PARIS, France — Rick Owens’ invitation featured a lenticular image of a scrawny Wild Boy turning into a walrus. As mesmerizing as it was weird. “Walruses look like something unfinished, ugly but sleek,” said Owens before the show. “That’s my aesthetic too.” But there was more to this. A boy becomes a walrus: age after beauty, pearls before swine. The show was, Owens said, about change. Embrace it or resist it? “The best advice my dad ever gave me was hope for the best and plan for the worst,” he said. That pragmatic counsel had helped him “navigate life and conflict in the most graceful way."
Which was evident in today’s presentation. Last season’s inspiration was the mastodon, emblem of species extinguished, with silhouettes echoing the solidity of the great beast’s legs. Same thing today, except the silhouettes soared skywards, the bulk below the waist, amplified by huge pannier-like swatches of fabric, captured by tiny jackets, some of them dense with a bugle-beaded starburst. From the earth to the stars, like walking pyramids. “It’s an illustration of lifting up the spirit,” said Owens. “Being expansive versus being defensive, being open-hearted, open to compromise, to listening.”
The way he visualised this abstraction was in a softness that was new for him. Sheer tops will always say vulnerability, even more on a man. The volume of fabric compounded the impression, with great bandoliers of cloth draped across the body and trousers puddling on the floor. Rapid mobility in such ensembles would be extremely difficult. That too underscored vulnerability. And the fact that a capelet — superhero staple — was shown in taffeta also suggested destabilised conventional masculinity. Exactly the kind that would be inclined to an open-hearted attitude to life.
Owens felt the best example of the “soft man” he had in mind was symbolised by his soundtrack, for the first time no challenging re-interpretation of a piece of hardcore techno, instead, a handful of versions of Neil Young’s After the Goldrush. “Look at Mother Nature on the run in the 1070s”, sang Young. “It’s like it was written for this show,” Owens rhapsodised. He’s our least likely environmentalist, but our most winning campaigner for change.