Rick Owens: Fashionable heroes at a Venetian military shrine
President Joe Biden began his presidency by honoring the fallen dead at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider in Arlington Cemetery on Wednesday. A day later, Rick Owens, the most influential American designer living in Europe, staged his latest menswear show at Tempio Votivo, a Venetian shrine to Italian soldiers lost in the two great wars.
Biden’s inauguration entertainment was Jennifer Lopez singing 'This Land is Your Land.' Owens’ soundtrack was 'Ghostemane' by Hellrap (“Sometimes, I just want to kill something,” was a key refrain). He entitled the collection 'Gethsemane,' after the garden where Christ prayed the night before his crucifixion.
The new president was praised worldwide for bringing back normalcy and decency. Owens will win plaudits for his latest expression of arty heroic fashion.
It will probably seem sacrilegious to many to compare the two events, especially to those who have lost loved ones in the great war against fascism. However, even if these may well only have been clothes, Owens represents a powerful liberating aesthetic about gender fluidity, non-conformism and free thinking.
The Californian-born designer’s cast marching in dry ice plumes before the Sacrario Militare di Venezia, a huge military ossuary where fallen military heroes are buried, dating from 1916 on the Venetian Lido.
Everyone wearing masks, some of them in faux chain mail covering the whole throat. Looking like warriors returning from battle, albeit the action was probably confined to a rave party playing industrial, hip hop, garage or drill music. Dressed for a ‘battle’ in truncated puffers, with chopped-out shoulders and huge cuffs; frock coats in shards of black-and-white cotton; or a series of painted-over denim vests.
The fetish models appearing in gigantesque padded cloaks; naked torso, distressed jeans and giant black suede pirate boots with Perspex-spike heels. While in a season of knits, where comfortable Zoomwear is so dominant, Rick knitted up floor-length cardigans and men’s skirts with perforations at the knee or elbow.
Rick’s big new accessory – piratical waders in green suede, a good idea in the lagoon city, and a great visual counter punch in this fighting phygital fashion show.
Throughout, Owens bopped about in his open-air backstage, in black serge coat and his new new Perspex boots, as his dressers worked energetically to send out each model.
He chose the title Gethsemane because it was “a place of uneasy repose and disquiet before a final reckoning. We’re all living in a tense period of history waiting for a resolution, be it catastrophic or rational, in a suspense that feels almost biblical in its drama – primitive and profane.”
Finishing with the entire cast ensemble before the Sacrario Militare. Madonna sits in the center of this shrine’s cupola, above the remains of 3,970 souls, including the remains of 450 Italian soldiers from the Massacre of Treglia, Dalmatia, mown down by Nazi machine-gun fire in a gravel pit in 1943.
Let’s never forget what the Nazis did to deviants, decadents and gays. One shudders to think what they would have wanted to do with this cast.
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