When Rick Owens showed his fall collection a year ago, the world was unknowingly just about to enter global pandemic lockdowns. Even before that, the American designer seemed to have a premonition of what the future would hold, showing duvet-like blanket coats, medical-looking gloves, hospital-scrub blues and other dystopian gear that would soon feel very relevant.
This time around, the designer seemed to be looking at a future with cautious optimism, pairing joyful pieces like sequined bodysuits with interesting but practical pieces and armor-like items, such as the now-signature Owens platform boots.
Upon closer inspection, the puffer coats were revealed to be tailored jackets (made of recycled plastic waste), whose sleeves were ripped off and replaced with exaggerated and snap-on sleeves. The bodysuits came in both sequins (a grape purple) and leather, and were a change in volume from the designer’s previous iterations; he likened them to an upholstered gear shift knob. And while bold shoulders are certainly a signature of Owens, this time around the designer meant for his big-shouldered capes to signify “architectural bulldozers” or his power shoulder bomber jackets to mock “male aggression and conservatism careening off the rails” — which was also the focus of the designer’s men’s show in January, a response to the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
The big-shouldered look was topped off with ruched and sequined thongs, worn over recycled cashmere bodysuits. The aim was, according to Owens, “to add a lurid flourish to matter-of-fact and practical modesty” — a statement that feels like it could be applied to the whole of the fall ’21 season. The designer’s clunky platform kicks no longer feel like a novelty; they have wholly become a part of the Owens silhouette, a piece of armor that needs no further explanation.
Owens titled the collection “Gethsemane,” after the garden that Jesus prayed in the night before his crucifixion. As Owens described it in the show notes, it was “a place of uneasy repose and disquiet before a final reckoning,” he noted. “We’ve all been living a tense period in history waiting for a resolution, be it catastrophic or rational, in a suspense that feels almost biblical in its drama.”