This season, most of the collections lingered over an undercurrent of protest and unrest, with Rick Owens AW17 collection being no exception. Yet with his enveloping wraps and makeshift diadems, Owens makes it clear it’s how we carry ourselves after the protest that defines us. Every man alone is sincere. At the entrance of a second person, hypocrisy begins, as Ralph Waldo Emerson mused. Shouting, rallying, and signs, are all good and well - but what are you going to do about it?
In a sweep towards positivity following his menswear show, Owens embraced civility and personal responsibility, adorning models in mitres, crowns, and cloaks and evoking regality, rather than fear, in the face of adversity. The music was, as always, also carefully considered. "I've soundtracked this show to Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 3 in C Major - a great example of what civilization at its best sounds like', Owens explained.
Headresses, constructed from the sleeves of faded t-shirts, stretched and wrapped around the forehead or stood suspended high along the ears before falling past the shoulders of capes patched together from cowhide and raw cotton. Sweatshirts strained across a metal frame to create the modern, angular mitres as sleeves with slits along the bicep fashioned thick veils and obscured the visage.
Similar shifts in placement and proportion commanded most of the collection, titled Glitter. Coats and jackets were twisted and repinned around the torso, with zippers asymmetrically cutting across the hips and sleeves lying languidly down the center of the chest. Nutria and pekan fur duvets inflated shoulders and ballooned the lower body, while narrow knit sleeves defined and elongated the arms. Oversized puffer capes covered all but stretch sock sneakers, Owens’ take on the opera glove, and robes folded onto themselves, crumpling collars to exaggerate the waist.
Playing with the idea of an improvised formality, Owens color-blocked painted canvas and wool melton into overcoats atop olive leather maxi skirts and slipped cashmere boxers and knit tanks between the thigh grazing slit of dresses in silk mega duchesse.
The designer’s use of color was uniform in every sense, with shades of army green repeatedly storming the runway, interrupted sporadically by pops of muted lilac and mustard. Monochrome black looks were given dimension with layers of cellophane-like shine and clutches of matte fur drapery.
Hours before the show, Owens posted a photo of the Egyptian goddess of healing, Sekhmet, on social media. It proved to be a telling preview of the refined dignity the designer believes can be found in recovery. “After protest, one’s attention might turn to personal behavior, and maybe embracing what makes us civilized can be our most positive act,” he wrote in the press release. Sometimes it’s not how much you protest, but the strength and grace with which you defy defeat and how you connect with the community in the aftermath. Thanks to Owens, we’re all well equipped to do just that.