Pin It
Backstage at Rick Owens SS17 PFW Dazed Womenswear
Backstage at Rick Owens SS17Photography Evan Schreiber

Rick Owens does daintiness for delicate PFW show

Deviating from his hard-edged, monochromatic norm, the rebellious designer shows a softer side to his design vocabulary for SS17

The name of Rick Owens’ latest collection – Walrus – was a curveball. After last season’s Mastodon, the designer said it felt right to run with an animal that’s next down the evolutionary tree. The oddness of the name, though, was merely a vehicle for the bigger picture inside of his head. What Owens was really thinking about was the evolution of humanity, of fashion and more specifically, his own oeuvre as an American designer living in Paris

And that’s how he got to a place where he felt comfortable to do “dainty” and “delicate” – words that you wouldn’t normally associate with Owens – and do them exceedingly well, to the point where audiences left heaving sighs of admiration. “I usually like things that are really solid but this time the clothes were almost floating, and things were barely stitched on,” the designer told a group of eager journalists backstage after the show. “I’m normally too practical to do something this frothy. But I allowed myself to do it this time. I don’t know how we will ship stuff for the stores but we’ll deal with that later.”

You certainly couldn’t describe the clouds of tulle and gazar, and softly sculpted mounds of silk duchesse and organza as necessarily pragmatic. The textures were softened to the point where capes in the final part of the show were constructed out of fronds of ostrich feathers sewn end-to-end to create these impossibly long strands, which, for Owens, recalled Jean Harlow’s outfit in Dinner at Eight. Eschewing the designer’s usual dark palette, unexpected bursts of colour in the form of burnished yellow, deeply irresistible mauve, copper rust and dusky pink, all came forth to support these deftly shaped cocoons.

“I’m normally too practical to do something this frothy. But I allowed myself to do it this time. I don’t know how we will ship stuff for the stores but we’ll deal with that later” – Rick Owens

“It took me a while to become confident with colour,” said Owens. “But then I thought if you’re gonna do colours, you better do them full on. I like it when colours are harsh and assertive, I like it when colours clash and also when there’s not a lot of colour. Too much stuff confuses me.” Owens even likened them to a Parisian confectionery, which is often his playful way of detracting from the gravitas of his work.  

Because as these “frothy” apparitions wafted by you, graceful and serene in their appearance, to the sound of Nina Simone’s “Wild is the Wind”, you thought about the potency of quietness and how a gentle statement can still create impact. “I thought I could get away with doing something quiet this season,” said Owens. “It just seemed like the right time to use that song. Simone’s voice can be kind of thin and wavery, but she has the confidence to make it convincing. It’s a lesson to us all.”

That note of positivity was echoed in Owens’ thoughts on the lenticular invite depicting a whirlpool. “Whirlpools can represent decline and I think about decline a lot – in ecological terms, and in life. And as you get older, it’s something you automatically think about. The creative act is the opposite of decline and death, and that’s why we do it. And so while a whirlpool can be a dark spiral, it can also be a portal to something else. It’s perhaps a positive resolution to the idea of decline.” There’s perhaps a hidden melancholia to Owens’ thoughts about a dark whirling abyss leading to an optimistic place – but while the process may have been dark, the final result was as uplifting as they come.