Patrick Owen F/W17: Little Stabs

by Julius Kensan
30th May 2017
From corporate culture, Sashiko, Minnie Mouse to the broken society, Patrick Owen packed a dollop of references and ideals in his first ever solo show.

Last Tuesday night, Patrick Owen held his first ever solo runway show in the cavernous restaurant-cum-bar establishment, Pallas. At the very end of the room, on a raised platform, laid photocopy machine, vintage computer and filing cabinets. Behind them, stood a floor-to-ceiling wall with the designer’s eponymous label logo emblazoned on it along with three double-front swing doors.

You won’t be blamed for thinking that the show based its inspiration from the corporate workplace. Except that it’s not entirely true. This Fall/Winter 17 collection contained loftier ideals.

Before the show, during the press conference, Patrick revealed that he was contemplating on the effects of modern life and its demands, especially in the corporate world where sexism and racism still exist. Aren’t they everywhere these days?

Patrick took classic corporate uniform, combined them with sportswear elements and gave it a new twist. To wit, the classic long sleeve striped shirt is transformed into an asymmetrical dress and bomber jacket is made with suiting fabric. A gaudy checkered jacket that came in mild puffy sleeve with tie wrapped around the neck like a scarf left a lasting impression.

Models zipped by in a fast pace as if they were late for meetings or simply just used to the break neck pace of corporate life. The speed is satisfying and the better to show details like the dangling collars and hem with slits that flapped wildly with every step.

To be sure, most of these looks are too casual even for casual Friday, especially the bright salmon pink velvet top with matching wide-legged pleated pants. But of course, corporate wearability is not the point here. As Patrick has pointed out in the press conference, he’s using it as a context to highlight the quest for restoration in a society that is broken.

And that’s why he’s using Sashiko, a Japanese form of decorative reinforcement stitching technique that is traditionally applied to strengthen or mend worn parts. Here, Patrick applied them on jackets and back of the coat with illustration by his longtime collaborator, Tatiana Romanova Surya, in which the threads were left hanging down like fringe that swayed delicately.

As if the references were not enough, the collection was also a sneak peek to a special collaboration between the label and Disney, where it takes inspiration from iconic Minnie Mouse, set to be launched in August. The most obvious Minnie Mouse treatment is certainly the yellow heels. But by doing so, Patrick is inviting an assessment.

Is Minnie Mouse really a suitable choice for a collection that is advocating for change and progress? Because as we all know, adorable as she is, Minnie is often portrayed as a damsel in distress, waiting to be saved in pretty dress. What does it say for the women of Patrick Owen then?

That’s usually the gripe when it comes to Patrick’s collections. They are often burdened with too many references or weighed down with grandiose concept. And it’s unfortunate because in the absence of those information, the collection itself is solid and, most importantly, fun to engage with.

Never mind that the office setup, which is based on 1970s looking at the year 2020 is stretching it a tad too far. Patrick could have paid more attention to his menswear instead, because they are weaker and overshadowed by the womenswear.

Of course, not knowing the background story wouldn’t have stopped one from enjoying this show. It’s fun to see that, after circling back to the stage, some models search for files in the cabinet or made a photocopy before clocking out with old-school absence machine. But when designer sets out to achieve a particular objective in mind through the collection, like Patrick did, the evaluation will ultimately be based on the execution of the idea. Unfortunately, in this case, most of them were lost in the translation.

Regardless, if Patrick’s hunger for change and progress were to be believed, then there are definitely many more brilliant collections in the future to look forward to.