volumes, but surprisingly so soft that you want to touch them and wear them. Starting from the simpler white coats and dresses, the collection evolved in to something much more heavy – the duvet coats in chestnut-brown melted on the models’ bodies, while the velvet cape with a menthol green lining had this specific warmth which will appeal to many when the snows come. But the entire mystery behind the show was kept obscured under the surreal, fleecy cocoons, which to me, reminded bee-hives. By coincidence, Owens told the press during his menswear outing that his life-parter, Michele Lamy, kept a bee-hive at the rooftop of their home/office/boutique Palais Bourbon last summer, to help them survive the hottest summer of 2015.
Looking at the solemn faces of Rick Owens‘ models, who walked down the concrete runway in their furry, fluidic garments, it’s visible that the designer translates a hard topic into his creative vision. Owens called his new collection “Mastodon“, referring to the world’s global problems by creating a dark, apocalyptic story. The designer mentioned that his life-partner (and my fashion godmother) Michèle Lamy had begun keeping bees on the rooftop of their home in the heart of Paris in order to help them after 2015’s hottest summer – and he instantly thought about the endangered world. ” What about the ecological anxiety we are all feeling? What is the worst possible scenario?”
Definitely, according to Rick, it’s not that bright. Heavy, sheep-skin cocoon-like hoodies were styled with over-sized sweat-pants; black, aviator jackets looked quite mournful on the black and white background. The textures play an important role in this collection – “I want to say I vomited this out,” is how the designer summed up the way the strips of fur and wool bubbled around the bodies of street-cast models. Moreover, some of the looks basically focused on a long, flowing silhouette of a dress – however, the models’ heavy-metal inspired make-ups said a loud NO to any possible, feminine or even gentle side of a man. Even though some of the slouchy pieces felt comforting. “Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst” Owens added pessimistically.