Friday 2nd October

| BY Claudia Croft

Rick Owens: Ready-to-Wear SS21

How should we dress is dystopian times? As his models strode through the smoke in the monumental piazza of the Venice Lido casino, Rick Owens served his answer. Dressed in various states of dark, pagan warrior chic, atop towering platforms or thigh-high leather waders, Owens’ army, all wearing face masks, looked like a mysterious tribe from a lost episode of Game of Thrones.

They looked rock star cool. Their attitude? Pure defiance; like archangels of ‘Fuck You’. “A middle finger to doom” was how Owen’s described the exaggerated jut his shoulder-line. Showing in Venice felt right for the designer. Owens has a house in the city, which is near to his Italian factories. He spends his summers on the Lido and referred to the Thomas Mann novella Death in Venice, set during a cholera epidemic.

His show also notes reminded us that the word ‘quarantine’ originated from the medieval Venetian response to the bubonic plague. The collection was at once heroic – with its sheer capes and powerful proportions – and practical. A plethora of jersey dresses and knits were designed to be worn more than one way, depending on whim or circumstance. Straps allowed wearers to strip-off their jackets and tie them around their waists like bustles. Fishnet tank dresses were upcycled form masks used in a 2012 collection and the designer describes himself as “leaning into a taste for the lurid,” with flashes of bubble gum pink and alarm red.

The “Grim gaiety” of his micro ruffles and ribbons were not about fashion as a form of escapism, but as a defiant response to the times. “Clothes don’t change the world, but they’re part of an attitude that influences the way people think. They’re signifiers, little messages people send to each other,” said the designer.

Photography by Valerio Mezzanotti.