6 October 2012

Inverted Proportions

Spring/Summer 2012

Autumn/Winter 2012

Rick Owens is a designer who is often accused of repetition. Doing the same thing season after season with that typical Rick Owens look. Of course he sees this as a compliment, because it implies that he has his own well-defined and instantly recognisable aesthetic in which he operates. He views his work as a way of telling the same story but from different angles, and in doing so revealing to even himself what those initial ideas can evolve into. Indeed he is a designer dedicated to constantly refining his own aesthetic, a process which can sometimes seem at odds with fashion's desire for something totally new each season. Personally, I am far more attracted to the work of designers who design in such a focused and personal way, whether it be Rick Owens, Yohji Yamamoto, or Ann Demeulemeester.

I think it is interesting to view the notion of Rick tackling the same idea from different angles, and here I would like to think about the idea of masculinity in two of his collections for this year - Naska and Mountain (no doubt there will a post on Island in the future). The two collections displayed ostensibly oppositional ideals, of flowing robes against sharp tailoring, in what seemed at first a dramatic shift for Rick's man. In reality I think both collections were an evolution that although surprising at the time, were upon consideration a logical and fascinating step forward, expanding the scope of what Rick's man can wear day-to-day.

Rick's menswear has most often been typified with an elongated top half and shorter bottom half - unstable cotton t-shirts over drop crotch swinger pants, the fragility of both being offset by (admittedly washed and softened) leather jackets and chunky (albeit ironically weak-soled) trainers or wedge soled boots. This line moving ever downwards, with layered long tops, with skirted trousers, with full length skirts (see post here), seemed to reach an inevitable conclusion with the flowing robes that he presented in Naska. It was for many an unexpected move - Rick's masculine and sporty man moving to a full on dress. However that viewpoint would be, to take one simple example, discounting Rick sending men down the runway in heels. The move was actually a refinement of earlier ideas, with the more elegant robes echoing the more sporting knitted robes of Dustulator.

Rick would argue that the robes and skirts in Naska were intended to be priestly and majestic, rather than consciously carrying any overt notions of femininity. Of course the reality is that the skirt, as he admits in the video posted above, is arguably the last real taboo left in menswear. In the West femininity is ingrained so deep within the social fabric of the garment that a man can refer to a 'skirt' and be implicitly understood to be referring to a woman. Although one can argue about the significance of the skirt or robes in other contemporary cultures, or the cuts and styling of his robes fusing them with touches of masculinity, the association with femininity is as of yet inescapable.

What then would the next collection entail? How could he move forward from flowing robes? The unexpected answer was that rather than re-appropriating what are now considered as feminine elements, he would instead subvert more traditional notions of masculinity. Inspired by the likes of Fred Astaire and 1930's skiing outfits, Rick provided a fundamental shift by inverting his traditional proportions. Long tops and drop crotch trousers evolved into cropped tailored jackets and high waisted trousers. The shapes proposed in Naska, most notably visualised in the graphic knits where the triangular shaping emphasised flaring hips (which could also be argued as another hint towards the feminine), were inverted to provide a broad chest and long legs. One need only look at Fred Astaire in his high waisted trousers gliding along on impossibly long looking legs, to find a nostalgic sense of masculinity that is so fascinating to explore in a contemporary setting.

The emphasis on tailoring is something Rick has been working towards over the past few seasons, especially in his womenswear, where one has found a greater number of architectural pieces. Yet the apparent conservatism of this direction was subverted, creating something formal enough to be of use where typical sporting luxe Rick is not quite appropriate, whilst still retaining his strong aesthetic. Rick has developed an incredibly strong foundation of everyday luxe basics over the years, so it seemed quite natural for him to want to expand the totality of his scope to something more formal. Of course a suit is never just a suit for Rick, and so we saw the filmy shirts with their extended overflap collars, one-button double breasted jackets, leather puffer jackets, and even a skirt or two.

Rick's world expanded to meet everyday demands, whether an outfit for the gym, an outfit for the beach, or even an outfit for the evening. I like having choices.



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  2. I honestly learn so much when I stop by your blog Syed and I can imagine that you take so much time and care over each post too. It's definitely interesting following Owen's take on dresses/skirts and not once have I thought his designs were really feminine - because like you say, they're not and completely masculine. He's a fascinating designer.

  3. Very nice article.
    I'll agree with you that the expansion and the different choices he proposes are a good thing. It's important his work is not getting repetitive.

  4. I remember Yohji said if his fashion is music, he plays same music by different tone. I think Rick Owens's clothing are same. If basic part is definitely beautiful, people don't become tired of his clothing.I like Naska collection.

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