This is the second Rick Owens collection under the title of Babel. It seems the coloured smoke of the previous menswear show was a precursor to this. As they say, no smoke without fire. Owens' recent collections have seen a fiery aggression, a suggestive comment on political upheaval or the state of today, this season was all that and more, as literal flames plumed and danced on set.
According to Genesis, the Babylonians wanted to make a name for themselves by building an almighty tower 'with its top in the heavens.' Here, for S/S 19, Owens had built his own tower within the ground of the Palais de Tokyo, a giant triangular structure that mirrored the shape on the invite, and had set it ablaze. A metaphor perhaps for the current individuals within power, the new-age Babylonians trying to create their own tower to Nirvana. Tatlin's tower, a tower never constructed but intended to be a great monument to the Bolshevik revolution, was cited in the notes too - another nod to Owens' anarchistic attitude. As if a giant burning tower wasn't explicit enough.
As the flames bellowed, the clothes spoke of anger and post-apocalypse: dirtied flags were built in as sleeve as if a sad salute to troubled times, the tower structure appeared on wrist and head as if slender armour and large, plank-like blocks poked from skirt pocket or fold, much like Owens' previous leathery block invitations, and felt reminiscent of weaponry. Flamed truncheons and large visor like sunglasses seemed ominous too.
Garments interlocked, skirt twisted with sleeves, contorted with dress or jacket, items were scooped and looped into each other as if hunkering down and fortifying the form. Hoodies and sweaters were rather ingeniously worn as habits - another reminder of the dark religious undertone - and the geometric shapes of Owens' tower were mimicked in laser-cutting and the silhouettes; large collars and shoulders were long and jarring almost as if models were on the rack.
It wasn't all dystopian doom and gloom. Owens had once again collaborated with Birkenstock to create fantastically clunky boots and sandals: their tones of burgundy, neon yellow, soft pastel green and grey were truly beautiful. Peekaboo flesh, bralettes and draping fringed dresses were a welcome element of subtle femininity and had a sex appeal akin to that of Lara Croft in Tomb Raider. Once again, the Palais had been set ablaze with an exceptionally strong collection.