Brutalist architecture—a movement that spawned in the mid ’50s—negated any need for comfort or ease, favoring instead the rugged, weightiness of concrete. Structures created within this ethos were deliberately mundane, erected as a visual response to the frivolous optimism that pervaded design a few decades prior. Noticeably cold and uninviting, this type of raw environment was a perfectly prosaic playground for Rick Owens’ fall ’16 menswear presentation to unfold within.
The discourse surrounding Brutalism began at Owens’ home, a concrete retired mausoleum, where his wife Michèle Lamy currently raises bees on her rooftop. Harvesting these insects—something that’s alleged to help slow environmental degeneration—felt like an apocalyptic trend to the designer, who’s recognized an increase in ecological anxiety throughout contemporary culture. Much like Brutalists’ work reacted to their predecessors, Owens’ collection offered a visual retort to our looming fears of global annihilation.
Though the source of his inspiration changes from season-to-season, Owens’ collections are always consistent: a subdued palette of black and grey, masculine, oversized silhouettes and a fusion of careful tailoring with organic, subversive disfunction. This season, he capitalized on his strengths, delivering a lineup of Brutal looks that reflected the collection’s title, “Mastodon.”
For most, the possibility of extinction is a horrific grand finale—something that makes everyday man feel helpless or weak. For Owens, this uncertain future seemed to fortify his fearlessness, provoking pieces that visually address death through material, shape and color. Tops were wrapped wildly around models’ bodies and paired with voluminous trousers and exclusive Adidas sneakers—the perfect trio to ensure survival.
Some moments looked like fresh, layered flesh, while others echoed a corpse’s greying body. Splashes of blood orange resembled the color of a sky being overtaken by the encroaching soon-to-explode sun. Pockets were huge, dramatizing the need for functional dress in a post-apocalyptic landscape and mohair pullovers looked as though they were crafted from a recent killing. The makeup, alone, was Brutalist by nature with stark white faces and overdrawn black eyeliner that made models look like walking dead.
Devoid of any delicacies, Owens’ Parisian collection was proudly unpoetic, instead reveling in the power of confrontation—the beauty of ugly.
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