This Rick Owens show has been in the works for months. He never could’ve known that in Washington, D.C., today Dr. Christine Blasey Ford would be providing testimony against President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, whom she alleges sexually assaulted her in high school. It was coincidence surely. Nevertheless, it was impossible not to make connections between the pyre in the center of the Palais de Tokyo, witches being burned at the stake, and the trial of Kavanaugh’s accuser.
Owens is an intuitive designer. He has an eerily awesome way of interpreting and underscoring the issues of our times. Last September, he put on a show that seemed to be about the refugee crisis. Finally, nearly a year after it began, Owens gave fashion its first knock-down, drag-out MeToo collection.
Not that he used that term. In fact, in his program notes Owens referred to the Tower of Babel and Tatlin’s Tower, a design by the early-20th-century Russian architect Vladimir Tatlin for a monument that was never built. Make of those references what you will. Owens’s coven of inconvenient women wore tops made from dirty American flags or bikinis and denim shorts twisted and torqued beyond recognition, with long narrow boxes wedged into the waistbands. Who knows what was in those containers? The suggestion was menacing.
Flanged collars, peeling shoulders, and exuberant cuffs turned jackets into impenetrable carapaces. Like the metal scaffolding of the headpieces and arm cuffs that qualified as jewelry here, those jackets looked designed to ward off predators. Owens’s laser-cut and paneled cloaks conjured goddesses and super-heroines. Sometimes the models even carried torches. Other elements were weaponized in different ways. Minidresses aswirl with silk fringe, for example, looked unreconstructedly sexy. All of this was as sui generous as it gets, including his new Birkenstock sandals and boots.
Owens is the last independent man standing among Paris’s major designers. A new wave of consolidation has seen Puig buy Dries Van Noten and Ermenegildo Zegna invest in Thom Browne. Let’s hope Owens stays independent and weird. And here’s to Dr. Blasey Ford and inconvenient women everywhere.