Rick Owens often sends a show invite that is a version of a skinny plank of wood or stretch of treated leather; this season the long, thin envelope hadn’t changed but the content was different. Out rolled a mask, the kind you clip over each ear, with the date and time of the show printed on top. While the plank usually insinuates a material choice or motif, the mask gave the impression that this wasn’t to be a standard Rick Owens show, this was going to be a different affair entirely. And it was.
Outside the Palais de Tokyo, in the scorching heat of the day, Owens offered his version of a post-apocalyptic dream. Coloured smoke went off in canon format throughout the show - teal, red, yellow - and one thought of Mad Max’s desert wasteland. Smoke tumbled into the sky like ink on water and began to tickle the back of the throat - the mask invitations becoming essential safety gear.
As smoke plumed above the Palais, Owens’ S/S 19 collection, entitled ‘Babel’, played with constructivism and chaos, structure and confusion. The story of Babel depicts the creation of different languages, and here Owens utilised such dualities, his own different languages creating absolute wonder.
Frumpy met fantastical as Owens rekindled his relationship with Birkenstock. Known as a slightly dowdy shoe, its basic charm against the striking snap-away silk trousers was a brilliant hybridisation. While it feels a bit reductive to try and align a decade to Owens’ work, these trousers, made of silk gazar, felt a whimsical two-fingers to the nineties era in which they were made popular. Cargo belts, leather panelling on wide-leg white trousers, harness clips and long, ornate chained masks all emitted apocalyptic drama, whilst blazer and waistcoat atop slim-line sleeve felt appealingly old-school Rick.
The real show-stoppers here were the final looks. Each a completely unique structural piece, the items had started life as nylon ponchos but had been transformed with piping that gave them a cuboid shape. Customers will buy these flat-pack, complete with aluminium poles, and will be able to create their own constructivist design at home. For those not yet sworn into Owens’ cult of constructivism, the first three looks offered a similar structure, as loops and holes were framed with stiff piping, but without the slightly awkward dilapidated tent aesthetic.
Owens offered a raw, unapologetically aggressive, but beautiful collection. The looks here felt luxurious, even without the entrancing billows of smoke behind them. When you think that Owens can’t possibly elevate his aesthetic any further, he sets the Palais ablaze with another strong collection.