Cultural Fusion Across Eras: Rick Owens at PFW 2019

Rick Owens's spring-summer 2020 collection. (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

Rick Owens's spring-summer 2020 collection. (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

A depth of cultural and political influence characterised Rick Owens’ Women’s SS20 Paris Fashion Week show on Thursday, highlighting connections between the designer’s ancestry, iconic art movements, and the current political landscape. Set in the Palais de Tokyo plaza, the show saw bright colours, jagged lines, and impressive gowns paraded around the pool of water, with models looking like intergalactic nobility in their flowing robes and platform boots. Complementing the vibrant collection was a troupe of professional bubble-blowers, whose work added an ephemeral whimsy to the technicolour procession.

The sculpted plaza provided the perfect backdrop for Owens’ futuristic take on aesthetics of the past, with the classical facades contrasting with striking Aztec-esque headwear. Segmented into metallic geometric shapes, the headdresses also evoke Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, the iconic early German film that depicts an urban dystopia characterised by class division. The reference is particularly salient for the Los Angeles-born designer, yet subtle enough to act as commentary rather than protest, manifesting less as a political statement than a distinctive fusion of cultural aesthetics.

Motifs throughout the collection drawn from pre-Columbian Mexican art echo this German connection, influenced largely by the works of former Bauhaus educators Josef and Anni Albers. Their involvement with Mexican archaeological digs in the 1930s ushered in a new form of modernism that emphasised geometric and linear forms, an influence most evident in Owens’ long gowns and shawls. Perfectly straight rectangles bisect each piece in a duality of colour, contrasting with the natural flow of the material as the models paced the plaza. The vivid palette, striking silhouettes, and massive gowns constituted a beautifully cohesive collection, with reflective and opalescent materials mirroring the bubbles floating around the space.

Owens’ integration of Mexican art and history is no accident, serving to celebrate his Mexican heritage on his mother’s side. The collection’s narrative was ultimately brought to the fore by American debates over immigration, but never became overtly political; his critique manifested instead in the fusion of cultures within the collection as well as his international practices behind the scenes, as the American designer, who now lives in France, manufactures his garments in Italy. In his own words, ‘that all wouldn’t work without open borders,’ situating the existence of the collection itself as a criticism of strict border control.

Despite the gravity of Owens’ political influences, the show itself remained light-hearted and dynamic, creating an atmosphere of futuristic fun. The collection unites colours and cultures in an otherworldly aesthetic that is both awe-inspiring and, paired with the half-shaved heads of the models, slightly unsettling, exhibiting a snapshot of a speculative future to rival Fritz Lang’s. We at Casper & Casper find Owens’ SS20 collection beautifully fascinating, admiring the ease with which he integrates such a broad range of influences, and hope to see more cultural fusion in his future work.

Rick Owens's spring-summer 2020 | Photo by Andrea Adriani

Rick Owens's spring-summer 2020 | Photo by Andrea Adriani

To learn more about Rick Owens, visit his website here.


Feature by Kathryn Shanks– Click here for more articles
Copyright © of Casper & Casper 04.10.2019

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