paris fashion week: rick owens

(images via style)

rick owens is one of the few designers whom i adore (or, at least, i should be fair; i always approach his collections with an open mind, but to date, i haven’t seen one yet i haven’t liked; see a/w 2010, s/s 2011, a/w 2011, s/s 2012, a/w 2012, s/s 2013), but absolutely detest writing about. i think that’s because beautiful and complex as it is, with all of the drapes, folds, and nooks, it transcends anything that is easily put on paper, so while we can write about the theme, and, say, the colours, it takes a much better literary talent than myself to turn into words what he twists out with his textiles.

and so, that’s usually the plight i’m in as we approach each of his collections at paris fashion week. i stare, agog, at what wonders he has crafted anew, goggle some more about how he managed to come up with it…and…nothing.  and i’ve hardly got anything to say just the same again for the designer’s a/w 2013 display, save for maybe the fact that it sort of looked japanese in nature. but any first year fashion student (or not) could tell you that, and beyond that i’ve got pretty much just blubbering.

anyway, i imagine that you know where i’m going from here, and you’re absolutely correct! let’s talk about what the critics have to say, yes? “this season was about working monochrome layers—long coats over short dresses, legs encased in three-quarter-length black leather boots, which were lashed at the ankle with white rope,” declared us vogue. “The conceit—if that’s not too pretentious a term for a hard-core hipster designer—was geometric, graphic, and textured with panels of fur, duchesse satin, and zones of padding.”

“Narrow black coats had white rectangular trails,” they prattled on, “dragging in the back— not exactly a practical proposition for urban streetwear. Part of Rick Owens’s psyche reaches for ‘statement’—and there was more in that vein when he introduced plaited, knotted leather inserts into the midsections of cocoonlike jackets…Aside from the stringy knits he continues to provide (and which he has no need to prove he does any longer)—these are the kinds of long-term investment pieces that make Rick Owens an American design force to be reckoned with.”

and according to the washington post, “(o)versize white tunics and black fabric layers seem haphazard — but were in fact delivered delicately, with soft architecture: the first look’s white hanging robe frames the sectioned, column silhouette. Elsewhere, collars — like flaccid marzipan in celebratory cakes — unfurled down from the neck; while a few white stitches, that he used sparingly, succeeded in dominating and defining whole looks in black. And only someone as talented as Owens can make duffel coats beautiful — seen here, at the warehouse show, with oversize toggles that hung like shells with dynamic movement.”

meanwhile, style rejoined that “‘(b)attle-scarred heroism’ was Owens’ theme. The models stepped out into the Salle Marcel Cerdan, a brutal concrete bunker, through clouds of steam, their faces bleached clean, their hair frizzed into huge dandelion heads…the designer showed some of the most appealingly direct and simply beautiful pieces he has ever offered. The weightiness of his theme was leavened by his revision of his three signal pieces. The coats often had the big-sleeved volume of kimonos, the boots had needle heels instead of Frankenstein-soled chunk, and the T-shirts were sportily layered in mid-thigh tunics, some with asymmetric, bauble-trimmed tails.”

“That decorative touch,” they carried on, “rare for Owens, blew up in the collection’s major motifs: Japanese-influenced knotting and grids of lacing. Realizing his predilection for the outré might incline his audience toward bondage scenarios, Owens quickly pointed out that it was actually traditional basket-weaving techniques he was referencing. He used them to knot a yoke of black ponyskin to a skirt of white suede in one spectacular jacket. White basket weave also strikingly hemmed a black kimono jacket. There were, however, plenty of simpler pieces to love, like the white-laced coat-dress and the abbreviated duffel.”

and elsewhere, we heard fashionologie relating that “this one was rendered entirely in black and white — not surprising, considering Owens usually sticks to that palette. What was surprising was perhaps how wearable this collection was: a kimono-style jacket was cinched with an obi-style belt that actually laced the black upper part of the bodice to white fabric underneath, and a few black wool jackets were accented with asymmetrical lapels in shearling. It all looked like a warm defense against the cold and blowing wind — which appeared to ravage the models’ crimped and teased hair as they came down the runway.”

“The weird, if wonderful,” announced suzy menkes of the iht, “had been replaced by more approachable pieces. The boots, lapped with strings, had high thin heels; a coat might have a sportswear hood or even toggle buttons. Soaring sounds from Otto Klemperer were matched by simple clothes with a glamorous modernity that you might even wear to the opera, like a short dress trailing a silken sash. This was a surprise — but not a bad one — from a master of the dark arts.”

then, wwd relayed how “Owens started with the usual dramatic gesture (remember the flames and foam of past seasons?), this time with dense steam billowing out from one side of the backdrop. Models emerged through a cloudlike wall, their hair teased, tousled and often falling in front of the face for a visual that provided a heavenly touch to the clothes.  Here, Owens made a statement for layering and volume.”

“Floor-length silhouettes were accentuated with exaggerated kimono sleeves; the hoodies on several coats came unzipped, falling around the shoulders like large ruffles for a lovely, studied elegance,” they warbled on. “The same goes for the rest of the outerwear — particularly the coats with prominent toggles, which led to a parade of mesmerizing surface decorations. Owens played with Whipstitching, weaving strings through eyelets like shoelaces on short coats, evolving the look with thick rope that artfully tied black-and-white panels together with a prominent knit. The effect was artful and chic.”

and, finally, we heard from uk vogue, closing us out with the thought that the “coats here were great – loose and boxy in shape and pulled into stronger silhouettes through unzipped collar detailing, long slits up and at the backs and sides and that chunky knotted cable detailing that, when it featured in white on black to thread through linear formations, called to mind a high fashion reworking of Funny Bones. It was a welcome surprise of a collection: wearable, raw and beautiful.”

(watch the catwalk video here)

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