“I felt like I needed some grim, determined glamour.” Rick Owens has been dwelling on decline and devastation for seasons now, and audaciously so. No one does post-apocalypse chic quite like him. But for Fall 2019, he was after something different.
It started at his men’s show last month, when he referenced Larry LeGaspi, a guy who designed costumes for LaBelle, Kiss, Grace Jones, and Divine. Up until then, LeGaspi had been more or less an invisible designer, responsible for much, but getting little, if any, credit. In January, he didn’t even have a Wikipedia page. Thanks to Owens’s work, now he does, and a book too, penned by the designer with the blessing and assistance of LeGapsi’s widow and daughter and due out from Rizzoli in August.
“It’s how I got through the ’70s—that kind of sensational flamboyance,” Owens said backstage today, wearing platform Kiss boots. LeGaspi was up to taboo-busting, gender-bending, high camp, ultra-glam stuff, and as a small-town kid from California, Owens was dazzled. Fast forward 40 odd years and he sees a similar kind of transgressiveness in the young people experimenting with prosthetics and body modification on Instagram. He hired one of them, 18-year-old Salvia (@salvjiia, NSFW, but definitely worth a look), to consult on the show makeup.
Also contributing in absentia: the much celebrated American couturier Charles James, the subject of another new book, for which Owens wrote the introduction; and Mariano Fortuny, the Spanish-born, Italy-based designer who was famous for pleats and prints. It’s the prints that factor here; Owens knows the Fortuny factory people from Venice, where he lives part time.
Now that the opening credits are taken care of, a little about the clothes, which were inventive and daring and, considering Owens’s recent preoccupations with outlandish volumes and otherworldly silhouettes, wearable in the extreme. Alien prosthetics aside. He opened with tailoring: streamlined jackets and coats with sculpted shoulders. The first model wore her blazer over layered bodysuits, the top layer traced with studs at the crotch—a reference, Owens explained, to LeGaspi’s codpieces for the band Kiss. Like the looks that followed, it was extremely leggy: sexy, but not coy. Owens can’t abide coy. (Don’t get him started on miniskirts, which are all about vulnerability and coyness, and drive him crazy.) Fabulous silver-dipped ponyhair jackets constructed with the seams exposed—shoulders almost like wings—conjured images of Kiss in their concert regalia, too.
The second half of the show was focused on evening. Thick swaths of Fortuny-printed jersey spun asymmetrically around the torso a la James, only his grand ball skirts were missing in favor of hip-slung wraps trailing floor-scraping trains. Bias-cut blood red columns were more covered-up, but no less sexy considering the gestural, figure-hugging way Owens draped them. The red dresses seemed like they could be nodding in the direction of the red gown LeGaspi’s wife Val wore to their sole appearance at the Costume Institute’s Met Gala in 1979. Fascinatingly, Owens said that James and LeGaspi shared models. “There was a crossover. Totally different worlds, but they appreciated each other.”
On the designer continuum, Owens’s legacy will be right up there alongside that of James; there will be museum retrospectives. But who can resist that subversive streak?
Photos are courtesy of Filippo Fior / Gorunway.com