What are the limits of conventional dress and how can we originate new ideas from the periphery? It’s questions like these that may provide the portal into the mind of Rick Owens, a designer whose work consciously and persistently challenges the norm. His clothes sit at the cutting edge of fashion and so command wearers to push the envelope and follow the propulsive energy of his designs — wherever they make take them.
At the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, Owens was preoccupied with the state of the world, rife with contradictions. His Fall 2023 collection cut through the veneer of the picture-perfect lifestyles many designers try to evoke in their clothing: antidotes to the macro and micro encounters with chaos in our everyday lives. Instead, Owens showed inflated shrugs, cropped cowl neck sweaters and pillow-like poufs that encircled the body, proffering protective cocoons to weather a world filled with unknowns. A series of black opening looks set a sombre tone but graduated into a collection that felt decidedly festive — here were the aforementioned contradictions Owens brought to light — with inflatable iterations, plus coats and gowns, in silver, lime green and pink sequins.
“I know I’m commonly referred to as dark,” Owens acknowledged to Vogue.com. “I think no, I’m just realistic and I’m acknowledging the beauty and horror of the world. There are some people that prefer something more sugar-coated, and that’s fine, I don’t criticize that. But I prefer something with more nuance.” It’s certainly a fitting description for this collection, where Owens veered from one extreme to the next. For example, faded blue and washed green balloon jackets-cum-skirts felt playful and relaxed, but were sharply counterbalanced by capes with shoulder pads befitting Dracula, feminized thanks to shredded Bordeaux trims with matching sequins.
Elsewhere, Owens refreshed his usual bodycon dresses and skirts, this time in recycled cashmere. These signified another side of the spectrum and felt more wearable, easily imagined underneath the simpler coats he showed in chocolate brown and gray or the sequin capes in electric pink and silver, should one feel dramatically inclined. As for the looks that were slightly out of left field, their editorial appeal was obvious and, even if functionally speculative, their purpose theoretically sound — designers have a duty not only to inspire us but shield us too, come what may.