Rick Owens runway shows are spectacles before they even begin—packed with people, most of whom are not in the fashion world or perhaps only amorphously connected to it, dressed and posing in head-to-toe-to-prosthetic-cheekbones Owens. Many designers have cults, but Owens’s is a true tribe, a group of people with a common language, understanding of each other, and a way of moving through the world (most recently, on those Larry Elastic Kiss boots). Even if you just wear a piece of his clothing and your eyes aren’t masked with conceptual eyeliner, you tap into that tribe, and assert your connection to it above any other clothing concerns. (Like…“Is my leg covered?” This season, just one is!)
“A lot of times, I just see myself as an example of what everybody’s doing,” Owens said backstage after the show. “And if anybody's responding to my clothes, or anything that I talk about it, it’s just because they relate.”
Owens’s show was an exuberant testament to the power of performance—the joy of displaying yourself—and it was also the fruit of personal revelation. “Every collection I do is autobiographical,” he said. “About 10 years ago, I was a lot more introspective, and, you know, I've changed. It’s not as if I'm not as into myself in a way—I mean, I’m into myself, but now I feel like my responsibility is to participate a bit more, instead of, like, analyzing myself. Analyzing yourself is indulgent.” He continued: “Introspection is a good thing, but then the opposite of that is artificial beings. And am I going there? I’m not sure! I might be.” Are you comfortable with that ambiguity? “I’m not sure!”
He zoned in more specifically on what he called “just the generation of selfies. It’s about performing for other people. And is that a good thing? A bad thing? I mean, the whole Instagram thing, in my head, it’s just another form of communication. That’s like the joy of life. And that’s the reason that we are here. We’re here to communicate and we’re here to caress each other, and it's a different way of doing that. Sometimes it gets cringe-y. Why? It just does.” He paused. “And I have no answers!”
Performance, he went on, “can be vanity, or it can be bringing something to the party. A contribution. So I’m just kind of tussling with myself like, what am I really doing?” That manifested in a revealing collection of with one-legged, one-shouldered jumpsuits like the ones Kansai Yamamoto made for Ziggy Stardust-era David Bowie, and leathers and silks in gold, blue, and Bowie-hair orange. An outrageous series of coats and jackets with “LOOK AT ME BITCH!”-sized shoulders was the perfect icon for the show’s energy—true Owens obsessives will love it, and clout-chasing Instagrammers will want to wear it, too. To return to Owens’s own question: is that good, or bad? Who knows! It’s refreshing to make and see art without issuing a moral judgment! As Owens said, “There’s a lot of stress, but the world has always existed teetering between collapse and control.”
Owens fans are true outsiders, whose performative nature emphasizes their marvelous otherworldliness. I don’t know if this has ever been more valuable in fashion. We all know and like the same brands—even Emily Ratajkowski and Sebastian Bear-McClard are wearing Online Ceramics now!—and at perhaps no point in history have we believed so fervently and without much consideration that “popular” is the same thing as “cool.” The designers and stylish people who doggedly pursue their own vision are both urgent and eternal.
Enter Yohji Yamamoto, a man who does the same thing every season and still manages to do something different: this time, officer coats, dangling chains that almost looked like loose strands of pearls, swags of fabric hung from the hip. Pure poetry, as usual, devoid of novelty and filled with quiet ideas. Yamamoto used to describe himself as anti-trend or anti-fashion—he has never been interested in interpreting or responding to the times, but keeping a distance that allowed his work to express itself pristinely. Yet Yamamoto said backstage that “I kept saying I’m an outsider. Now the vocabulary is not enough. And I’m angry about what’s going on in fashion, so I have become partisan.” Yamamoto’s archival pieces are becoming hot on the secondary market among fashion nerds, he was on the most recent cover of fashion geek mag System, and other collections shown this week, from Hed Mayner to OAMC to Valentino, showed his influence. In a sense, Yamamoto’s appeal and power is that he stands apart from the fracas of fashion and its sometimes mindless pursuit of novelty. Shouldn’t us young people be capable of engaging with our great designers as more than just fashion godfathers?
Clare Waight Keller showed a remarkable Givenchy collection yesterday—in the Givenchy couture salon, a clean and disciplined blend of streetwise pieces and ravishing demonstrations of her obsessive, careful tailoring. “It’s all about the small details,” she said backstage, and indeed, the intimate setting allowed the audience to really see the perfection of the construction and the minute details that take everything over the top. As the artistic director of a major global brand under the LVMH umbrella, Waight Keller has less independence than Owens and Yamamoto, but this show really demonstrated the ardent pursuit of her old school couturier intuition. Like Owens, funnily enough, she is busy creating performative clothing that seems like a blast to wear, event clothing for which getting dressed is the event itself. In the boys club of big Parisian houses, her couturier’s touch just looks more and more radical every season—an individual vision versus a clout chase. Her tribe, of course, is made up of the clients of her couture atelier. This idea of performative dressing is one of the most exciting in fashion right now, a blend of personal style and a taste for the extreme, but remember: it’s not about getting the latest or Instagram-decreed greatest. Find your tribe, and go all the way in.
Originally Appeared on GQ