Dante’s Inferno

Rick Owens SS21
By Cristian Burbano | Fashion | 5 October 2020

Rick Owens Fashion show in Venice, Ready to Wear Collection Spring Summer 2021
Photo by Valerio Mezzanotti

Rick Owens has never been shy to delve into the dark and provocative sides of fashion, so with the current state of the world in 2020 – an ongoing global pandemic, impending climate crisis and looming presidential election – who better to conduct our global address.

Like his menswear collection in July, womenswear is too titled Phlegethon. Inspired by Greek mythology, the name refers to one of the five rivers leading to the underworld and described in Dante’s Inferno as a river of blood that boils souls, punishing those who committed crimes of violence against their fellow men or, as Owens states, “not quite the centre of hell but on the way there.” Apt.

The show was live-streamed sans audience from Palazzo Del Casinò, a Rationalist-style former Casino from the 1930s located in the Venice Lido. Static and drone cameras took us through the venue – an imposing building decorated with marble mosaic and artistic glass – as models stomped, accompanied by smoke machines and a reworked Jeff Judd mix of Donna Summer’s disco banger I Feel Love, which Owens himself called “as dark and delirious as falling into a K-hole.'” The location itself is significant for Owens, its where he spends most summers. And, in true Rick Owens wit, it’s also the setting for the Death in Venice by German author Thomas Mann, in which the protagonist dies from cholera during an epidemic during the early 1900s, and the word ‘quarantine’ also originates from the area, first used during the Bubonic Plague era.

Owens leaned into current world events, with all models in masks or face coverings. His signature monochrome palette dominated, punctuated by bursts of neon primary colours. Garments were versatile and easily transformed with leather micro shorts able to be folded into belts and ‘banana’ knits that can be peeled up or down to expose or disguise. In sheer capes and structured shoulders, inner strength was embued. Sustainability was also key, with denim embellishments made from recycled plastic and fishnet tank dresses constructed from previous seasons’ leftover materials.

GALLERYCatwalk images from Rick Owens WSS21