Rick Owens wanted to go where few designers have been willing to this season: into the thorny territory of the Time’s Up and #MeToo movements. Who else could wrap and twist a couple of pilled wool blankets into a lumpy dress and call it seduction? Owens has always been a provocateur, wrestling with the big issues—everything from the insidious conventions of beauty to the inevitability of climate change.
Here, he used conventional, even old-fashioned trappings of femininity—bustles and panniers—to address the sensitive issues at hand. “They’re sophisticated gestures because they border on the ridiculous,” Owens began. “I appreciate that kind of wit, and I’ve kind of missed it. [Fashion] has become kind of straightforward and status-based.” As it sounds, this was a heady, conceptual enterprise, but it was also one that, in its own weird way, generated heat. All those bare legs above running shoes conveyed a confident physicality. Owens used “poor” materials—he cited Arte Povera as an inspiration—to create exuberant, extravagant shapes. Those pilled blankets (fine camel hair, actually) were stuffed with goose down–like swaddling. Below the models’ unnaturally thickened torsos, they wore even more bulbous messenger bags and fanny packs. These a very clever journalist friend likened to pouf skirts. “Rick does Lacroix!” How fabulously unlikely an affiliation—fashion’s prince of darkness meets le roi of ’80s excess. Yet how accurate. It’s been almost that long since the kind of voluptuousness Owens was trying to create was truly in fashion. In this sense, he’s smack dab in the center of the Fall fashion conversation; many of his peers are thinking about the ’80s, only much, much more literally.
Which brings up another point: For all the couture methods in play here, there was no shortage of superb commerciality, from the fine cashmere running shorts for gym bunnies like Owens to the panoply of coats, some with Arte Povera patches on the shoulders trailing loose strings and others trimmed in a very Lacroix-ish shade of satiny turquoise.