Rick Owens Men’s Spring 2012: Transcending A Garment’s Gender Identity

PARIS--It was only a few days ago that I was emailing with a fashion journalist for a major daily newspaper who was in Milano covering the men’s shows. I was commenting on the irony of the reporter’s succinct observations that many of the designers showing their spring collections in Milano substituted inspirations--say a moment of past history or a image of an individual who capture a style of a certain era--for any real design innovations. The response to one of my email was simple and so concise in its observation of the current stalemate one can sense in fashion: “When was the last time you saw an idea?” As a close observer of fashion over the years, I was unable to come up with any substantive answer. Thus the email remained without a reply and the conversation ceased. As I left the Salle Marcel Cerdan at Bercy following Rick Owens’ menswear show, I instantly thought I might have an answer. Is it possible that I just saw an idea minutes before inside the concrete gymnasium where male models nonchalantly paraded a collection comprised of a variety of khaki cotton linen and striped long dresses, as well as single or double breasted jackets worn with long tee-shirts and long ankle puff skirts slit in the back?
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PARIS--It was only a few days ago that I was emailing with a fashion journalist for a major daily newspaper who was in Milano covering the men’s shows. I was commenting on the irony of the reporter’s succinct observations that many of the designers showing their spring collections in Milano substituted inspirations--say a moment of past history or a image of an individual who capture a style of a certain era--for any real design innovations. The response to one of my email was simple and so concise in its observation of the current stalemate one can sense in fashion: “When was the last time you saw an idea?” As a close observer of fashion over the years, I was unable to come up with any substantive answer. Thus the email remained without a reply and the conversation ceased. As I left the Salle Marcel Cerdan at Bercy following Rick Owens’ menswear show, I instantly thought I might have an answer. Is it possible that I just saw an idea minutes before inside the concrete gymnasium where male models nonchalantly paraded a collection comprised of a variety of khaki cotton linen and striped long dresses, as well as single or double breasted jackets worn with long tee-shirts and long ankle puff skirts slit in the back?
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Fashionista contributor Long Nguyen is the co-founder/style director of Flaunt.

PARIS--It was only a few days ago that I was emailing with a fashion journalist for a major daily newspaper who was in Milano covering the men’s shows. I was commenting on the irony of the reporter’s succinct observations that many of the designers showing their spring collections in Milano substituted inspirations--say a moment of past history or a image of an individual who capture a style of a certain era--for any real design innovations. The response to one of my email was simple and so concise in its observation of the current stalemate one can sense in fashion: “When was the last time you saw an idea?” As a close observer of fashion over the years, I was unable to come up with any substantive answer. Thus the email remained without a reply and the conversation ceased.

As I left the Salle Marcel Cerdan at Bercy following Rick Owens’ menswear show, I instantly thought I might have an answer. Is it possible that I just saw an idea minutes before inside the concrete gymnasium where male models nonchalantly paraded a collection comprised of a variety of khaki cotton linen and striped long dresses, as well as single or double breasted jackets worn with long tee-shirts and long ankle puff skirts slit in the back?

Surely the notion of men in skirts is nothing new and can hardly be considered innovative in this jaded moment in fashion. But what was new in Mr. Owens’ show was the idea that any particular clothing item should not have a particular gender assignment. A skirt ought not to be considered female or male just as a dress should not be feminine or masculine. Throughout the show, which was based on how a jacket can be worn--i.e. with long tee-shirts, with a long skirts, over a dress--there was never a moment when a male model with a shaved head in a loose cotton linen sheath dress was considered a cross-dresser. For once, a garment no longer carries the heavy gender assignments.

Take the dresses and skirts out of the show and there were plenty of great clothes for any Owens devotee: a long white jacket; an ecru one button jacket; a cropped one button jacket with a large open lapel. There were also sporty pieces like a long black boxy jacket with black trousers and a tan linen one button jacket with a flared sleeve worn with a white cotton crew neck shirt and black pants tucked into leather boots. Another outstanding look was a white one-button, single breasted, hour glass jacket worn with a crew neck long dress. I particularly loved the khaki cotton long sheath dress with a cropped sleeveless draped tank over.

It’s difficult to even begin to imagine men adopting these looks into their wardrobe. But fashion design is about posing the question of how to make clothes differently through techniques and materials. It’s also about offering options through various sartorial suggestions. I think Mr. Owens did that with this show--working diligently within the idea that a designer can transform a garment without using imagery or inspirations as a crutch. The clothes speak for themselves.

**Photos by Imaxtree.