The AW22 Rick Owens show finally arrived in Paris last night, and we weren’t disappointed. In his pre-presentation notes, Owens described the show as “deliciously sleazy” – sentiment I couldn’t have described better myself. The collection pushed boundaries: from lightsabers as headwear to punk collar chokers, eccentric shoulder pads, reflective fabrics and untied shoelaces, we were transported into a Rick Owens fantasy and hoped the models didn’t trip.
The Egyptian Pharaohs don’t come to mind when first glancing at this runway collection; however, backstage before the show, Rick Owens shared his inspiration behind his ‘night table headpieces’. His recent trip to Egypt clearly inspired him, stating that the feather crowns the pharaohs would wear with pride were “beautiful”. As symbols of class, status and hierarchy in Egypt, they were transformed into a creative yet modernised interpretation in true Rick Owens style, worn with pride by models in this case.
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Practical qualities also don’t go amiss, with Owens noting that “the helmets can stand up as a night table lamp” – one that we wouldn’t mind reading under. The work of Dan Flavin should also not be forgotten; Owens referenced the fluorescent light artist’s work as another influence when designing his runway collection.
The influence of light was not only expressed through design, but also through his music choice: ‘Lights’ by the Sisters of Mercy. “I reached out to Andrew Eldritch (the band’s singer) about remixing this song, but he preferred I choose another as he had never been happy with the production released,” Owens stated in his collection notes. Clearly, he used the song anyway, hoping Eldritch would forgive him for writing, who said that he “totally understood – I don’t know if the image I will leave behind is exactly what I planned. But I think people trust a creative expression at its most raw and sincere state and retain and cherish it.” After seeing the final show, I’m sure Eldritch can forgive Owens, as the combination of the music and design complemented each other entirely. The models walked in-between the concrete walls of the Palais de Tokyo, contributing to the futuristic, modernised, yet diverging ambience.
Fluorescent light wasn’t the only major influence behind the AW22 collection. His collection had a deeper meaning of tolerance and counterbalanced the bigoted attitude which still lingers in the air today “I wanted to do something deliciously sleazy. My life’s work has always been a reaction to intolerance. Intolerance is such a corny word, but I grew up with such judgement in my life as a flamboyant young sissy that my whole life’s work has been about counterbalancing that bigoted attitude, and to be as transgressive as I can get: to get my element of transgression out into the world to counterbalance bigoted oppression.”
The feeling of defining norms and making a stance was clearly initiated through not only the collection but the powerful production behind. Exaggerated proportions from extravagant shoulder pads to blown-up puffer jackets, gathered oversized gloves and distorted trousers, paired with concealing hoods personified with alarming slits for the eyes and accessories with studded punk chokers. In usual Rick Owens fashion, a dark grunge colour palette of grey, black and earthy tones was recycled, juxtaposed against the playful light and reflective fabrics presented here, and portraying a more hopeful attitude to past collections from recent years.
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One particular look saw a model in an oversized sweater which saw written “subhuman, inhuman, superhuman, owenscorp” – these statements perhaps referring to Owens’ deeper frustration with today’s narrow-minded climate. “It’s so judgemental. You read the vilest comments. On every New York Times story, the comments always disintegrate into bickering: people needing to be morally or intellectually superior to someone who wrote something else. Every single time, no matter how benign or gentle the story is, people always descend to disgusting comments. Which is bigotry.”
Whilst many believe that society is becoming more open-minded, Owens clarifies that we have a long way to go. What better time to make this clear to us than now, through this creative, eccentric, yet modernised gothic presentation.