"Service, duty, devotion
we don't hear those words enough." Rick Owens was musing on the state of mind that shaped his new collection. While thinking about a man who would go the extra mile to protect and provide for his family, the designer's imagination roamed everywhere, from the slaves who built the pyramids in ancient Egypt all the way over to the ceremonial service enacted by the pope and his priests. And, bizarre though it sounds, as soon as he said it, you could see it in the clothes. That short kiltlike skirt? Isn't that what the workers are wearing in Egyptian tomb paintings? The cowls, robes, and streaming sashes that closed the show, meanwhile, had a monkish mien. But those sashes also evoked the deconstructed obi of a samurai, and the crisscross metalwork that adorned a black felt tunic looked a little like a bandolier. The black leather skirt worn over pants was the latest variant of an Owens signature, but in another time it might have been the uniform of Scottish soldiers at the battle of Culloden. In other words, there will always be something of the warrior in the Owens man. And that's a result of the tribal sensibility he himself has fostered with his clothes.
Today's soundtrack was Felix's house classic "Don't You Want Me" distilled into pounding marching music for an army of models whose extreme youth, unusual for the designer, made one wonder if his thoughts about the concept of service and sacrifice had set him brooding on the Children's Crusade, one of the most tragic examples of devotion to an ideal in the annals of Western history.
You just know that Rick Owens is one of the very few fashion designers you can go to primal places like that with. But if there's always something primal about his shows, there is nothing primitive about his clothes. Fall 2011's jackets and coats were spectacular exercises in cut, from the slightly cutaway blazer that opened the show, to the closing flurry of coats. The duffel coats in black or white leather that clasped with two fiercesome metal toggles were the sort of stand-alone pieces that might seduce a man who wouldn't be caught dead in Rick's dresses. "A guy wearing a dress is such a functional thing," he insisted. "Easy as a flannel shirt. Extreme and practical at the same time." From his lips to your ears....