While Rick Owens was working on his new collection, he was compulsively listening to Marlene Dietrich’s version of “Baubles, Bangles and Beads,” a show tune that has been nailed by everyone from Frank Sinatra to Eydie Gorme. The innate effervescence of that song versus Dietrich’s somewhat less spry delivery made for the contrast that defined Owens’ latest designs. The Ballets Russes, the early 20th century’s most spectacular rejection of the cultural status quo, was his starting point. Owens gave his own spin to a dancer’s tulle. The brutalist tutu? Get used to it.
Wondering what would happen if one of his own personal heroes, the Bauhaus concretist Marcel Breuer, created clothes out of tulle, Owens made a collection that paradoxically married lightness to architectural weight. The resulting silhouette was something new for him: a strict smock shape that allowed for flares of tulle on either side, like a suppressed tutu. Owens thought of them as frills, and if frilliness was a new notion for him, so too were the textures of the smocks, crimped and honeycombed. Eventually they exploded into floating parachute wings in the back. Pale gold and khaki, baby blue and pink: The color palette was new as well. Hell, even the very idea of a color palette for a Rick Owens collection was radical. And there was overt decoration, in the form of serpentine embroideries, and a finale of looks adorned with sculptural funnels of fabric.
It all added up to a new mood of lyricism, a feeling compounded by the soundtrack of classical music: Mid-century Polish composer Wojciech Kilar was a distinct departure from Owens’ usual visceral electronic noise. Still, he anchored his models to earth with clogs that clacked noisily around the catwalk. That single discordant note was a salutary reminder that Rick Owens will never go gently into that good night.