“I Want Sleaze and Degeneracy”: Rick Owens on His Incandescent Men’s Show

Pin It
Rick Owens Autumn/Winter 2022 menswear
Rick Owens Autumn/Winter 2022 menswearCourtesy of OWENSCORP

In an email exchange with AnOther, Rick Owens discusses the inspirations behind his Autumn/Winter 2022 menswear show: Egyptian tombs, sleaziness and decay

In October of last year, Rick Owens and Michèle Lamy took a boat cruise down the river Nile in Egypt. Tourism was on the backburner thanks to Covid, so the pair were able to explore the Egyptian temples and tombs in relative peace. “THE THRILL OF HAVING THESE SPACES TO OURSELVES JUST REALLY ALLOWED US TO WAAALLLLLOOOOWWWW IN THE DUST AND DECAYED GLORY LIKE PIGS IN SHIT,” he tells AnOther over email. (Owens is fond of deploying capital letters in inappropriate situations: caps lock is used for press releases, Instagram captions, tweets, and in our email correspondence. “TO SOME PEOPLE IT’S JUST SHOUTING, BUT TO ME IT’S KIND OF A CHEERFUL PROCLAMATION,” he explained to Dazed in 2016. “ALMOST LIKE A CHILD SPEAKING TOO LOUDLY IN CHURCH.”)

On first look, his clothes too can appear shouty and at times even intimidating, but his dark, gothic sensibility belies the sheer joy people – and Owens himself – get from wearing his larger-than-life designs. His clothes make people feel seen in ways that they perhaps never thought possible. To wear Rick Owens is to take up space, to find peace in the perverse – and sometimes, to become part of a cultish, die-hard fashion fanbase. There’s the mythic tale of a couple that found love after connecting on Instagram via a Rick Owens stan account, or more recently, a portrait in New York Magazine featuring a motley crew of Rick obsessives who met through online chat forum Rick Owens Discord. The brand succeeds at that rare thing; bringing people together from far and wide, while inspiring almost religious levels of zeal. If you cop the clothes, you’ll become part of the community. 

For his Autumn/Winter 2022 menswear collection, simply titled Strobe, Owens drew inspiration from his Egyptian escapade. In the basement of the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, models strolled through the space with strip light bulbs protruding from sturdy headgear. One meme likened the luminous headpieces to lightsabers from the Star Wars franchise, while others thought the message was more on the nose; a light bulb moment of sorts. “I KEPT SEEING THE CROWN SHAPES [in Egypt] WHICH WERE ACTUALLY A GRAPHIC REPRESENTATION OF OSTRICH FEATHERS BUT RENDERED ON THE TEMPLE WALLS WERE VERY HARD AND INDUSTRIAL LOOKING,” says Owens. “IT WAS ALL VERY THEDA BARA PRESIDING OVER AN ALEISTER CROWLEY ORGY ART DIRECTED BY MICHAEL HEIZER WITH CINEMATOGRAPHY BY SERGEI EISENSTEIN ... ” The press notes also mentioned Dan Flavin’s minimalist fluorescent light sculptures – an unsurprising reference, considering Owens’ multiple forays into the world of furniture. 

Elsewhere, the black “Drella” coats reappeared; “Drella” being a cruel nickname for Andy Warhol (the word is a contraction of Dracula and Cinderella, and could easily be applied to Owens himself). Billowing, cushty duvet coats and restrictive, zipped-up-all-the-way hoods were a reminder of both the comforts and precautions of the pandemic, while broad-shouldered coats and jackets that started out as “a parody of masculinity” became enjoyable to wear. There was also an emphasis on materiality, environmental traceability and social responsibility. 

On the question of whether this collection was inspired by what’s happening in the world, Owens responded bluntly. “THIS WAS MORE PERSONAL – I WANTED SLEAZE AND DEGENERACY AS A RESPONSE TO THE UPTIGHT COMMERCIAL GLOSS I SEE EVERYWHERE. I DON’T THINK I WENT FAR ENOUGH.”