Rick Owens Takes a Deep Dive Into Mexican Culture for Spring Summer 2020
Rick Owens’ monumental Aztec glam collection, entitled Tecuatl after his maternal Mixtec grandmother, is Owens’ meditation on his Mexican cultural heritage. His minimalist, modern, collection of sharp, slablike jackets, and rustling wide leg trousers rendered in an earthy, yet glamorous color palette, doesn’t pretend to be what many people have come to expect. There are no floral embroideries, no Dia de los Muertos imagery, no colorful hand woven textiles, and definitely no sombreros. Instead Rick Owens’ abstract approach looks well past the current era to pre-Columbian times, as seen through the eyes of Bauhaus designers Josef and Anni Albers. Owens’ collection reflects a deeper arc of time, emphasizing the rich cultural heritage of ancient cultures from Mexico that have been around much longer than the current political climate and modern U.S. border. The result is a monolithic, staggering collection that looks both ancient and futuristic, portraying a truly magnificent civilization, crafted from a range of natural as well as high tech fabrications. You would expect nothing less coming from Rick Owens?
Owens architecturally cut jackets with their square shoulders in stiff fabrics are paired down to their purest form, over roomy surfer shorts and trousers that billow around the legs. His high tech platform boots also come as no surprise, particularly fun are the clear plexi-glass heels, and the “megalaced” runners, featuring a hyper-criss cross of laces resembling an ancient handweaving technique. This artisan touch also appeared on trousers and shorts, as a witty hybrid of both handcraft and bondage. The color palette was pulled directly from pure earth elements ranging from vibrant clay yellow which appears on jackets, reminiscent of the clay used in iconic Mexican pottery in its pure elemental form, bone white and glossy stone gray neutrals and plenty of black. Beetle shell iridescent coated canvas was used on jackets and trousers alike in shades of shimmering magenta and green, while snakeskin transformed a hip length black and white jacket, and an extremely luxurious cargo short.
Owens distilled his own personal narrative into the collection, too. The sequins on his gold and ivory jackets are a direct reference to the China Poblana skirts his mother wore in school pageants while growing up in Mexico. There is also a capsule collaboration with Champion, an homage to memories of his cousins he’d visit in Mexico who he remembers wearing Champion T shirts and shorts. Owens transformed the classic athletic basics into nomadic looking tunics, loincloths and briefs.
It’s admirable to see Owens pull inspiration from elements of his heritage that personally inspired him, rather than anything mainstream. The way Owens blends his personal aesthetic with elements from his heritage is a poignant illustration of how culture actually works. We blend what we know and what we like with where we’ve come from, and everyone’s perspective and offerings are a little different. Rick Owens Spring 2020 shows how rich the well of cultural heritage is, and the designer does justice to the depth and power of his Mexican roots. Hopefully, his collection will help people recognize the value in protecting our diversity and heritage in this country, which goes back much further than the European conquest and settlement or North America. To discredit and exclude the deeper history of this continent and the people of this country is an egregious disservice to our culture as a whole. Rick Owens implores our politicians to recognize that Mexican heritage is not something to wall off. The power and beauty of Mexico is something to celebrate in its own right, for being a significant part of what makes up the American people of today.