What must the designer Rick Owens make of the myriad interpretations of his signature technologically pioneering and imaginative take on the leather jacket?
While it might only be expected that the high street would pick up on this brilliantly versatile garment and rethink it at budget prices, what is perhaps more surprising is that other designers now appear to be doing so too. A high street rendition of a Rick Owens jacket is a fraction of the cost of the real thing, after all – no more than around £100 as opposed to an eye-wateringly expensive £1,500 – but a quick glance at net-a-porter.com reveals not only the Owens originals but more that take elements of his handwriting and run with them. All of these, it almost goes without saying, are aimed at just the customer that Owens himself hopes to attract. And so, Phillip Lim's leather jacket is lined in rabbit. Alexander Wang's is sleeveless. Donna Karan's is belted and trimmed with wool. The list goes on.
Giving names such as these the benefit of the doubt one might conceivably argue that a leather jacket is a leather jacket and that Owens has no claim on this classic garment that, to name just one famous example, Yves Saint Laurent himself turned to for inspiration in his time. The point of Owens' treatment of an admittedly time-honoured theme is his ability to feminise it quite so beautifully, however. His jackets have the skinniest of sleeves – he achieves this by inserting a panel of rib-knit on the inside of the arms. They are often draped at the front then waisted at the back – both quintessentially womanly flourishes. They are almost invariably shrunken, fitting their wearer like a second skin. Then there's the fact that they tend to zip on the bias, are crafted in very fine and intentionally worn leather and have raw edges. Suffice it to say that one or more of these details are all present and correct in each of the aforementioned designers' pieces.
Fashion trainspotters will doubtless be quick to point out that Ann Demeulemeester has also flirted with such notions in her time: ageing, draping, asymmetry and more have all been featured in her leather jackets by now.
The good news today (for Mr Owens at least) is that his leather jackets remain the most desirable, both aesthetically and in terms of production values. This is a designer who appears to have wrapped up the market in hugely luxurious clothing that looks more relaxed and lived-in than a vintage heirloom. Why invest in a similarly-priced and debatably derivative leather jacket when his designs are quite so marvellous?