PARIS — It is against the backdrop of a world and a time when everyone aspires to do and own the same things that Rick Owens is pursuing his own gnarly and contrarian vision. Titling his latest men’s wear collection “Sisyphus,” he showed it in a gallery of the Palais de Tokyo under the blinding glare of morgue lighting and with a soundtrack of deafening techno.
In Mr. Owens’s slightly self-dramatizing worldview, the challenge is rolling his particular boulder up a hill of cultural conformity. While he is far from the sole creative practitioner stuck with that dilemma, he is one of the very few doing it in fashion. The struggle tends to energize Mr. Owens, who has stealthily managed over the years to import his bombastic alt-cult vision squarely into the mainstream.
Rick Owens: Fall 2018
Distorted beauty is his armoring default, and the clothes he creates tend to panel the body or to envelop it or, as in the most memorable elements of the current collection, to float in panels around it. Often Mr. Owens’s creations defy categorization, whether tunics or dresses or chaps or cloaks or, possibly, vestments.
Certainly the enormous puddling trousers, the laminated parkas, the billowing tented coats, the stark felted cloaks, the tufted sweaters he showed had an element of priestly garb, or else of monastic habits. It didn’t hurt the impression that the models, with their white-painted faces and zonked-out expressions, looked like acolytes of some obscure cult.
Credit Valerio Mezzanotti for The New York Times
If Mr. Owens signals his resistance by pursuing a unique aesthetic vision, most designers in Paris seem to fall into lock step. You can hardly fault people like Pierpaolo Piccioli at Valentino or Kim Jones at Louis Vuitton (where his collection marked the conclusion of a creatively yeasty seven-year stint) or Haider Ackermann at his own label for creating beautiful men’s wear one season after another. Fashion is a commercial undertaking, after all, not art.
Louis Vuitton: Fall 2018
CreditRegis Colin Berthelier/Nowfashion
And yet, whether it is the sleek ornamented coats at Valentino or the elevated Cabela-style camo prints at Louis Vuitton or the layered silhouettes that Mr. Ackermann renders in his signature jewel tones, you cannot accuse any of them of producing designs particularly worth remembering.