The contents of a journalist's notebook after a fashion show are a strange and sometimes bewildering thing. Example: 'Clare McCardell / bin-liners and duct tape / Industrial / High priestesses.' That's what I came away with after the Rick Owens Spring/Summer 2012 show - but it's completely and utterly inept when it comes to describing the collection he offered.
Inept is perhaps harsh, but it's nigh-on impossible to convey the power of a Rick Owens show. If the European austerity measures ever extend to curtailing the elaborate showcasing of high fashion, I would invite any European Monetary Fund official to watch an Owens presentation. There's no way they could come away unmoved.
It's striking when discussing Owens' work how many people will curl their lips ever so slightly and confess they are not that big a fan. The world seems to be divided between these, and the Owens fanatics who wear little else. The hazy middle ground are the generations of designers, young and old, new and established, who may not wear Owens but certainly look to him as a cornerstone of inspiration. I'll not throw out accusations of plagiarism, but many are much more 'inspired' by the intricacies of Owens' aesthetic than they would ever admit.
This, of course, is of no concern to Owens himself. His aesthetic is may be often imitated, but it has never been equalled, and that's because Owens is continually evolving his style. The evolution is slow - because that's how real evolution works, not fashion's rats-from-a-sinking-ship leap from theme to theme. This season, Owens ran with the couture theme of his last Autumn/Winter collection. But rather than last round's Charles James and Balenciaga reference, we had Givenchy. He inherited Cristobal's mantle after his closure in the sixties, so it's entirely logical that he would be the next step. The pagoda sleeves and slightly puffed peplums caused by empire-line drawstring waists recalled Givenchy's Bettina blouses. They also put me in mind of Clare McCardell's work: Owens is an American in Paris so that couture grace was combined with a sportswear mentality that originates distinctly from the USA. Those bin-liners and that duct-tape came at the end, graphic short jackets seemingly woven from hardcore industrial materials, artfully patched together. They were statement-making closers, intriguing in their combination of man-made and natural materials, an undercurrent of many collections this season. Unlike so many outre interpretations of that idea, however, they were eminently, immediately wearable. And that is Owens' immense skill: translating the high fashion and the high concept seamlessly to a woman's wardrobe.