I only rarely go “off topic” and talk about something outside the Japanese fashion remit, but then again you cannot deny how important Rick Owens is in the world of Japanese fashion and moreover his work is very important to me personally. One of my favorite haunts of the Aoyama area is the Rick Owens flagship replete with a “Godzilla” waxwork version of the nude Rick Owens himself sporting a wooden claw and not a lot else. It is a shop that manages to create its very own atmosphere free from the saturation and haste of Tokyo aside, austere and stern, but at the same time populated entirely by heavily tattooed (and very friendly) staff and with a great view of a lush green garden. It is a place that highlights the importance of the guiding vision of the man, and for all the concrete fittings and black fabrics it is actually a relaxed and organic place. I would draw the same juxtaposition about the clothes themselves – severe from the outside, but unbelievably comfortable and luxurious when worn.
It was for that reason that I was not wholly surprised to see a little bit of the light side of Rick Owens visibly coming out in his latest collection. There were light blues (unheard of!), obviously comfortable flat shoes, invitingly easy to wear tailoring and even some jackets that seemed to sacrifice all style for the sake of comfort. I suppose it was this relatively new territory that combined with his desire to be challenging, provocative and dare I say it, occasionally deliberately ugly in all of his catwalk collections that have made this collection quite a polarizing one.
This time his theme is that of mountains, which was created literally with sky-high waisted trousers into flat shoes, that when paired with cropped jackets served to stretch the perceived body to its very limit and combined with a lower cut on the arm pit, stretch the arm. It was almost the polar opposite to his S/W 2012, with his long dresses and largely untouched arms, but in many ways once the waist of the high-waisted trousers was covered with another layer, the silhouette was not all that different from his wonderful seersucker robes. Either way, despite the similarities, it felt like a monumental departure with converse-style trainers, club-kid-esque boxy outer layers and plasticky leather, basically all the things that fans of the brand come to Rick to avoid.
Nether the less, despite throwing in more than a fair show of curve balls, the austere severity of the show as a whole remained intact. It seemed to follow the mountainous theme of the show quite literally, starting with outfits that recalled vintage mountain wear, replete with salopettes and polo-necks. This gradually build towards modern ski-wear with contrasting black and white leather jackets with a neck drape that echoed a trailing scarf (for the record, the contrast jackets are very simular to the S/S 2012 in Tokyo shops now). Finally, and most controversially, the idea of futuristic survivalism was approached in the form of awkward, but practical down jackets that when combined with the shiny leather made the models look like explorers of some bleak alien landscape.
The core proportions sit rather uncomfortably with me, but I appreciate the challenge that Rick Owens always poses. If it wasn’t from him I probably would not accept it!
That very uncommon sky blue coming through is both aspirational and chilly.
Here you can see that the high-waisted and roomy hips is actually surprisingly compatible with his past output.
Into the tailoring section of the show, and there is a surprise addition in the form of that distressed fluffy fabric that almost recalls fur.
The ski jackets almost look like a pretty conventional retail hit in the making till you consider how hard that cropped waist will be to balance. This is a look that requires complete dedication to pull off.
The skirts were a pleasant presence on the catwalk and it was good to see one worn back to front as I have seen done on the streets of Tokyo.
Now that is mountain exploring gear if ever I saw it.
A difficult collection to take in, especially when it seems at once ready for retail, but also figurative and expressive. Not unlike his S/S 2012 of which most of the catwalk items were toned down for retail, it seems that this collection is too destined for a bit of a DRKSHDW reality check before it can be sold. A shame, but then that has long been an acceptable purpose of a show – to establish a mood or concept and not to literally parade the clothes. In that respect, Rick Owen’s Mountain presents us with aspiration, exploration and impossible grandeur. It does not pander to the fans, but rather makes demands of them, and there are few designers who do that on the scale that Rick Owens is able to.