The Rick Owens spring-summer 2023 show gave armageddon vibes. Or at least that is what the three 2-meter-ish across orbs that were set alight by technicians, slowly lifted by crane high above the guests, and then dropped to a sizzling impact in the Palais de Tokyo fountain were there to represent. Ruminating during the line-out pre-show, Owens said: “the fireballs are flaming suns, arcing across the sky, and crashing to the ground. But I did it on repeat because it happens over and over.” He was referring to human fear of our extinction – whether through war, pestilence, or other generationally specific worst case scenario. “’I’m always trying to reassure myself that whatever is happening in the world right now – whatever conflict or crisis or discomfort – it’s happened before. And somehow goodness has always triumphed over evil, because otherwise we wouldn’t be here now.” Those words bring glimpse of hope especially in 2022, with war happening in Ukraine and Supreme Court’s outrageous overturning of Roe v. Wade. Something else that happens on repeat, way less cataclysmically, are remarkable Rick Owens shows. This was another. His level is so high and his language so distinct. Owens had been in Egypt and named the collection Edfu, after the site of the Ptolemaic Temple of Horus. However the only literal souvenirs of that journey on the runway today were the three top-to-toe tulle looks near the end, “because when I was there I was wishing I had a mosquito net caftan.” Instead his time in Egypt had got Owens thinking about how its cultural aesthetic had been revived again and again across the millennia since its inventors turned to dust. Owens tweaked his own codes, introducing a flared-upper version of his killer platform boot. Another novelty was technical wear, delivered in the loose pants, shirts, and inverted jackets cut in gray ripstop nylon shot through with Dyneema, a fiber Owens said was “apparently one of the strongest in the world. I find it reassuring.” A few pieces were produced with Paradoxe, a Parisian label that unweaves surplus or vintage denim and then applies the threads to other denim pieces to create a richly textured effect. “It’s almost like lace,” said Owens. There was an otherworldly jerkin in iridescent purple made of pirarucu, a food by-product of Amazonian fish skin. Owens purists might be reluctant to embrace his rare forays into punchy color, but the eruption of yellow, pink, green, and that purple here provided extra visual texture even beyond the steaming meteorites. The volumes, especially in the shoulder, were on the up again. For Rick Owens, this was just another judgment day.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.