pfw spring 2023

At Rick Owens, an Ancient Muse

While a new energy at Schiaparelli.

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photos: Courtesy of OWENSCORP, Schiaparelli, Chloe
Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photos: Courtesy of OWENSCORP, Schiaparelli, Chloe

Influencers have largely supplanted groupies at the shows, but at Rick Owens, the spectators still have the agreeable whiff of groupies. For one thing, they’re taller than other guests, thanks to Owens’s ultrahigh platforms. Dressed in black, their legs lengthened by the shoes and some Owensian drapery, they tend to look like an exotic species of crane. But the main mark of distinction in this self-selective world is that an Owens groupie almost always looks like him. He’s in his normal garb. It’s not a costume, as designer clothes so often seem to look on fashion people.

Not only has Owens given thousands of people license to flaunt their weirdness, but he also continues to enrich his aesthetic. On Thursday evening, on a platform built on the rim of the giant fountain behind the Palais de Tokyo, with the water jet going at full blast — and Siouxsie and the Banshees on the speakers — Owens sent out a pair of draped dresses, followed by a zippered coat dress, in what looked like rubbery latex. It was actually leather made translucent by the tanning process. As he said in his show notes, rather accurately, the material “turns the wearer into a 700-million-year-old jellyfish.” Neat!

Rick Owens. Photo: OWENSCORP

Owens often manipulates the shape of his shoulders. This season, jackets have peaks that sit up as high as saddle horns. One source of inspiration was ancient Egypt; another was the Hollywood biblical epics he recalls seeing as a boy in California. Melded together, they produced glamorous if slightly campy looks, washed in fuchsia, pink, and yellow. To me, the most arresting styles were the slightly rounded zippered jackets turned into minidresses; tulle babydoll dresses; and another group of dresses and stoles made from what looked like thin strips of black leather sewn on tulle. The shapes of the minidresses were striking: They looked like crumpled metal. And some of the other long styles had shimmery black backs or capes. The show wasn’t as visually powerful as last season’s, but it added to his aesthetic, and the fabric research was impressive.

And why Egypt? Owens says he likes to retreat there. “Lying down in the dirt with the Valley of Kings within view is a very soothing perspective,” he said. In short, modern discontents can seem small in the face of so much history.

Chloé. Photo: Courtesy of Chloe

Gabriela Hearst was thinking of nuclear fusion. That’s not what I thought when I entered the blacked-out Chloé show a few doors away from the Ritz Hotel. I thought the designer had conjured a rave, with flashing beams of light. But I should have known better. A rave is not Hearst’s style. Her press notes offered lengthy descriptions of fusion energy and how it can help the planet and mankind. And no doubt it will one day, but in the meantime, she might consider giving her collections more energy. Chloé has always been a youthful and sparky label, but Hearst’s clothes and accessories — white knit tube dresses with side cutouts, whip-stitched leather coats, trouser outfits with laced-up side grommets — looked uninspired.

Gauchere. Photo: Getty Images

A few blocks away, Marie-Christine Statz presented her Gauchere collection in broad daylight, in a public passageway. Statz’s clothes are always straightforward, without the help of ancients or scientists; they are similar in purpose to The Row but without the fashion seriousness. She showed her well-cut oversize pantsuits, washed or printed jeans, and cotton or jersey dresses with random, scarlike creases in the fabric with shoes that were covered with elasticated shoe booties to match the outfit. It was a funny but effective styling gesture.

Her style isn’t original, but she definitely has a thumbprint, and she’s one of those rare designers whose clothes make women of any age look cool and interesting.

Schiaparelli. Photo: Courtesy of Schiaparelli

Schiaparelli’s creative director, Daniel Roseberry, used this season to expand the company’s knitwear and denim designs, including a jacket embroidered on the back with a golden sunburst (a reference to a famous style of Elsa Schiaparelli) and updated tailored styles with more modest-size hardware. Though Roseberry has done a lot to bring more attention and business to Schiaparelli, in just three years, he’s also become aware of the potential of getting stuck in a pattern of success. As he told me the other day, “Elsa was so much more than Surrealism.”

So is Roseberry. For a capsule evening collection, he removed nearly all of the Surrealist trappings of past seasons and simplified the cuts, using silk jersey and velvets to create liquid-looking dresses, including one in black was that was ruched all over and a stunning, loose jumpsuit in red silk jersey with metal linked straps.

Schiaparelli. Photo: Courtesy of Schiaparelli

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At Rick Owens, an Ancient Muse