Mood board: As is customary, the invitation for Rick Owens’ S/S 2018 show arrived in a long thick box. However, the usual slab of embossed leather wasn’t enclosed. Instead, sandwiched between two thick pieces of white foam sat a mini Italian futurist bust based on a design by the artist and designer Ernesto Michahelles. Known by his pseudonym Thayaht, he was an Italian polymath credited with one of the earliest examples of the coverall, and later worked with Madeleine Vionnet in the 1920s to design her logo. Thayaht is the inspiration behind Owens’ avant garde desire to elevate the transgressive. His S/S 2018 menswear collection was called ‘dirt’ as a counterpoint to last season’s ‘glitter’. Sometimes unsettling in their singularity, Owens’ clothes are the last in extreme elegance.
Scene setting: The usual staging of his shows – deep in the concrete crypt of the Palais de Tokyo – was turned inside out. Models walked the upper walkway of towering scaffolding set up in the courtyard spanning the full height and width of the art deco building which dates back to 1937. Owens’ construction was dual purpose – on the one hand it framed the epic symmetry of what he has said is his most favourite building in Paris – but it also brought to mind Led Zeppelin’s rousing Stairway to Heaven. In the harsh summer sunlight, the models were elevated and ethereal. They walked to Egyptian Lover’s 1984 dance track I Need a Freak, remixed by Jeff Judd. ‘In these times of petty discord and anxiety I’m looking for transgressive inspiration and imagination’, Owens said. And boy did he serve it.
Best in show: To decipher the times, Owens looked at office-wear and traditional menswear tailoring. In particular, he took the suit jacket as a sort of uniform, a symbol of evolution. For summer, the jackets are in a dry nylon, which shares the same look of silk duchesse, cut large and roomy, worn with wide trousers fitted high to the torso and crushing to the floor. They were also shown in custom developed fabrics such as a lacquered 12oz denim in industrial black, blue, and green. The look was blunt but rich in texture. Light sheer wool gazar was washed and sun dried. Plastic tarp lurex tape was woven on a metal warp creating a stiff plastic textile that looked future-proof.