Critical Shopper: Both Sides of a Fashion Eccentric


Concrete is a prominent feature of the new Rick Owens store in SoHo. Credit Danny Ghitis for The New York Times

JON CARAMANICA When we found out that Rick Owens was opening a new store, it seemed like the opportunity for a Critical Shopper first: tag-team shopping.

KATHERINE BERNARD A particularly fun premise because our bodies, mine and yours, probably wouldn’t be grouped together on the same side of any binary. And yet my hypothesis was that we would gravitate toward similar pieces. In fact, we share a history of attraction within the Rick Owens gene pool: long almost-dress-length T-shirts, drape-y blacks, leather jackets, drop-crotch pants.

JC Except for the pants, which connote a level of leisure I do not believe in. But yes, part of the Rick proposition is fluidity. Shopping there together seemed like an opportunity to test that premise in real life, on real bodies.

KB The most Rick of the Rick silhouettes are sacks and sleeping bags. Actually, this season he called them Body Bags. Which implies: any body.

JC And yet I find Rick almost impossibly body conscious. His silhouette is vague, but also extremely specific.

KB You can’t necessarily see it on the hanger, but everything is for … goth scarecrows.

JC And we saw a couple of those people in the store! I often see people wearing Rick out in the world, and it looks wrong. That’s because he is almost merciless about body type. The drapery doesn’t work on someone who is wide (or even broad), or short.

KB I thought you and I would co-try identical sacks and splattered jackets and emerge from the dressing rooms as twins in cashmere-melting-off-us outfits. But I was surprised that I was drawn to the pieces that were most plainly women’s wear.


Long sleeves, in jackets and sweaters, offer natural warmth in a cold setting. Credit Danny Ghitis for The New York Times

JC Do you think his approach to “women’s clothes” spoke to you specifically?

KB In the store, among so much concrete, it struck me how many amorphous long-sleeve garments I’ve put on the last few years. This is something we touched on: Rick is so copied. I know all about a buttery shirt and a long blazer/jacket hybrid that tapers around my rear like wasp wings. I’m no longer curious about those things. But the shiny Double Boner loincloth skirt that the saleswoman called “scandalous” — that I wanted to try. A knit the sales dude said reminded him of a fire-building Patagonian chef featured on the Netflix docu-series “Chef’s Table” — such a specific reference. I wanted you to put that on.

JC And so I did. There was a way that cardigan ($1,306) hung on the body — indifferent, regal, nurturing — that felt familiar in that space. But there was a naturalistic warmth to it, too, something I don’t expect from Rick.

KB Rick does not build fires in the mountains in Argentina. He has a polished marble fireplace in Los Angeles with an on/off switch.

JC It’s like he designs for my long-lost Angeleno art-gallery twin who pulls a mean espresso.

KB Has L.A. gotten cooler, or has Rick gotten less cool?

JC Yes and yes.

KB He brushed mohair until it almost inflated! Stunning.

JC That was a piece we both agreed on, the mohair bomber. It was the first moment I laughed in the store. It exuded heavy Ewok vibes, cuddly and optimistic. It looked as if I’d just stuck my finger in a socket.

KB No, less violent — touching one of those electricity-generating balls in a children’s museum. I tried it, too. Sticking arms in silk sleeves feels so creamy.

JC It was the happiest piece, that’s for sure. Actually, his whole Paris show last week felt like a move toward the jubilant for a guy who probably throws darts at a Jeremy Scott cutout to chill out.


Part of the Rick Owens proposition is fluidity. Credit Danny Ghitis for The New York Times

KB The saleswoman helping us handed me that undulating knit and shearling gray dress and said, “All the weight is in the bottom of this, so when you put it on, you might tip.” That was hilarious. Even funnier: It cost $6,992. But I put it on, and it looked so beautiful. Like someone took the blankets and shearling out of an Icelandic grandmother’s bedside chest and sewed them into an embracing sculpture.

JC Yes, you looked extremely swaddled. Like, peak swaddling. Tilda Swinton swaddling. It created a framework in a way that his pieces don’t always.

KB Speaking of Tilda, I think I simply have the right haircut. Those clothes beg to have a conversation about line, any line, and my hair right now has really good, sharp lines.

JC True. You could never grow it out.

KB I think Rick is trying to tell us some secrets about himself. He’s the author who shrugs when you ask “Fiction or memoir?”

JC That’s just another boring binary for him. The one that jumped out at me in the store was “modern or primitive”? The piece I connected to most strongly was the sleeveless shearling draped sheath, the one that looked primed for the primordial hunt ($6,072!). It was violence, it was utility, it was luxury. It’s hard to overstate how absurd the look was, and yet, as with your multi-shearling dress, it had an ineluctable logic to it.

KB While you tried that, I put on a black velvet “body bag” — sleeveless velvet overalls with wafty cargo pockets that I could also fit inside. The piece was so, so long. I trailed feet of velvet on the floor behind me when I walked. I don’t think Rick is political whatsoever, so the name of the garment may point to the body as a bag. A sack of organs. Which he suggests I spend $2,392 to cover.

JC Those overalls, which came in at least three different fabrics, seemed like one of the few concessions to modern trends. It was like a joke about Vetements, taking those hard, big clothes and making them silky and liquid, but it felt like an off note to me. One of Rick’s things is reliability. Season to season, the silhouette is roughly the same; the narrative doesn’t move much. That felt like the outside world creeping in.

KB Maybe the outside inside will actually create an interesting dialogue. Rick has been so singular. Yet contrasts are really the thrust of the label: Paris and Los Angeles, long and cropped, modern and primal, foam and stone.

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