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.

Men’s / Sisyphus. Rick Owens AW18

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Rick Owens‘ collections aren’t there to just please everyone around with a pair of ‘must-have’ sneakers. ‘Sisyphus’, the autumn-winter 2018 collection’s name, is an example of how the designer reacts towards the surrounding world, and the industry. “I think we’re entering this period of conservatism and creative smallness. And that’s me being very judgmental, but it’s frustrating. I’ve had a lot of resistance in things that I’ve wanted to do creatively—technical resistance—and it kind of discourages you from trying to create things. But then I think, ‘Why do I think that my stuff is so worth telling that I have to force it?’ And then that makes me think of aggression: How much does it take to really be a designer; to insist that you be listened to?”, is how he questioned himself and other matters that affect today’s designers. The collection itself was quintessentially Rick: big volumes, dark colours, deconstructed garments. But the identity behind every single piece is so powerful, that it doesn’t really matter that the designer didn’t do an entire performance, or chose a far-fetched runway venue. Focusing on the end product is the most important. Also, in the world of Owens, pretty much everything is brand-made. One of the key fabrics was a softly felted-looking material that the designer said was based upon his favourite Berber blanket. “I’m trying to do as many exclusive fabrics that we develop ourselves, with people that we’ve known from the beginning. I’m trying to make all of the collection exclusive: making things as profoundly mine as possible. If I could water the cotton with my tears, then I would!” That’s what you call a beautiful devotion. So, is it all so Sisyphean in the end?

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Collage by Edward Kanarecki.