Rick Owens Fall 2024 Ready-to-Wear Collection

We were back at Rick Owens’s Place du Palais Bourbon manse today. As he did during the January men’s season, Owens traded the bombast (his word) of his Palais de Tokyo shows for a setup more intime.

Owens’s singular, sweeping vision remains plenty big enough for the monumental Palais. Batwing shoulders scraped the earlobes, puffer vests swaddled torsos like protective shells, and leather-and-down boots that riffed on the inflatable rubber ones he put on his men’s runway evoked space costumes, as if his models might’ve just returned from a walk on the moon. The deep pink dress worn by Matières Fécales’s Hannah Rose Dalton looked like it had sprouted wings in back.

But presenting chez lui—the former French Socialist Party headquarters and a space Owens has called “gentle, eternal, and raw” in the past, a fitting description—gave him a reason to focus on smaller gestures too. Like sweaterdresses that limned the body from neckline to platform shoes, with a porthole in back to show off a mesmerizing tattoo, say, and extremely elegant bias-draped dresses accessorized by shearling capes that reflected his obsession with ’30s references—hello, Jean Harlow.

“It’s not easy for a lot of designers to be so autobiographical,” said Owens, and he wasn’t just referring to the fact that he struck the real-estate jackpot when he bought his home 20 years ago. As one of Paris’s last independent designers standing, he has fewer voices in his ear and independence to do as he pleases. This was a collection in which his gothic instincts duked it out with his inclination for goddess-y silhouettes—both sharpened during his outsider childhood—and both sides came out victors.

“When I’m talking about Porterville”—his California hometown, whose name appeared in an Art Deco font marching across capes—“I’m talking about oppression and intolerance, and that’s a fact of life that’s never going to go away,” he said. “Part of my role in life is to counterbalance that with this cheerful perversity.”

He pointed out that the shaggy mohair coats with shearling swatches adding definition to their shoulders were modeled on army-blanket versions he made in his early days as a designer on Hollywood Boulevard, the first place where he could be who he wanted to be. Resurrecting them was less an act of nostalgia, an overused tendency in fashion at the moment, than a gesture of hope.

“I’m offering other options than the narrow, strict, almost cruel aesthetic standards that we’re bombarded with every day,” he said. “It’s not an aggressive war, it’s a gentle teasing: Let’s blur the lines. When you blur the lines aesthetically, it makes other attitudes about acceptance blur.” The online trolls are probably beyond fixing, but this show was a reminder to other designers, independent and not, of the power and persuasion of fierce authenticity.

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