Rick Owens Sets Fire to Utopian Ideals, Partisanship and Paris Fashion Week

By Taraneh Azar

 Valerio Mezzanotti for The New York Times

Valerio Mezzanotti for The New York Times

Featuring a cast of witches, a burning pyre, and a ceremonial runway proceeding, Rick Owens RTW for Spring 2019 at Paris Fashion week combined Owens’ classic take on form and androgyny with his characteristic garment drapery to haunting and beautiful effect.

The collection features intricate geometric elements and sculpture-like design on par with Owens’ typically highly-stylized and earth-toned form. Silk gowns sewn to dirty American flags swept the runway as hiking boots and frayed denim skirts mixed what we know and love about Rick Owens with hints of a new direction. Bikini tops were paired with architectural castings encasing models, while giant fabric-encased planks protruded from others. Stiff, restrictive fabrics juxtaposed with flowing silks and foliage-like fringes, exploring the balance between order, serenity, and chaos. These witches were equipped for ritualistic mountain ceremonies and suburban malls alike.

Kim Weston Arnold / Indigital.tv for Vogue

While his womenswear show last year featured a floating runway set over a pool of water, S/S 2019 was quite literally on fire. With a flaming pyramid at the center of the Palais de Tokyo courtyard, the show resembled a ritualistic ceremony as the models proceeded around the blazing structure to a fitting soundtrack by the witch house group, Ice3peak. According to a pre-show interview with WWD, Owens sought to “burn down a utopian moment”, explaining that his models were “California witches”. Tipping his hat to his own upbringing, Owens explained, “I brought my utopian California youth to Paris, and I’m setting it on fire.”

 Mitchell Sams for i-D Magazine

Mitchell Sams for i-D Magazine

Models held torches and wore deconstructed architecturally-geometric crowns structures that mirrored the presentation’s centerpiece. Some models were clad in stiff sculptural tunics reminiscent of Issey Miyake’s famous geometric Bao Bao handbags, while others sported pieces more indicative of Owens’ traditional deconstructed poncho-like patchwork pieces. And while the tiny sunglasses of early-2018 had their time to shine, oversized sunnies are back once again as models wore goggle-like sunglasses to match their geometrically-stylized, chunky garments.

Needless to say, Rick Owens RTW S/S 2019 set PFW ablaze while laying the groundwork for what is to come. With global political stratification crystalized in this week’s Kavanaugh hearings, it is hard to strip Owens’ show from the incendiary responses to the state of global society and culture. With the novel pieces and strong sculptural elements of the collection, torch-wielding witches effectively burned down what we know to pave the way for a revolution.