#SuzyPFW: Rick Owens – Tailor-made For Change

In the Joyce Gallery celebrating a new book about the English-American couturier Charles James, there was one archetypal dress: sculpted and elegantly shaped, it was the epitome of timeless elegance.

Except it was not a historic original, but instead a dress by Rick Owens celebrating ‘The Couture Secrets of Shape’ published by Spector Books.

The dress, and the contents of the book, explained a great deal about the Rick Owens’ show that featured precisely cut clothes with very few of the designer’s protuberances or unexpected angles as the models crisscrossed around the flat surface in hazy light.

The overall effect of the show was an affirmative elegance rarely associated with the American designer, now rooted in Europe, who has often been considered part of fashion’s ugly aesthetic.

But not here. Unless you focused on the wigs planted halfway over the crown of the head or the flap in the top of the trousers that looked like a babygrow.

Otherwise, from the subtle Fortuny-like pleats and colours – so unlike Owens’ typical black or neutral palette – this was a show with a mighty difference to the designer’s usual territory.

This is his explanation: “When I started my label in the mid-nineties, my ultimate goal was to be Charles James. Complete devotion to craft, scorn for conventional prosaic comforts, but attention and respect reserved exclusively for the mega-refined and extravagant – that’s where I wanted to go.

“I’ve personally always tried to promote clothes that are fluid, respectful of the body and gentle… James’ clothes were the opposite.

“They were engineered, scaffolded, constricting and hard. But in his case, the operatic formality and strict exquisiteness made comfort irrelevant.

“James’ clothes were about order, rigour and discipline – ideas that suggested an elevated code I admired and wanted to align myself with.”

This change in the Rick Owens style was exhilarating.