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Rick Owens Womenswear A/W12

Brutalism doesn’t get in the way of beauty at Rick Owens

"Ima read that bitch, Ima reach that bitch, Ima teach that bitch" was the intonation of Zebra Katz’s sharp-as-a-knife song blaring loudly at the Rick Owens show. With a backdrop of a blaze of fire, the models stalked down, masked by slashed balaclavas that partially obscured their faces and seemingly looking like they were going to cut some bitches up. Rick Owens spoke of brutalism backstage and perhaps that was a reaction to his previous collections where he explored mid-twentieth century couture in his own distinctive Owens language. Except when you looked closely at the clothes, other than being protective and covered up, there was no real brutal force and in fact, there was even a softness to the bias-cut skirts and dresses that fell to the floor and gently draped front coats, all in shades of grey tufted and pilled wool.

We all carry this savage impulse and I’m fascinated with what would happen if we slipped up

When a curved shoulder came flowing through a series of cropped leather pieces, some with giant shearling collars that hung like a cape, that came in an unexpected shade of soft apricot and materials like a sumptuous mink and blanket wool check were introduced, you knew there was a less literal meaning to Owens’ reference to brutalism. That said, Owens’s pieces will always have that steely resolve as a form of modern day armour, so as “soft” as it all seemed, what we still take aware are ultimately rigorous and disciplined clothes.

Dazed Digital: What was the starting point to the collection?
Rick Owens: This season, the womens became more of a brutalist expression. I’m talking about this part in all of us that suppresses a savage quality. It kind of came together when I got the music for the show – it’s a track that is very controlled. We all carry this savage impulse and I’m fascinated with what would happen if we slipped up. And so we go through this elaborate process of suppressing this urge with elegance and that’s what this collection was about.

DD: There was a softness to the collection though: that apricot pink, the blanket checks. Was there a touch of vulnerability?
Rick Owens:
I thought about it more as a form of control. It’s pink in a Marlene Dietrich controlled way. It’s insisting on softness and forcefully saying soft. But I don’t like to be too menacing and I do like to have a soft approachable feeling to what I do. The menace, well, there’s something quite enjoyable about that.

DD: Is that how the slashed masks came in?
Rick Owens: The funny thing was that the hats were supposed to be more of a veil. It wasn’t supposed to be this Hannibal Lecter thing that some people might see. There’s something about marking a women’s face that can be very violent that I don’t approve of. I don’t like the idea of putting women in uncomfortable situations. They were meant to be coquettish in a very contemporary way.