Look beyond Rick Owens’ human backpacks and the fashion's fabulous
His '69 collection' was not just crazy; it was awesome for the wonderfully constructed clothes, beautiful fabrics and unique draping
The sheer audacity of Rick Owens’ spring/summer 2016 catwalk show gave Paris Fashion Week one of its wildest moments: models wearing other models upside down, strapped on as if they were backpacks.
Owens’ “69 collection” was not just crazy; it was awesome for the wonderfully constructed clothes, beautiful fabrics and unique draping. Silky cocoon volumes folded in on themselves organically, while military, utilitarian elements influenced a collection aimed at showing off “feminine strength”.
The actual fashion was avant garde and fiendishly covetable, as is much of Owens’ work - but few will have had the time to look at the clothing, dazzled as they were by models harnessed upside down to other models, legs dangling over shoulders, arms dangling around legs, and faces way, way too close to crotches.
Huge parachute straps were used to harness each pair together, a concept Owens borrowed from a picture of Australian performance artist Leigh Bowery carrying his wife, Nicola, in a similar position. In the show notes, Owens said: “Straps can be about restraint but here they are all about support and cradling. Straps here become loving ribbons.” We’ll have to take his word for it.
If this had been any other designer, there might be cause for ridicule. But there is really no one in fashion like Owens and these stunts wouldn’t work if he wasn’t such a talented designer.
You can’t help but see his humour in shows that are sometimes more performance art than fashion catwalk. Previously he’s given audiences an eyeful with frontal male nudity or a whole curvy troop of step dancers taking over the catwalk in place of rake-thin models. But this spring debut trumps them all for controversy. Who knows? It might be fashion’s meta-moment.