The first thing one noticed at Rick Owens' superb fall 2014 show was not the clothes — and this is meant as a compliment. What grabbed the attention was his casting, a bevy of strong women, their faces carved with character, often with a patina of age enhanced by a no-makeup beauty look.
Most of these women were runway queens of the 1990s and 2000s (Kirsten Owens, Madeleine Blomberg, Natasha K.), but there were also women from other walks of life, like Anne Van den Bossche, Owens' former PR, or Scarlett Rouge, the daughter of his wife, Michele Lamy. Others, shaved and tattooed, gave the show an unmistakable lesbian-chic edge.
What united all these women was the kind of unfussy beauty and serenely defiant allure the designer favors — hence the contingent of Belgian Belles that took fashion by storm in the early aughts: Hannelore Knuts, Kim Peers, An Oost, and Roos van Bosstraeten (the Times' Guy Trebay once described them as "the blahs"). Even the great Nadège Dupospertus, who had a cute gamine look in her 90's heydays as a Chanel and Versace favorite, looked surprisingly — and wonderfully — gritty at the magnificent Palais de Chaillot, where the show was held.
Thankfully, the models walked the runway twice, and a second viewing allowed a closer examination of the outfits, dominated by drop-crotch short overalls worn with high boots-cum-sneakers, and cocoon-like coats with an opening around the waist for the hands. This soft protective gear in chic shades of gray or aubergine was high luxury as stiff silks, leather (including crocodile), and other recurring materials.
Highlights included futuristic biker pants worn with jackets adorned with tiny pleats, and some bold, graphically patterned knitwear. Owens also came up with one of the most striking accessories of the season (besides long zippered gloves): a hat that looked like curved piping. Or was it an oversize curler?
After last season's unanimously acclaimed sorority spectacle, Rick Owens' show was one of the most anticipated events of the week. Following the plump silhouettes of those step dancers, this show explored a new kind of physique. The wonder of it all is that these two shows were not that different. We actually saw the very same determined woman. Her physical appearance has nothing to do with it, because her strength comes from within.