Study in Aesthetics: Rick Owens and the Shadow of Helmut Lang

Perhaps one of the most interesting collections of fashion week was Rick Owens Fall 2014 mens. Both Owen’s signature abstract clothing design and the sheer brutalism and contradiction of the garments caught our attention. Some of the garments looked viscerally heavy with elongated leather tunics that seemed to restrict the model’s movements as if they were in some kind of bondage. Some models were adorned with combat vests which (Seemingly harkening back to Helmut Lang’s controversial “bullet-proof” vests) added a fetishistic authoritarian edge to the garments. What makes this collection even more interesting is that these brutal pieces were juxtaposed against light, delicate Cashmere head wraps – purportedly to symbolize austere nuns. A strange contradiction that allows one to view the collection not just as a series of garments, but as garments in communication with each other.
After viewing this collection, and more specifically, the combat flak vests, one could not help but to think about the parallel between Rick Owen’s aesthetic and Helmut Lang’s. Lang was famous for his embrace of fetishistic aesthetics – making “bondage” MA-1 jackets, pants and other garments wrapped in straps that could seemingly constrict the wearer. Lang also adapted the bullet-proof vest for the runway in his famous SS 98 collection. Maybe one could consider Owens to be a spiritual successor to Lang, riffing on aesthetics of subversive subculture and authoritarianism. Either way, Rick Owens Fall 2014, “Moody” collection proved to be one of the more intriguing collections of Fashion Week.
Helmut Lang:

Rick Owens:

Images from

Remember to come out to our first speaker event tonight at 7:00 in Humanities 169!

The Blog Team

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