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Rick Owens and his vision

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Rick Owens and his vision

Post by xyz on Mon Jan 21, 2013 1:21 am

I personally love the work of Rick Owens and it took a while to understand his vision.

He is doing Womenswear, Menswear, Furniture and other weird and fetish things.
His major trademarks are leather, fur, and some kind of neo-gothic/modernist/futuristic almost animated looks and styles. Dominant colour BLACK and ALL SHADES OF GREY.

Submit your opinions regarding his work in this Thread.

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Re: Rick Owens and his vision

Post by xyz on Tue Apr 02, 2013 11:39 am

SOURCE: 1972projects

DANCER - Rick Owens and Fred Astaire

Rick Owens, Winter 2012 | Kevin Tachman

“I dressed him until he was thirteen or fourteen … I always dressed him like a little gentleman.”
Connie Owens, The New Yorker, 2008


When Rick Owens showed his Mountain menswear collection back in January, the biggest surprise wasn’t (or shouldn’t have been) how wistful it felt, with its’ old-school formality and its’ nearly-straightforward pairings of high-waisted black trousers and twisted pale-blue shirts; it was the fact that you could be so utterly surprised by the simple, suddenly-explicit presence of the very things he’d always been so openly, expansively passionate about. Reading back through a decade and a half’s worth of interviews, there’s a consistent empathy for the swooning elegance and loaded glamour of the Thirties and Forties. But things spoken about or just remembered are very different from things seen. And for all his references to Adrian of Hollywood or Charles James, nostalgia never seemed likely to be Owens’ trigger spot. Till now.

That’s largely because the Owens we see is so completely a creature of the millennial dark side; an L.A. nightcrawler whose distorted, distended shrugs and battered biker jackets always seemed like premonitions of some future dystopia, not ghosts from a submerged past. And the stranger, and more aloof, and more viscerally alien those forms became, the further from any sense of tangible reference they felt; instead, things that might once have been clothes but that had somehow morphed into an altogether more fluid combination of fabric and volume, skeleton and skin. And the ghosts, when glimpsed, always seemed so wildly otherworldly, from a time so remote that the garments embodied nothing other than impersonal magnificence - a vision free of the jarring familiarity of the recent or the still-remembered.


“I grew up in Porterville, California, one among a multitude of towns, including one perched high up in the mountains. The students who lived there came down in a bus. It took two hours in winter, because of the snow, and some days they were stuck up there in the clouds. It was all very glamorous. They were all athletic, tall and good-looking, always tan from skiing. There seemed to be something special and exotic about them. As if they belonged to a different species.”
Rick Owens, Fashion Magazine, 2008

Today, the town of Porterville - a big town/small city deep inland from Los Angeles - seems to trundle along largely unaware of Rick Owens’ existence (although he lived there from the time he was three in 1964, until he departed for college.) On the local museum’s website, his name sits right at the bottom of the Hall of Fame list, below baseball players, racing drivers and bit-part actors. (He’s not the only misfit the town can call its’ own, though: Margaret Hamilton, the green-faced Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz, makes the line-up too.) For the most part, though, he’s been forgotten.


But Owens hasn’t forgotten Porterville. It keeps on seeping through the cracks in his epic reinvention. Long before the invincible millennial muscleman came into existence, there was an only child, who grew up in an old presbytery, without access to a television, and surrounded instead by classical music and Victorian books. He hated his time at Catholic school - and yet he can’t escape the strange, austere beauty of nuns’ robes, even today. And his disciplined, rigidly authoritarian father - to this day a vocal conservative, who campaigns against gay rights when not attending his bisexual son’s fashion shows - dominated his world; the voice of compelling, unsparing restriction.


’ “Few in Porterville even know the name Rick Owens. However in Paris his name lights up every kiosk selling fashion magazines. Big posters announce his upcoming shows, and he will soon have his name on shoes, bags and perfume as well as his elegant clothing,” says Bethany Phillips, an Owens family friend. According to Rick’s mother, this may be an exaggeration, but Rick Owens, 42, has definitely made it big.’
‘Porterville’s Owens making a name for himself in Paris’, The Porterville Recorder, 2003

“Rick the kid was a soft sissy.”
Rick Owens, Vice, 2009

Emerging from that, the ultimate revenge may perhaps be that of becoming the most provocatively outsiderish outsider you can possibly be. Even today, Owens uses the word ‘freak’ as a compliment. He abandoned Porterville for a new life and a new start, dropping out of his art degree course in Los Angeles and disappearing into the city’s frantic alternative scene. And somewhere over the next two decades the Owens we now know emerged; a jaded, damaged hedonist, stripping away skins in a process that feels almost like purification.
And the intrigue of his work has lain in seeing that process evolve from those first battered coffins and machine-washed leathers, as Owens carves and elides the most unpromising materials and shapes into something with a resonance far greater than that of his own private back story.


“I used to love going dancing and doing like a little line of coke and some martinis and dancing all night”
Rick Owens, frockwriter.com, 2007

“I just dance.”
Fred Astaire, Steps in Time, 1958

It’s always interesting to see how Owens is relentlessly labelled an ‘American’ designer. He is just that, of course - but the word stands for corn-fed, centre-weighted normality, not the introvert angst of the marginal and the marginalised. And though he has reshaped himself into the man he yearned to be in high school, with the Joe Dallesandro hair and the sculpted body, everything else - the lost years of drugs and sex clubs, the grey-shaded marriage to Michéle Lamy, and above all the clothes which distort and defeat any attempt at fitting in - have all marked him out as high priest of a global cult of alienation. People wear Owens’ clothing as a badge of honour, flaunting their dispossessed, unaffiliated, at-odds-with-the-world aesthetic. And I imagine they’re unlikely to be thrilled by the betrayal of a collection - like this one - whose inspiration is someone as sentimentally old-hat as Astaire.

Of course, Fred Astaire wasn’t normal either. He wasn’t even Fred Astaire, for starters - he was Frederick Austerlitz Jr, an immigrant Nebraska tot dragged into vaudeville to accompany his talented older sister. Yet despite being so self-evidently different, nor being any of the things ‘American’ should have meant - not ruggedly masculine like John Wayne, or irrefutably, forcefully handsome like Gable or Gary Cooper - he became of cinema’s most unshakeable romantic icons.


‘Mr. Astaire’s secret is that of the late Rudolph Valentino … sex, but sex so bejewelled and be-pixied that the weaker vessels who fall for it can pretend it isn’t sex at all … everyone in the place was urgent to take to her bosom this waif with the sad eyes and the twinkling feet.’
James Agate on Fred Astaire, The Sunday Times, 1933

“I’m kinda doing the opposite of sex in a way.”
Rick Owens, Dazed Digital, 2012

And of course Astaire, like Owens, was a master of re-proportioning. His suits were re-tooled with higher armholes to maximise movement, and shortened trousers to draw attention to those dangerously effeminate ankles and dancing feet. And he ordered the most fastidiously tailored garments, only to break them down by battering them repeatedly against walls. Off-screen he might have been closer in his ideals to Owens’ conservative father - but despite that he embodied a subversively alternative version of American masculinity. The same might be said for Owens; ultimately, his achievement may be less in the art form he’s devoted himself to than in the self he’s so spectacularly choreographed.

A decade after he left Los Angeles, Sunset Boulevard - his hunting ground during those lost years - still slices across the city’s rim, winding out of the eastern badlands into Hollywood’s shabby haze. Halfway along the Strip, the pavement outside the Viper Room remains a shrine to River Phoenix, whilst further along, in the safe, high-hedged serenity of Beverly Hills, the ghost of Norma Desmond lingers. Grunge and glamour, destruction and immortality: aspects of an unalterably specific American-ness that Rick Owens seems finally to be coming to terms with.

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Re: Rick Owens and his vision

Post by xyz on Sun May 19, 2013 10:09 pm

Some Rick's golden quotes:

1. I’m not good at subtlety. If you’re not going to be discreet and quiet, then just go all the way and have the balls to shave off your eyebrows, bleach your hair, and put on some big bracelets.

2. Working out is modern couture. No outfit is going to make you look or feel as good as having a fit body. Buy less clothing and go to the gym instead.

3. I’ve lived in Paris for six years, and I’m sorry to say that the Ugly American syndrome still exists. Sometimes you just want to say “Stop destroying the landscape with your outfit.” Still, from a design standpoint, I’m tempted to redo the fanny pack. I look at it as a challenge—it’s something to react against.

4. When a suit gets middle-of-the-road it kind of loses me—it has to be sharp and classic and almost forties.

5. Hair and shoes say it all. Everything in between is forgivable as long as you keep it simple. Trying to talk with your clothes is passive-aggressive.

6. There’s something a little too chatterboxy about color. Right now I want black, for its sharpness and punctuation.

7. Jean-Michel Frank, the thirties interior and furniture designer, supposedly had 40 identical double-breasted gray flannel suits. He knew himself and is a wonderful example of restraint and extravagance.

8. I hate rings and bracelets on men. I’m not a fan of man bags, or girl bags either—or even sunglasses. I don’t like fussy accessories. Isn’t it more chic to be free? Every jacket I make has interior pockets big enough to store a book and a sandwich and a passport.

9. With layering, sometimes the more the better. When you layer a lot of black you’re like a walking Louise Nevelson sculpture, and that’s pretty attractive. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable is also one of the most attractive things you can do.

10. It’s funny—whenever someone talks about rules, I just want to break them. I recoil from the whole idea of rules.

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Re: Rick Owens and his vision

Post by xyz on Sun Jul 28, 2013 7:01 am

The New York Times 
July 17, 2013
Rick Owens Opens a SoHo Pop-Up
By ERIC WILSON





THE NEW RICK OWENS store, which opened on Tuesday at 70-72 Wooster Street in SoHo, is called DRKSHDW, or Dark Shadow, minus the vowels. It is written, counterintuitively, in bright neon lights hanging vertically just above the entrance. The only shadows here are the clothes, the loose-collared, inky black denim jackets and elongated sleeveless shirts in various shades of charcoal that suggest, as Mr. Owens said, “workers’ uniforms from an Art Deco prison.” 

“I like reducing things to what’s essential,” Mr. Owens said. “I like erasing the unnecessary, doing things shorthand and getting to the point.” 

Wh nds vwls, nywy? 

It is for this reason that the casual shopper who is even slightly familiar with the darkly cool aesthetic of Mr. Owens will have no trouble recognizing the store as one of his, even though his name is not present, not even on many of the clothing labels. (The ultrahigh high-tops, priced from $750 to $850, show an image of Mr. Owens; a long off-white knit tank, $248, just has a couple of parallel bars where the label should be.) 

While his recent signature collections in Paris have been critical hits that combine daring fashion with technical wizardry, Mr. Owens said that DRKSHDW, a diffusion line, has developed its own character, “and dare I say, a fan base.” It was introduced several years ago when his company began to expand and more retailers wanted to carry pieces from the collection (not that Mr. Owens thinks of himself as being an empire builder). 

“It’s not like we’re Armani or something,” he said. 

The store, a temporary outpost that will be open through Oct. 26, is an experiment to introduce his designs to another neighborhood in New York, on a more trafficked street (near Spring Street) than the site of his store at 250 Hudson Street. Another one will open in London on Sept. 4. 

“I’m more into fun now,” Mr. Owens said. “I feel a little more confident or comfortable, but definitely not complacent. I feel like I can afford to be a little more playful now.” 

At the Wooster Street location, little was changed from the raw and spare space that was already there, besides adding slabs of fluorescent lights and a long black plywood and marble bench (a Rick Owens design) in the center of the store, which is framed by racks of women’s and men’s clothing. There are several styles of jeans (around $420) and a nylon navy flight jacket for $1,425. A women’s denim jacket, with Mr. Owens’s distinctive asymmetric zippers and drainpipe leather sleeves, is $1,188. 

It’s probably worth noting that some people, encountering a salesman wearing an elongated tank top over double-layered shorts, might mistake the store for a showroom of straitjackets. But with Mr. Owens, either you get it or you don’t. 

“I’m very pragmatic when it comes to clothes,” he said. “Even when I’m doing the women’s runway, which should be the most outré, I’m thinking about what people wear in summer. They want tank tops and shorts. Underneath it all, it’s essentially halter tops, tube tops and shorts. I’m just trying to blend it all together.”

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Re: Rick Owens and his vision

Post by xyz on Sun Aug 11, 2013 8:38 am

SOURCE: GQ

ON JUNE 27, 2013 AT 1:13 PM
"Style Isn't Everything": A Conversation With Rick Owens
BY MICHAEL HAINEY



GQ: Why aren't you home working?
Rick Owens: I'm done. [laughs]

GQ: You're actually one of the few guys who manages to get it all done ahead of time, right?
RO: You know, I'm 50. After ten years of doing this, you've got to have your shit together a little bit. And, I mean, I'm not saying it's perfect, but I've done the best I can, and now I have to let it go.

GQ: When you get dressed in the morning, do you have a vision of what you're going to wear that day?
RO: Yeah, I do. Because I have twenty of the same thing, I wear the same outfit every single day. I can't imagine having to choose clothes in the morning. It would drive me crazy. I mean, I found one thing I like and then I probably have twenty of it. I change it a little bit every year, maybe, but it's basically the same thing. It's been the same thing for a long time. You know, if it's good enough for Mr. [Azzedine] Alaïa, it's good enough for me.

GQ: Is there a sentimental piece of clothing in your home, something from when you were a young boy?
RO: There's a monkey coat, a monkey fur coat that I used to wear in my younger days that my wife Michele [Lamy] wears now, that I like to see. That's about the only thing that's sentimental that I've had for a long, long time. It's a beautiful monkey fur coat with kind of big shoulders. I'm not really as flamboyant as I used to be, so I don't, I don't wear…

GQ: In high school, did you have a killer piece of clothing you had then?
RO: High school…you know, that was a long time ago, and I don't really remember it fondly, so I probably didn't. I remember liking not wearing shoes for a long time.

GQ: Really?
RO: Yeah, I remember that the coolest thing was never to wear shoes anywhere.

GQ: So were you like Spicoli at that point?
RO: Well, not as good-looking, I don't think, but I'd like to have been. I think I was aiming for that.

GQ: What inspires you most?
RO: Architecture.

GQ: Anything specifically these days?
RO: It's not contemporary. I mean, I like vintage things because I like seeing a body of work. There are people that like contemporary art and people that like old art, and I like old art. Contemporary art I enjoy looking at, but I can't really invest emotionally in something that I don't feel is a finished story, and when people get excited about modern art I feel like there's an element of gambling and status involved. I like seeing something done. The old spectrum of somebody's body of work, I love that.

I like art from the thirties a lot. The thirties and twenties. I mean, if I'm talking about architecture, I like Robert Mallet-Stevens. I like—who's that one who just died, the one who just died who did—no, Le Corbusier did Brasilia, right?

GQ: No, that was the guy who's 101 who just died. And he did the Brasilia thing.
RO: And he lived in Rio de Janeiro. Why can't we remember?

GQ: Why can't we? Because we're both 50 years old; we get old [laughs].
RO: This is what happens. [Ed Note: Oscar Niemeyer is the architect in question.]

GQ: If you had to pick a song that defines you, do you have one?
RO: Wagner. It would be Schmerzen, one of the Wesendonck Lieder from Wagner, and that's what I played in my last women's show. I finally used it in a show. And that's been an important song to me since I was young. So that's the song that would define me.

GQ: How did it become important to you?
RO: When I was young, it swept me away and it made me think about something bigger than where I was.

GQ: What would you tell a man is the key to finding or discovering his personal style?
RO: I have no idea. Maybe it's not that important. Maybe personal style really isn't that important. If it's not a priority for you and you haven't found it already, then go think about something else. Style isn't everything.

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Re: Rick Owens and his vision

Post by xyz on Sun Aug 11, 2013 8:59 am

SOURCE
 
Fabulosity: Interview with Designer Rick Owens
Written by Corbin Chamberlin

Rick Owens, a designer that prances on the edge of fashion with a fondness for all things dark, mysterious and indefinably glamorous. The self-professed “outsider” studied fine arts at Otis College of Art and Design before dropping out after taking a pattern-making class that would pioneer his interest in fashion and forever change the perception of Rick Owens.



Launching his own label in 1994, Owens sold exclusively to Charles Gallay and then in 2001, he began production in Italy for worldwide distribution. It wasn't until Kate Moss sported one of his distressed leather jackets in Vogue Paris that the L.A based designer was noticed by the masses. The extreme silhouettes of his leather jackets, zigzagging zippers and unconventional cuts of his garments would land him a CFDA, Perry Ellis Emerging Talent Award in 2002.

His wife since 2003, Michele Lamy (then owner of the Les Deux Cafe in Los Angeles) and Rick transferred to Paris. Rick Owens futuristic and sometimes eerie aesthetic has made him a one-of-a kind winner in today's fashion market with an almost religious observance from his fans. At first glance, Owens' clothing look gothic and perhaps conceivably unapproachable, but with a second look and examination you identify that the garments are soaked with refined elegance.

In these thin economical times, how do you inspire people to buy your clothing? 
We don’t really have a strategy. I suspect that my aesthetic is so narrow and specific that it only appeals to a niche group that does what they have to do to sleek it out. I’m surprised as you are that we’ve made it this far.

What effects/inspires your design atheistic most? 
I imagine that the languid elegance of the 1930’s must, as quite a revolution to the period before that, in all fields of design. That ideas of a release of breath after a cluttered stuffiness appeals to me tremendously. Simply, rational, graceful lines. I look at architecture a lot too. Carlo Scarpa, Luigi Morreti, Claude Parent, Le Corbusier being among my favorites.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced professionally in your career? 
Communication and exposure. When I started in L.A., I had a pretty insulated little story going. When I decided to start manufacturing in Italy,  I had to communicate with a lot of people all of the time, in broken english and follow a whole new schedule and then expressing what I wanted to on a runway was tricky too. But it all worked out pretty well and I’m having a blast now.

When designing a collection, what is your creative process?
It’s a rolling along process. I’m always writing lists and notes of ideas to myself and when its tome to launch collections I just edit and collect my notes and see what comes out. I’m always working on three or four collections simultaneously, so I just kind of weave back and forth all the time.

Where and when did you meet your wife Michele Lamy?
I worked for her design company in L.A for two years before I could understand a word she said (heavy french accent) and then we connected and have been together over 20 years. After running her fantastic restaurant, Les Deux Cafe, she just dropped it so we could move to Paris. Eventually she fell in love with working with the fur artisans and marble and bronze ateliers who produce our furs and furniture and decided to concentrate on that. The fur and furniture wouldn’t be happening without her loving cultivation.

Do you have any plans for another furniture collection? 
The furniture has taken on a life of its own. The furniture is represented by Jousse Gallery in Paris and we continuously introduce new pieces. I have an atelier in Poland manufacturing it. I have a Paris show, a New York show and a L.A. show scheduled for the coming year.

When did you realize that you had arrived, the highlight of your career? 
Well, having a profile in The New Yorker was something I would never would have dreamed of.

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HAARETZ NEWSPAPER – FEBRUARY 2009 – MASTER OF DISASTER – BY EUGENE RABKIN

Post by xyz on Thu May 01, 2014 8:27 pm

SOURCE: RICK OWENS

HAARETZ NEWSPAPER – FEBRUARY 2009 – MASTER OF DISASTER – BY EUGENE RABKIN

RICK OWENS, AN AMERICAN DESIGNER WHO LIVES AND WORKS IN PARIS, IS THE LAST PERSON TO TELL YOU THAT HE IS A REBEL. DRAPED IN A BLACK CASHMERE SHAWL, WHICH COULD BE A FLAG OF HIS MULTIMILLION DOLLAR FASHION LABEL THAT PRODUCES AGGRESSIVE CLOTHING WITH ELEMENTS OF GOTH AND PUNK, OWENS IS SITTING AT ONE OF THE TABLES IN HIS SHOWROOM-CUM-STUDIO-CUM-APARTMENT ON PLACE DU PALAIS BOURBON IN PARIS. IT IS THE MORNING AFTER HIS FALL/WINTER 2009 MENSWEAR RUNWAY SHOW, HIS FIRST IN A COUPLE OF YEARS. IT WAS AN INSTANT HIT. THE RAVE REVIEWS ARE ALREADY PUBLISHED BY THE FASHION PRESS, AND THE FIRST-FLOOR SHOWROOM IS SWARMED WITH STORE BUYERS FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD. THE ROOM IS LONG AND NARROW, LINED WITH RACKS OF OWENS’S SIGNATURE SLIM LEATHER JACKETS, ASYMMETRIC TAILORED COATS, AND FEATHERWEIGHT RAYON T-SHIRTS. HIS CHUNKY BLACK BOOTS (INCLUDING A MEN’S PAIR FEATURING A FIVE-INCH HEEL), OVERSIZED SNEAKERS AND HUGE LEATHER BAGS ARE DISPLAYED IN THE ADJACENT ROOM. THE MAIN ROOM HAS A BACK GLASS WALL WITH A DOOR THAT OPENS ONTO A COURTYARD. TWO STUFFED MONKEYS ON A STAND (OWENS IS FASCINATED WITH MONKEYS) ARE THE ROOM’S ONLY DECORATION. BLACK-CLAD ASSISTANTS RUSH AROUND FILLING ORDERS. TALL, SKINNY BOYS MODEL THE CLOTHES FOR THE BUYERS, PUTTING THEM ON AND RIPPING THEM OFF AT THE SPEED OF LIGHT. AND THE PHONE RINGS OFF THE HOOK. OWENS IS SIPPING COFFEE AND BUTTERING HIS RAISIN TOAST, NONPLUSSED THE HUBBUB. HIS TANNED FACE WITH EXPRESSIVE BROWN EYES AND LONG BLACK HAIR IS ABSOLUTELY CALM AND JUST A LITTLE BIT WEARY.

THOUGH THE FASHION WORLD OFTEN CLAIMS THAT IT LOVES A REBEL, IT RARELY WELCOMES ONE. OWENS IS ONE OF THE FEW EXCEPTIONS WHO HAS NOT ONLY SURVIVED IN THIS CUTTHROAT BUSINESS, BUT HAS ALSO PROSPERED. HE WAS BORN IN LOS ANGELES IN 1961. HIS FAMILY SOON MOVED TO PORTERVILLE, A SMALL TOWN HALFWAY BETWEEN L.A. AND SAN FRANCISCO. AS A TEENAGER IN HIGH SCHOOL, OWENS GOT INTO GOTH CULTURE. “WEARING BLACK WAS A WAY TO PROJECT A MORE MENACING DEMEANOR, AND TO HIDE MY INSECURITIES,” HE SAYS. STILL, THOSE YEARS HAVE LEFT A PERMANENT IMPRINT ON HIS STYLE. THERE IS NOTHING POLISHED ABOUT HIS DESIGNS. THE RAW AND TWISTED SEAMS, THE UNFINISHED HEMS, AND THE EARTHLY COLORS EMPHASIZE HIS DESIRE TO REFLECT A WORLD THAT IS IMPERFECT. THIS IS PROBABLY WHAT FIRST ATTRACTED ME TO HIS CLOTHES. THEY FIRMLY INSIST ON IMPERFECTION. THEY DEFY THE GLAMOUR FANTASY THAT THE POPULAR CULTURE, FASHION INCLUDED, TRIES TO CRAM DOWN OUR THROATS.

AFTER FINISHING HIGH SCHOOL, OWENS MOVED TO LOS ANGELES TO STUDY ART HISTORY AT OTIS COLLEGE. HE DROPPED OUT IN HIS SECOND YEAR AND GOT A JOB AS A PATTERN MAKER IN A SPORTSWEAR COMPANY OWNED BY MICHELE LAMY, A FRENCH EXPATRIATE WHO FOR MANY YEARS LIVED IN LOS ANGELES. OWENS AND LAMY SOON STARTED AN AFFAIR. AT THE TIME LAMY HAD A HUSBAND AND OWENS, WHO IS BISEXUAL, HAD A BOYFRIEND. AFTER A WHILE, THEY SPLIT UP FROM THEIR SIGNIFICANT OTHERS AND MOVED IN TOGETHER. LAMY CLOSED HER SPORTSWEAR BUSINESS AND OPENED A RESTAURANT, AND OWENS STARTED MAKING CLOTHES.

LAMY DESCENDED THE STAIRS AND OWENS INTRODUCED US. SHE MAKES QUITE AN IMPRESSION, ESPECIALLY IF YOU HAVE NEVER SEEN HER BEFORE. IN HER SIXTIES, SHE IS PETITE AND FIERCE. HER PIERCING BLUE EYES, DEEPLY SET IN HER DARK FACE, ARE INQUISITIVE AND GLOW WITH ENERGY. SHE WAS DRESSED IN AN ALLIGATOR VEST, WITH A FUR VEST ON TOP OF IT, GREY-AND-BLACK TIGHTS WITH A RECTANGLE PATTERN, AND OVER-THE-KNEE BOOTS. A HUGE OXIDIZED SILVER NECKLACE RESEMBLING A CROSS HUNG ON HER NECK. SHE LOOKED LIKE A VIKING QUEEN MAGICALLY TRANSPORTED INTO THE 21ST CENTURY. I WISHED SHE'D CARRIED A SWORD. “YOU KNOW, THE FIRST TWO YEARS WE LIVED TOGETHER, I COULDN’T UNDERSTAND A WORD SHE WAS SAYING,” SAYS OWENS, “AND NOT BECAUSE OF THE FRENCH ACCENT, BUT BECAUSE SHE IS A VERY INSTINCTUAL PERSON. SHE DOESN’T FINISH SENTENCES. SHE HAS NO REGARD FOR PUNCTUATION. SHE TALKS WITH HER HANDS. AND IT’S ALL VERY VAGUE, WHEREAS I AM REALLY A VERY PRAGMATIC PERSON. BUT THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT I NEED. WE’VE BEEN TOGETHER FOR NINETEEN YEARS.”

THEIR LIFE TOGETHER IN LOS ANGELES WAS INFUSED WITH DRUGS AND ALCOHOL, BUT TODAY BOTH ARE COMPLETELY SOBER. OWENS WORKS OUT AT A LOCAL GYM ALMOST EVERY DAY, EVEN WHILE VISITING HIS FACTORY IN ITALY. “I WORK OUT AND THEN I COME HOME AND TAKE A LITTLE NAP. I NEED THIS TIME TO MYSELF. OTHERWISE I GET OVERSATURATED. WHEN I USED TO LIVE IN LOS ANGELES I HAD A PERSONAL TRAINER AND WOULD TAKE STEROIDS. I LOVE STEROIDS. THEY GET YOU TO A HIGHER LEVEL WHEN YOU WORK OUT. OF COURSE I GOT TOO PUFFY, BUT THEY HELPED ME TO BUILD UP THE MUSCLE, AND ONCE I LOST ALL THAT TOP WEIGHT, I WAS IN GOOD SHAPE.” OWENS’S BODY IS NOW SLIM AND MUSCULAR, AND HE DOES NOT MIND DISPLAYING IT. HIS STORE IN PALAIS ROYAL FEATURES A NUDE WAX STATUE OF HIM THAT OWENS COMMISSIONED FROM THE ARTISANS AT MADAME TUSSAUDS. THIS STATUE WAS FIRST DISPLAYED IN 2006 AT PITTI UOMO, AN ITALIAN MENSWEAR FASHION FAIR. IT WAS SUSPENDED IN THE AIR, THE HANDS HOLDING ITS PENIS, OUT OF WHICH A CONSTANT STREAM OF FAKE URINE POURED ONTO SHATTERED GLASS. IN THE STORE, THE STATUE’S LOWER PART IS COVERED IN A BLACK BLANKET. “ONCE, RICK WAS IN THE STORE ADJUSTING THE BLANKET ON THE STATUE, AND SOME PEOPLE CAME INTO THE STORE AND WERE STARING AT ONE RICK FIDDLING WITH ANOTHER RICK’S GROIN,” RECALLED BARBARA AYME JOUVE, THE STORE MANAGER. “AND I SAID, ‘RICK, THERE ARE PEOPLE STARING AT YOU,’ AND HE TURNS AROUND, SMILES, AND DROPS THE BLANKET.” OWENS’S FASCINATION WITH THE DOUBLE IS APPARENT ELSEWHERE: IN A BOOK OF HIS PHOTOGRAPHS, “L'AI-JE BIEN DESCENDU?” THERE IS A PICTURE OF OWENS URINATING INTO HIS DOPPELGANGER’S MOUTH.

FOR A WHILE OWENS AND LAMY LIVED IN AN APARTMENT OFF OF HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD. LAMY SPENT MOST OF HER TIME AT THE RESTAURANT AND OWENS CONCENTRATED ON HIS DESIGNS. HE AVOIDED THE FASHION WORLD LIKE A PLAGUE. “RIGHT FROM THE BEGINNING I STEERED CLEAR OF THE EDITORS, PR COMPANIES AND STYLISTS. I WENT STRAIGHT TO THE STORES I THOUGHT HIGHLY OF, THE ONES THAT ‘GOT’ FASHION. I SIMPLY SHOWED UP WITH A BAG OF CLOTHES AT THEIR DOOR AND I WOULDN’T LEAVE UNTIL I MET WITH THE OWNER.” SUCH PERSEVERANCE PAID OFF. OWENS FIRST GOT HIS CLOTHES INTO CHARLES GALLAY IN LOS ANGELES, AND THEN CUT AN EXCLUSIVE DEAL WITH MAXFIELD AFTER CHARLES GALLAY CLOSED. NEXT, OWENS WENT TO ALAN BILZERIAN, IN BOSTON. BY GOING DIRECTLY TO THE STORES, OWENS LET HIS CLOTHES SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES, AND PEOPLE RESPONDED TO HIS LANGUAGE OF DESTROYED LUXURY. HIS TALENT FOR COMBINING ELEGANCE WITH GRIT MANIFESTED IN WASHED SHRUNKEN LEATHER JACKETS WITH SUPER-SLIM ARMS AND CASHMERE T-SHIRTS WHOSE SEAMS WERE IRREVERENTLY SHREDDED. OWENS PRESENTED BEAUTY OF ANOTHER SORT, WITHOUT THE FATUOUS GLITTER. THIS WAS IN THE LATE NINETIES. BY THE END OF THE DECADE, THE AUDIENCE SLOWLY BEGAN TO RESPOND AND OWENS’S NAME STARTED TO MAKE ITS ROUNDS IN THE FASHION CIRCLES, FINALLY REACHING ANNA WINTOUR, THE EDITOR OF AMERICAN VOGUE. WINTOUR GAVE OWENS PROMINENT COVERAGE IN THE MAGAZINE, WHICH ALSO SPONSORED HIS FIRST RUNWAY SHOW IN 2002, SEVEN YEARS AFTER HE STARTED SELLING CLOTHES IN STORES. IN THE SAME YEAR, WITH WINTOUR’S INFLUENCE, OWENS RECEIVED AN AWARD FROM THE COUNCIL OF FASHION DESIGNERS OF AMERICA (CFDA). SOON THEREAFTER, AN OLD FRENCH FUR HOUSE, REVILLON, TAPPED OWENS TO BE ITS CREATIVE DIRECTOR. AROUND THE SAME TIME OWENS DEVELOPED A FINANCIAL RELATIONSHIP WITH LUCA RUGGERI, WHOSE INVESTMENT FIRM PARTNERED WITH YOUNG DESIGNERS. FROM THE START, RUGGERI HAD FULL CONFIDENCE IN OWENS. “I FIRST SAW RICK’S WORK AT MARIA LUISA [A PARISIAN BOUTIQUE],” SAYS RUGGERI, “AND I WAS IMMEDIATELY INTRIGUED. I HAVE NEVER SEEN SUCH UNCONVENTIONAL CLOTHES ANYWHERE. I ASKED THE OWNER WHO THE DESIGNER WAS, BECAUSE I NEVER HEARD OF HIM. NEXT TIME I WAS IN LOS ANGELES, I LOOKED RICK UP. WE HAD A MEETING AND WE HIT IT OFF.” RUGGERI INVESTED IN OWENS, AND FOUND AN ITALIAN MANUFACTURER FOR HIM, OLMAR AND MIRTA. “IT IS A REAL MOM-AND-POP OPERATION,” OWENS SAYS, “AND IT’S IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE. THEY’VE NEVER SEEN ANYTHING LIKE MY DESIGNS, AND IT WAS HARD TO MAKE THEM UNDERSTAND WHAT I WANTED TO DO. I LIVED SIX MONTHS OUT OF A YEAR IN THE FACTORY, BECAUSE THE TOWN DIDN’T HAVE A HOTEL. THEY WERE REALLY NICE TO ME. THOUGH. THEY GAVE ME A ROOM WITH A COUCH, WHICH ALSO DOUBLED AS MY OFFICE, AND BUILT A SHOWER FOR ME.” AROUND THE SAME TIME OWENS WAS HIRED AS A CREATIVE DIRECTOR FOR REVILLON, AN OLD FRENCH FUR COMPANY. FINALLY, SHUTTLING BETWEEN LOS ANGELES AND EUROPE BECAME UNBEARABLE, AND IN 2003 OWENS AND LAMY MOVED TO PARIS.

TODAY OWENS FEELS AT HOME IN THE CITY OF LIGHT. “FROM MY PLACE I WALK THROUGH THE TUILERIES GARDENS TO PALAIS ROYAL [HIS BOUTIQUE NEAR THE LOUVRE], AND TO MY GYM. TO SAY THAT IT’S MY NEIGHBORHOOD IS AMAZING. IT JUST BLOWS ME AWAY. WHEN WE FIRST MOVED AND WE WOULD DRIVE THROUGH PLACE DE LA CONCORDE ON THE WAY HOME, I WOULD THINK, ‘THAT’S INCREDIBLE. THAT’S WHAT MY LIFE IS LIKE NOW.’ AND TO TELL YOU THE TRUTH, NOW EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE I FORGET TO NOTICE ALL THIS SPLENDOR AND I GET MAD AT MYSELF.” DESPITE THE MOVE, OWENS STILL KEEPS TIES WITH HIS PARENTS IN PORTERVILLE. “I BRING THEM TO PARIS TWICE A YEAR FOR MY WOMEN’S SHOWS. FIRST IT WAS A HUGE DEAL FOR MY PARENTS TO COME HERE, BECAUSE THEY ARE FROM A SMALL TOWN AND THEY NEVER TRAVELED, BUT NOW THEY ARE BORED WITH PARIS. I LIKE BRINGING THEM HERE BECAUSE THEY ARE STILL PROTECTIVE OF ME, AND I LIKE TO FEEL THAT. OF COURSE THEY CAN BE OVERPOWERING, ESPECIALLY MY DAD. HE USED TO BE A REAL FUNDAMENTALIST. HE'S MELLOWED OUT NOW, BUT HE STILL WILL SAY SOMETHING HILARIOUS, LIKE, ‘DON’T YOU KNOW ANY HETEROSEXUALS?’ I THINK THAT MY SUCCESS HAS FORCED HIM TO COME TO TERMS WITH MY WAY OF LIFE. MONEY CHANGES EVERYTHING. I STILL TEASE HIM SOMETIMES. HE’LL INTRODUCE ME TO SOMEONE AND SAY, ‘THIS IS MY SON. HE IS A BUSINESSMAN IN FASHION,’ AND I’LL SAY, ‘I DON’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT BUSINESS. I’M JUST A BIG SISSY MAKING DRESSES.’”

THE FRENCH HAVE A NOTORIOUSLY AMBIVALENT RELATIONSHIP WITH AMERICAN CULTURE, AND OWENS WAS UNSURE OF THE RECEPTION HE WOULD GET DESIGNING FOR REVILLON. “AN AMERICAN DESIGNING FOR A VENERABLE OLD FRENCH HOUSE IS NOT EXACTLY THE KIND OF THING THAT BOWLS THEM OVER, BUT I DID NOT CARE. I DON’T BELIEVE IN REVITALIZATION OF OLD FASHION HOUSES. IT’S A PUSSY THING TO DO, JUST FOR THE PAYCHECK. IT’S SO MUCH MORE HARDCORE TO DO YOUR OWN THING. SO, I DID NOT FEEL THE WEIGHT OF TRADITION OR ANYTHING LIKE THAT, AND I STARTED FROM SCRATCH. I THINK IN THE END I WON THEM OVER.” IT IS HARD TO SAY WHAT THE FRENCH LOVE IN OWENS. MAYBE IT WAS HIS GIG AT REVILLON, WHICH LASTED BRIEFLY BEFORE THAT COMPANY WENT OUT OF BUSINESS. OR MAYBE THEIR FASCINATION WITH OWENS WAS OF THE SORT OF THE COMPLACENT BOURGEOIS WATCHING A WESTERN. AND HERE WAS A DRUGSTORE COWBOY OF THEIR OWN: WEIRD, UNCONVENTIONAL AND A COMPLETE OPPOSITE OF THEM.

PERHAPS THIS ENIGMATIC IMAGE IS WHAT ALSO LURES CELEBRITIES TO HIS WORK, BECAUSE OWENS IS CURRENTLY IN THE SPOTLIGHT. THE ONLINE AND PRINT TABLOIDS ARE FULL OF IMAGES OF STARS WITH (JENNIFER ANISTON, LINDSAY LOHAN) AND WITHOUT OCCUPATIONS (THE OLSEN TWINS, VICTORIA BECKHAM) WEARING OWENS’S CLINGY TEES AND SHRUNKEN LEATHER JACKETS. NOT TO BE OUTDONE, THE MALE POP ROYALTY LIKE JOHN MAYER AND JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE HAVE MADE OWENS’S JUMBO SNEAKERS (WHICH RETAIL FOR $1400) THEIR FOOTWEAR OF CHOICE. OWENS IS AWARE THAT HIS DESIGNS ARE BECOMING TRENDY, BUT THIS DOES NOT BOTHER HIM. HE IS CONFIDENT THAT THIS GLITZY EXPOSURE WILL NOT ALIENATE HIS LONGTIME FANS. “I AM PLEASED THAT PEOPLE RESPOND TO MY WORK. IT IS VALIDATING. AND VALIDATION, AS OPRAH WINFREY SAYS, IS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS IN LIFE. I AM VERY LUCKY THAT ALL KINDS OF PEOPLE RESPOND TO MY WORK. SEEING SOMEONE IN MY CLOTHES ALWAYS MAKES ME HAPPY. I CAN’T THINK OF THE DOWNSIDE.”

II

DESPITE BEING FINANCIALLY SUCCESSFUL, OWENS GROWS HIS BUSINESS CAREFULLY. IT NOW COMPRISES THE MAIN LINE FOR MEN AND WOMEN, THE DENIM LINE DRKSHDW FOR BOTH SEXES, A LOWER-PRICED WOMEN’S LINE CALLED LILIES, A LINE OF FURS CALLED PALAIS ROYAL, AND A FURNITURE LINE THAT OWENS SELLS IN A PARIS ART GALLERY. “THE FURNITURE CAME OUT OF NOWHERE, REALLY,” SAYS OWENS. “ONCE WE GOT TO PARIS, I COULDN’T AFFORD THE FURNITURE THAT I LIKED, BECAUSE I WANTED ORIGINAL STUFF FROM LE CORBUSIER AND ROBERT MALLET-STEVENS. BESIDES, I LIKE EVERYTHING TO BE OVERSIZED AND EVERYTHING I SAW WAS SO SMALL! SO I MADE MY OWN STUFF. THEN WE DECIDED TO SHOW IT AT A GALLERY, AND IT KIND OF STUCK.”

TODAY OWENS HAS SIX ASSISTANTS: THREE IN ITALY AND THREE IN PARIS. “MANUFACTURING IN ITALY WAS NOT AN EASY TRANSITION. IN L.A. I WAS USED TO WORKING IN AN ISOLATED AND RECLUSIVE WAY. AND NOW, ALL OF A SUDDEN, I HAD TO COMMUNICATE MY IDEAS AND RESPOND TO A LOT OF PEOPLE, AND I AM NOT THAT GREGARIOUS.”

HIS DESIGNS SELL IN THREE HUNDRED STORES WORLDWIDE, AND OWENS HAS A BOUTIQUE IN PARIS AND NEW YORK. HIS THIRD STORE WILL OPEN IN LONDON IN MARCH, AND HE IS EXPLORING POTENTIAL RETAIL PARTNERSHIPS IN SOUTH KOREA AND JAPAN.

STILL, OWENS CONSIDERS HIS COMPANY SMALL, AND HE IS COMFORTABLE WITH THAT. “BECAUSE WE ARE A NICHE COMPANY, I CAN AFFORD NOT TO CHANGE FROM SEASON TO SEASON. AND THUS I CAN INSIST ON MY OWN VOICE. I HAVE AN AUDIENCE THAT I COMMUNICATE WITH, AND IT IS FAIRLY SMALL. IF I HAD TO COMMUNICATE WITH A MUCH LARGER AUDIENCE, THAT WOULD BE FAR MORE CHALLENGING. THIS WAY, I CAN GO AS FAR AS I WANT, AND I HAVE NO RESTRAINTS. IT IS A TREMENDOUSLY LUXURIOUS PLACE TO BE.” YET, OWENS IS PRAGMATIC, “OF COURSE, I AM NOT IRRESPONSIBLE. I KNOW THAT I HAVE TO SELL A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF LEATHER JACKETS IN ORDER TO BE ABLE TO PLAY WITH FUR, FOR EXAMPLE, AND I KNOW THAT I HAVE TO HAVE SEVERAL T-SHIRTS IN EVERY COLLECTION. BUT THESE ARE NOT COMPROMISES.”

ALTHOUGH HE WANTS TO EXPAND, OWENS IS WARY ABOUT GROWING HIS BUSINESS TOO MUCH AND ALIENATING HIS CORE CUSTOMERS. HE WANTS TO CREATE A PERFUME, AND HE HAS BEEN TALKING TO SEVERAL BEAUTY CONGLOMERATES. “IN ORDER TO DO THE PERFUME RIGHT WITH A BIG COMPANY, YOU HAVE TO ADVERTISE. IF I DON’T COMMIT TO ADVERTISING, THEY WON’T COMMIT TO CREATING A SCENT FOR ME. BUT I AM VERY RELUCTANT TO ADVERTISE. WHEN I SAW A FIRST YOHJI YAMAMOTO PERFUME AD, I KIND OF CRINGED, PRECISELY BECAUSE I HAVE UTTER RESPECT FOR YOHJI’S WORK. I WOULD NOT WANT THE SAME THING HAPPENING TO ME. AT THE SAME TIME, SOME OF MY CLOSEST FRIENDS ARE URGING ME TO DO A PERFUME AND ADVERTISE IT. AT FIRST I RESISTED. THEN I REALIZED THAT THEY ARE LOOKING FOR A CERTAIN ‘FASHION MOMENT.’ I REMEMBER THOSE COMME DES GARCONS PERFUME ADS WITH THE GHETTO KIDS WITH THE BRACES, OR THE FIRST MINIMALIST HELMUT LANG ADS, THESE WERE FASHION MOMENTS. I UNDERSTOOD THAT THEY DON’T WANT ADVERTISING FOR THE SAKE OF ADVERTISING; THEY WANT SOMETHING LIKE THAT. STILL, I AM NOT GOING TO ADVERTISE BECAUSE OF THE CRINGE-INDUCING SELL-OUT ELEMENT UNLESS I FIND THE RIGHT WAY TO DO IT. I THINK AT THIS POINT MY CUSTOMER LIKES ME WHERE I AM WITHOUT ANY ADVERTISING.” STILL, THE PERFUME IS ON OWENS’S AGENDA. HE WANTS TO CAPTURE HIS FASCINATION WITH LIFE AND DEATH IN A SCENT. “I THINK THE BOTTOM NOTE WOULD BE SOMETHING LIKE INCENSE, TO REFLECT DEATH,” OWENS SAYS, “AND THE TOP NOTE WOULD PROBABLY SMELL LIKE A LILY, TO REFLECT LIFE. AND MAYBE I’LL ADD SOME MENTHOL TO THAT.”

BUT FOR NOW OWENS IS CONTENT WITH HIS WORK. “I HEAR PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT ME GOING TO ‘THE NEXT LEVEL.’ WHAT IS THIS NEXT LEVEL? I HAVE ENOUGH WORK. I GET TO EXPRESS MYSELF EVERY MINUTE OF MY LIFE. I AM VERY HAPPY TO BE WHERE I AM RIGHT NOW. I DON’T HAVE TO DEAL WITH THE SOCIAL PRESSURE OR WITH PEOPLE INTRUDING IN MY LIFE JUST BECAUSE I AM FAMOUS. THE MONEY WILL COME. WE HAVE A STEADY BUSINESS AND I HOPE IT CONTINUES THIS WAY. OF COURSE, THAT’S MY ATTITUDE NOW. WHO KNOWS WHAT I’LL WANT IN TWO YEARS.”

OWENS UNDERSTANDS THAT FASHION IS FICKLE AND IS IN CONSTANT DEMAND OF THE NEW, BUT HIS DESIGNS ARE BASED ON CONSISTENCY. “PEOPLE ALWAYS ASK ME IF I WILL RUN OUT OF IDEAS. AND REALLY, I’VE GOT THEM ALL. I JUST NEED TO SORT THEM OUT AND SLOWLY DEVELOP THEM. JUMPING FROM ONE THING TO ANOTHER IS NOT FOR ME. I FEEL LIKE PEOPLE DO IT BECAUSE THEY DON’T KNOW WHO THEY ARE.”

MAINTAINING THE DELICATE BALANCE BETWEEN ARTISTRY AND COMMERCE IS SOMETHING THAT OWENS HOPES TO TEACH HIS PROTÉGÉ, A YOUNG PROMISING LONDON DESIGNER NAMED GARETH PUGH WHO IS FAMOUS FOR HIS THEATRICAL PRESENTATIONS. “I APPLAUD GARETH’S VISION, AND I AM HIS MOST ARDENT SUPPORTER, BUT HE IS GOING TO HAVE TO LEARN TO PRODUCE WEARABLE CLOTHING IN ORDER TO STAY IN BUSINESS AND EXPERIMENT WITH THE MORE EXTREME STUFF. I WAS JUST TRYING ON SOME OF HIS CLOTHES BEFORE THE SHOW AND I TOLD HIM THAT I WILL GLADLY CARRY IT IN MY STORE--IN BLACK.” OWENS WAS SAYING THIS PEERING OVER MY SHOULDER AS THE LAST SHIPMENT OF CLOTHES FOR PUGH’S COLLECTION WAS ARRIVING THROUGH THE DOOR JUST A DAY BEFORE THE SHOW.

III

OWENS DRAWS INSPIRATION FROM DIFFERENT SOURCES. HIS OWN LIFE IS OBVIOUSLY ONE OF THEM. THE GOTH CULTURE IS REFLECTED HEAVILY IN HIS DESIGNS, BUT ALSO PUNK AND GLAM ROCK. MODERNIST ARCHITECTURE AND SCULPTURE ARE AMONG HIS OTHER INFLUENCES. “IT’S LIKE A LITTLE RITUAL FOR ME. I LOOK AT THE WORK OF BRANCUSI, LE CORBUSIER, LUIGI MORETTI; ALL OF THESE CLEAN LINES THAT ARE IN EXACTLY THE RIGHT PLACES IN THEIR WORK REMIND ME THAT I DON’T HAVE TO MAKE A LOT OF CHANGES. I DON’T HAVE TO ADD SOME MORE STRAPS TO MAKE IT INTERESTING. I DON’T HAVE TO DO ANYTHING SUPERFLUOUS. AND ALL OF THEIR CREATIONS FIT IN PERFECTLY WITH THE ENVIRONMENT THEY ARE IN. AND THAT’S WHAT I TRY TO DO. OF COURSE, MY ENVIRONMENT IS A FANTASY.”

THE FANTASY THAT OWENS MANIFESTS IN HIS CLOTHES IS APPARENT IN EVERYTHING HE DOES, FROM HIS FASCINATION WITH ARTIFICE AND CAMP TO THE NAMES OF THE COLORS HE USES FOR HIS DESIGNS: “MILK,” “PEARL,” “DUST,” AND “DARK SHADOW.” THE ONLY COLOR UNTOUCHED BY A NAME IS BLACK. “’DUST’ IS SUCH AN ETERNAL, BIBLICAL WORD THAT HAS BECOME REPRESENTATIVE OF EVERYTHING I WANTED TO PROJECT,” SAYS OWENS, “IN THE BEGINNING, ALMOST EVERYTHING WAS LIGHT GREY. I’VE BEEN WEARING BLACK ALL THROUGHOUT MY ADOLESCENCE AND YOUNG ADULTHOOD, AND WHEN I LOOK BACK I SEE THAT AS AN EXPRESSION OF FEAR. I WAS HIDING BEHIND BLACK. I HAVE COME TO LOOK AT IT ALMOST AS A SIGN OF WEAKNESS AND BEGAN THINKING THAT GREY IS A BRAVE COLOR TO WEAR, BECAUSE THERE IS AMBIGUITY AND GENTLENESS TO IT; IT IS MODEST, RESTRAINED AND DIGNIFIED, TENDER AND NOT AGGRESSIVE. BLACK IS AN EXCLUSIVE COLOR, AND DUST IS INCLUSIVE. WE ALL BECOME DUST. SO THAT NAME STUCK. AND ‘DARK SHADOW,’ WELL, THAT WAS JUST A PRETTY NAME FOR A COLOR.”

THE INFLUENCE OF ARCHITECTURE EXTENDS TO OWENS’S CHOICE OF FABRICS. “WHEN I AM LOOKING AT A NEW FABRIC, I THINK, ‘WILL THIS WORK IN A JEAN-MICHEL FRANK ROOM?’ I LIKE FABRICS THAT ARE EITHER CASUAL BUT USED IN A SUMPTUOUS WAY, OR SUMPTUOUS BUT USED IN A CASUAL WAY. I HAVE GOOD RELATIONSHIPS WITH THE MILLS I USE, AND THEY ARE WILLING TO EXPERIMENT WITH ME. THIS WAY I CAN CREATE FABRIC MIXES FROM SCRATCH. I STILL WORK ON THE FABRICS A LOT. I FEEL LIKE I’VE DONE MANY EXPERIMENTS WITH THE SILHOUETTE, BUT I HAVEN’T MANIPULATED THE FABRIC ITSELF ENOUGH. THIS SEASON I WORKED WITH A TAPESTRY MAKER TO GET A CERTAIN TEXTURE AND IT ENDED UP LOOKING LIKE POLYNESIAN PLACEMATS YOU BUY AT A GIFT SHOP. IT WAS AWFUL. BUT IT’S A START.”

IN THE CURRENT MEN’S COLLECTION OWENS ADDED A SUBSTANTIAL AMOUNT OF TAILORING, WHOSE STRUCTURE ALSO REMINDS HIM OF ARCHITECTURE. “I AM TRYING TO ADD MORE TAILORING, BUT IT’S A NIGHTMARE. I CAN’T FIND A TAILOR THAT CAN UNDERSTAND WHAT I WANT. THE TRADITIONAL TAILORS ARE SO UPTIGHT ABOUT THE CLASSIC SILHOUETTE. IT IS VERY HARD TO DO SOMETHING NEW. YOU ARE DEALING WITH SOMEONE WHO IS PROUD OF THEIR CREATIVITY, AND YOU HAVE TO IN TURN TO DOMINATE THEM WITH YOUR VISION WITHOUT DISRESPECTING THEM.”

THE ARCHITECTS IN TURN RESPOND TO OWENS. ANDREW DRYDEN, OF THE ARCHITECTURE FIRM BJARKE INGELS GROUP IN COPENHAGEN, IS A BIG FAN OF HIS WORK. “I LOVE THE RAW FEELINGS OF RICK’S CLOTHES, THE SHARPLY CUT FORMS AND HIS ABILITY TO PLAY WITH PROPORTION THAT GOES TO THE EXTREME WITHOUT BECOMING CARTOONISH. THE CLOTHES ARE BOTH REFINED AND CRUDE, GRACEFUL AND GOTHIC. THERE IS A BALANCE BETWEEN HEAVY BRUTALISM AND GRACE. WHEN I PUT ON HIS CLOTHES, I FEEL LIKE THEY ARE AN EXTENSION OF MYSELF.”

IV

A FEW HOURS LATER AFTER INTERVIEWING OWENS, I WAS SITTING ON A LOW-SLUNG COUCH IN HIS PARIS STORE, OBSERVING THE SCENE. THE GALLERY OF SHOPS AT PALAIS ROYAL FRAME A BEAUTIFUL TREE-LINED GARDEN. PEOPLE STROLL PAST THE SMALL BOUTIQUES, PEERING IN THROUGH THE WINDOWS. THE STORE OCCUPIES A SMALL, TWO-STORY SPACE. THE FIRST FLOOR IS DIVIDED INTO TWO ROOMS. ONE DISPLAYS THE MENSWEAR AND THE OTHER ONE WOMENSWEAR. THE TOP FLOOR HAS ONLY ONE ROOM THAT HOUSES SALE MERCHANDISE AND A RACK OF FUR JACKETS FROM OWENS’S FUR LINE. THE INTERIOR OF THE STORE IS DONE IN EARTHLY COLORS. THE WALLS ARE PAINTED OFF-WHITE AND THE FLOORS AND BIRCH PLYWOOD DISPLAYS ARE COVERED IN BROWN CARPET. BROWN WOOL FELT BLANKETS ARE WRAPPED AROUND THE BUILDING’S INTERNAL FIXTURES AND BROWN CURTAINS COVER THE WINDOWS. EACH OF THE ROOMS ON THE FIRST FLOOR HAS A SCULPTURE CREATED BY OWENS: MOOSE HORNS SUPPORTED BY TWO OSTRICH EGGS AND A SKULL. THE EGGS SYMBOLIZE LIFE, THE SKULL SYMBOLIZES DEATH, AND MOOSE HORNS SYMBOLIZE HONOR. THE INFAMOUS WAX STATUE TOWERS OVER THE FIRST-FLOOR CASH REGISTER. OWENS’S STORE IN LONDON WILL FEATURE HIS WAX HEAD ON A PLATE. AS OWENS TOLD ONE PUBLICATION, HE WAS GOING FOR “A MORE CLASSICAL MOOD.”

THE BOUTIQUE WAS SWARMING WITH PEOPLE. THE PARISIAN HAUTE BOURGEOIS, WITH THEIR LAPDOGS IN HAND, WERE MIXING WITH THE ITALIANS IN THEIR MANDATORY OVER-EMBELLISHED JEANS. FRENCH TEENAGERS AND YOUNG JAPANESE TOURISTS WERE TRYING ON OWENS’S SNEAKERS. THREE MIDDLE-AGED RUSSIANS WALKED IN AND STROLLED AROUND. THE WOMAN TURNED TO HER COMPANIONS AND SAID, “THIS GUY IS HOT RIGHT NOW.” THEY WALKED OVER TO THE DISPLAY CASE BY THE SHOP WINDOW AND STARED AT THE FIVE-INCH HEELS. “THOSE ARE FOR MEN,” ONE OF THEM GIGGLED, AND THEY LEFT.

THERE WERE VERY FEW CLIENTS IN THE STORE THAT LOOKED LIKE DIE-HARD RICK OWENS CLIENTS, ALTHOUGH ONE COUPLE MADE FOR A BEAUTIFUL EXCEPTION. TONY GREENLAND AND PASCALE YOUF, OF THE LONDON ARCHITECTURE FIRM SEVENTH WAVE, ARE ARDENT SUPPORTERS OF OWENS. EVERY FEW MONTHS THEY TREK FROM LONDON TO PARIS JUST TO SHOP AT THE STORE. “WE LOVE HIS WORK PRECISELY BECAUSE IT IS SO ARCHITECTURAL. IT DOES NOT MERELY CONFORM TO HUMAN ANATOMY, BUT TRIES TO GO BEYOND IT.” AND THEY WORE THE CLOTHES TO PROVE IT. GREENLAND WORE OWENS’S JEANS, WHICH ARE USUALLY IN HIGH DEMAND, A LONG SLEEVE TEE, AND A MOTORCYCLE LEATHER VEST. YOUF WAS SPORTING ONE OF OWENS’S LEATHER JACKETS WHOSE CLEAN GEOMETRIC LINES FORMED TWO TRIANGLES THAT EXTENDED AWAY FROM THE BODY AT THE TOP AND AT THE BOTTOM. THE JACKET LOOKED LIKE SOMETHING OUT OF “TRANSFORMERS.” TO COMPLETE THIS EXTREME ENSEMBLE, SHE WORE OWENS’S SILVER OVER-THE-KNEE BOOTS WITH A WEDGE HEEL THAT SLANTED FORTY-FIVE DEGREES. TWO LARGE SHOPPING BAGS FULL WITH OWENS’S GARMENTS THEY JUST PURCHASED STOOD IN FRONT OF THEM.

BARBARA AYME JOUVE, THE MANAGING PARTNER AT THE STORE, GLIDED AROUND LIKE A FAIRY, DASHING BETWEEN THE ROOMS, BALANCING A TRAY WITH COFFEE FOR ONE CUSTOMER IN ONE HAND AND A LEATHER JACKET FOR ANOTHER CUSTOMER IN THE OTHER HAND. FOUR OTHER SALES ASSISTANTS WERE HELPING HER. A STRIKING CALIFORNIA BLOND, JOUVE HAS LIVED AND WORKED IN PARIS FOR THE PAST FIFTEEN YEARS. SHE WORE A TIGHT BLACK LEATHER JACKET, A BLACK SKIRT, AND A PAIR OF BLACK BOOTS – ALL BY OWENS, OF COURSE. HER BEAUTIFUL BLUE EYES GLOWED WITH ENTHUSIASM AS SHE SURVEYED THE STORE. BEFORE GOING TO WORK WITH OWENS, JOUVE MANAGED ANOTHER STORE THAT WAS HOUSED IN THE SAME SPACE, AND WHICH WENT OUT OF BUSINESS. WHEN OWENS APPROACHED HER ABOUT A RETAIL PARTNERSHIP, SHE HAD NO SECOND THOUGHTS, “BUT IT WORKED OUT REALLY WELL.”

WE WERE FLIPPING THROUGH THE BOOK OF OWENS’S PHOTOS WHEN THE PHONE RANG. IT WAS BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN’S STYLIST. “BRUCE WANTS THOSE BLACK JEANS. HE LOVES THE FIRST PAIR SO MUCH, HE WON’T WEAR ANYTHING ELSE. PLEASE SEND THEM RIGHT AWAY.” (SPRINGSTEEN WORE A PAIR OF BLACK WAXED JEANS FOR HIS SUPER BOWL PERFORMANCE.) THE PEOPLE KEPT WALKING IN AND OUT. THE STAFF NO LONGER BOTHERED WITH THE DOOR BELL, LEAVING THE DOOR AJAR. I REMEMBERED OWENS’S WORDS, “I AM HAPPY TO SELL TO ANYONE. I AM GLAD PEOPLE RELATE TO MY WORK.”

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Constructing Rick Owens’ Creative Bubble

Post by xyz on Thu May 01, 2014 8:35 pm

SOURCE: BOF

Constructing Rick Owens’ Creative Bubble
BY CHRIS WALLACE 30 APRIL, 2014

Over the last two decades, Rick Owens and Michèle Lamy have managed to construct a fantastical creative world entirely of their own design and turn it into a commercially successful business, projected to generate $120 million in 2014.

PARIS, France — Rick Owens is a brand apart and it may not be too much to say that the designer and his wife and collaborator, Michèle Lamy, similarly exist in an alternate reality, a world of their own making — adjacent to ours, maybe, beholden to the same laws of physics and economic realities, but different, unique. Everything in Owens’ and Lamy’s life, as in their business (as if one can so easily differentiate between the two), is done in vigilant observation of Owens’ dictate, “We build, we don’t buy.” And, together, the two have conspired to build a world entirely of their own design, furnishing it solely with the fruits of their imaginings.

In Paris, this world is a five-storey mansion overlooking the gardens of the Ministry of Defence, minimally adorned with Owens’ furniture and art by Lamy’s daughter Scarlett rouge, and where, during the busiest times of the year as many as 15 employees scamper about the building’s first floor showroom and second floor offices in head-to-toe Rick Owens or DRKSHDW, his diffusion line. Upstairs, Owens spends his habitually routine days designing in the third floor studio, while the hushed austerity of the fourth and fifth floor living areas may suggest a modern hermitage, inhabited by a particularly devout monk of fashion. When in residence, Owens is as disciplined as any friar, hewing to a now famously strict regimen of work and exercise. But despite the precision and severity of his designs, and Owens’ own jokes about the rigours with which he pursues his vision (calling his production process “fascist”), the man himself is warm and engaging, almost puckish in temperament. And it is this spirit that animates Owenslandia as it grows outward from the elegant Palais Bourbon HQ.

It is a long way from the dusty town in central California where Owens grew up, though his own flowing designs still hold the charge he remembers feeling when he was just a boy, watching nuns from the local convent dragging their robes in the dirt. After moving south to Los Angeles, Owens enrolled in and then dropped out of art school. He studied pattern-making at a technical college, and, while working in a factory downtown, was soon introduced to Lamy, by his then boyfriend, as the best pattern cutter in Los Angeles.

Working on her menswear collection, the two became romantically involved. And by the time of Owens’ breakthrough Vogue-funded show at New York Fashion Week in 2002, they were living together in bohemian splendour in a row of storefronts in Hollywood, and Owens was selling his own line exclusively to Charles Galley, proprietor of an avant-garde boutique on Sunset Plaza. Later that year, Owens won the CFDA’s award for emerging talent and was approached by the centuries-old furrier Révillon, who hired him as creative director and brought him to France. In 2004, Owens entered into a partnership with his manufacturers in San Giacomo — “the Italians,” as he calls them — and began selling to Tommy Perse at Maxfield in Los Angeles, Maria Luisa in Paris, Joyce Ma in Hong Kong and Joan Burstein’s Browns in London.

But, even as their world has grown to include directly operated stores in Paris, New York, Seoul, Hong Kong, London, Tokyo, Miami and, soon, Los Angeles, little has changed within Owenscorp since its inception two decades ago. Elza Lanzo and her brother-in-law, Luca Ruggeri, are still CEO and commercial director, respectively. They still hold a shared 20 percent of the company (Owens and Lamy own the rest) — though it’s safe to say that those shares have significantly increased in value.

In 2010, Owenscorp revenue was around $40 million. In 2012, that number was closer to $70 million; in 2013 it exceeded $100 million and, this year, it’s projected to surpass $120 million. And, though he once flirted with the idea of selling to an unnamed conglomerate, Owens has grown his house without any outside help.

“We’ve never had to take any outside investment, thank god.” Nor has he ever outsourced production or in-sourced a single design. His is not an atelier system where a team of young designers submits ideas for a boss’ approval. Instead, he designs every piece from every line bearing his name. “I’m greedy,” he says, meaning he wants all of that, the fun stuff, for himself. “Really, I wouldn’t know how to do it any other way.”

And, even as their approach seems to have the company mushrooming, both Owens and Lamy maintain that they are simply moving and growing the way they always have — naturally, organically. “We are really just doing what feels right,” Owens says. “It isn’t that we are doing anything different,” says Lamy. “It just happens.”

On occasion, Owens has described the couple’s business partnership as “asking a gypsy to organise a war with a fascist.” He characterises himself as rigid about deadlines and not at all tolerant of people showing up late to work. Lamy is more comfortable giving a long leash to her collaborators. “She cajoles,” Owens says. “I demand. She lets people express themselves more; she lets the magic happen and I expect them to do exactly what I say. Which is how the furniture came to be her domain.” Turning to her, he says, “I think I inspire it. You direct it.”

Aside from directing the construction and sale of the furniture line they began in 2010, Lamy is also in charge of the company’s furs (they no longer work with Révillon) and handles a couture-like strand of the business, welcoming cherished clients into the atelier for private fittings. When BoF meets with the pair in early December, Lamy is studying satellite pictures of possible locations for their LA store and dreaming aloud about the possibility of opening in Dubai and Las Vegas. She is aware of the mystique and artistry of the world she and Owens have built — that the world is itself a work of art. Last year, she was in talks about taking over a factory on an island outside of Venice where they could build a kind of artisan utopia, but the plans fell through.

Now, she thinks she might want to open a hotel, a place where their world is thrown open to the rest of us on a grand scale — part haven, part fairy tale. It becomes clear that, beyond their remarkable construction, what has always made Owens’ clothes special is the sense of community that they bear, the imprimatur of that world. Indeed, wearing Rick Owens has always seemed to be very personal, an externalisation of beliefs or identity, of allegiance to something.

“That’s where he has created the tribe,” Lamy says. “A certain style, a certain way of working — that’s what creates the tribe. It’s not the clothes, or technical things. It’s the way of holding yourself in a different way. But you see the way it is changing.”

One place we see it changing is on the street. Only three years ago, membership in Owens’ tribe seemed to be an all or nothing proposition. You would often find the devotee in head-to-toe Rick Owens or DRKSHDW — and the fully devout are still here, in greater numbers than ever. But now, too, they are joined by the casual partisan pairing a Rick Owens jacket with Nike Flyknits, or a former streetwear kid working Owens’ sneakers with a bomber jacket.

Helping his brand break beyond cult status are Owens’ ludicrously luxe oversized jersey shirts and leather jackets, which have been much-fetishised by the hip hop set that drives much of the streetwear market these days (it may be impossible to quantify the power of rapper Rick Ross claiming, “Rick Owens on me, bombers for my whole army,” for example, but the reality it underscores is plain). As streetstyle lensman Tommy Ton observes, “You definitely see more of Rick’s iconic staples, like his leather jackets, filtered down to the streets nowadays.”

After the wild sensation over his show last Autumn, when American step dancers paraded his clothes in a choreographed performance, it was reported that orders went up as much as 20 percent, but Owens doesn’t see cause and effect there. “I think orders are based on the last season, how it sold.” Indeed, the uptick in orders, he says, is consistent with the growth over the last several years. Sprouting from the lucidity of his vision, protected by the brutalist simplicity of their operation, and maintained by his own intense commitment, Owens’ business has developed a momentum of its own.

“He’s one of the few that really sets the new direction which leaves everybody else to copy,” says Perse, the owner of Maxfield in LA. “But no one is able to replicate his stuff in a way that comes close to what he does. The man was obviously born a natural, because he just gets better and better.”

“It would take me ten years to burn this whole thing down,” Owens says, in signature deadpan. “Even if I were to go insane for five years, there is still enough in the archive that they could sell. It would take another five years before people caught on and it all came crumbling down.”

Then, after a beat, he says, “I don’t think I will do that.”

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