Women upside down, their bodies harnessed to other women. Blood rushing to their faces, legs waving high-heeled boots. The vision in the subterranean stone space under the Palais de Tokyo in Paris seemed apocalyptic.
What was Rick Owens doing at this spring-summer 2016 show? Was the creator of fashion as a cult with tribal participants making the participants go a step too far this season? Trained gymnasts walked slowly past, struggling in their gladiator sandals as they heaved the models around.
The clothes seemed on-message for the designer: loose or body-con sportswear, or sharp, cut-away coats, mostly in black or white, but with the occasional slash of burnt gold.
I thought of British artist Allen Jones and his sexualised furniture created from models of women's bodies; and the disembodied images of Guy Bourdin's photography. Surely there were sexual connotations to the strapping?
I was wrong. When the digital press release finally arrived (the PR’s new tool), I discovered under the name “Cyclops” that the show was about women nourishing and supporting each other: what I saw as a harness was a cradle; the straps were loving ribbons.
Rick Owens went on to explain that he wanted to leave behind his rigid, geometric lines, which might have suited this “concrete, brutalist utopia”, for the sinuous shapes of Art Nouveau.
It is hard to concentrate on fashion when fellow women are struggling and gasping for air on the runway. Rick has mesmerised me with his presentations in the past, especially when he hired American step dancers to model his spring-summer 2014 collection.
Getting inside a designer’s mind is difficult — especially when Rick fled the scene before any questions could be asked.
But I still felt there was more to know — and I found it on an Instagram post from John Maybury, who made Love is the Devil — a film about the artist Francis Bacon. The image Maybury posted of 1980s performance artist Leigh Bowery looked like this Rick Owens show to me.