21 May Rick Owens: An experience in style
There is a je ne sais quoi in donning Rick Owens. It immediately takes you to a whole new level of chic and gives you that unique style.
His clothes feel sumptuous and worn yet structured enough to lend all body shapes a lean toughness. Even the plainest items — like his classic pant — telegraph otherworldly cool.
“The coolest thing is when you don’t care about being cool anymore. Indifference is the greatest aphrodisiac: that’s what really sums up style for me,” says Owens. And wearing any Rick Owens piece gives you a lot of style!
The American-born, Paris-based designer launched his namesake label in 1994 amid the stark minimalism of the 90s, making glamorous grunge his signature. His mantra, he states, is “order and logic with a moment of madness.”
For over 20 years, Owens has shocked, stunned and seduced editors, buyers and fashion darlings everywhere with his ever-memorable runway presentations and show-stopping pieces that instantly become iconic moments and cult classics to be treasured.
And never far from his side is his wife, muse and creative collaborator Michèle Lamy, who is revered as one of the fashion industry’s true eccentrics. Together, they are a remarkable team.
For the Spring/Summer collection, now available exclusively at IF Boutique, Owens’ inspiration came from the Ballets Russes. He gave his spin to a dancer’s tulle creating his own brutal tutu.
The result married lightness to architectural weight. The silhouette is something new for him: a strict smock shape that allowed for flares of tulle on either side, like a suppressed tutu. Owens thought of them as frills, and if frilliness was a new notion for him, so too were the textures of the smocks, crimped and honeycombed. Eventually they exploded into floating parachute wings in the back.
Rick Owens designs with an earnest sense of curiosity. His references never cease to transform and transcend. His trajectory wavers little to trends, but a lot to personal challenge and experimentation as his study in tulle demonstrates.
Although hardly soft and fuzzy, the turbo-charged, rocket silhouette, careers down the body in controlled columns of smocked and pleated tulle. Strapless gowns, rompers, and tunics exploded knee-length into a fan of wings and fins. He anchored his models to earth with vertiginously serrated, ribbon-tied geta shoes that clacked noisily around the catwalk.
Owens’ story began in Porterville, an agricultural town in the San Joaquin Valley, California. The only child of a social-worker father and a teacher mother, he went to Catholic school and recalls “being swept up in Bible stories of people in dragging robes in dusty temples.” He was mesmerized by seeing early Thierry Mugler ads in French Vogue and listening to opera with his parents. “I was raised on Wagner’s Ring cycle.”
After high school, Owens moved to LA and studied painting at Otis Art Institute for two years, then switched to LA Trade Technical College for patternmaking courses. He worked at various designer-knockoff houses until, at 37, he set up shop in a tiny studio on Hollywood Boulevard with an assistant and a seamstress and began presenting his clothes directly to retailers, store by store. He gained an indie-rocker following (Courtney Love was an early acolyte) and eventually sold in places like Maxfield in Los Angeles, Louis Boston in Boston and Linda Dresner in New York. “My plan was to keep getting my stuff out there,” he says simply.
During those years, Owens spent time in sex clubs, did drugs, drank heavily and, as he puts it, “really tested my body’s limits. It was great fun, but I’m glad I stopped. It took about three tries.” Then he focused on another addiction: rebuilding his body — even taking steroids briefly to transform his physique.
He credits Lamy, his longtime partner and wife since 2006, for his return to health.
Lamy is the former owner of the hot spot Les Deux Café. “She was responsible, for better or worse, for the reinvigoration of Hollywood,” Owens says. “It was a magic time in LA when it opened.”
In 2001, Owens’ business took off. He signed with the Italian sales agent EBA to distribute his line internationally and production moved to Italy. Vogue sponsored his first runway show, and the Council of Fashion Designers of America presented him with the Perry Ellis Award for emerging talent.
Owens and Lamy moved to Paris in 2002, when he became artistic director at French furrier Revillon, a post he kept for three years.
“I went from 10 to 250 stores in two seasons,” says Owens, who doesn’t regret the late start. “I had the luxury of growing quietly rather than being thrust into the spotlight at 21,” he says. “I would have blown it.”
Though there wasn’t a single bare dong down the runway at his Fall/Winter 2015 womenswear show, Owens did manage to grab attention with a beauty look that truly went above and beyond: a faceful of gorgeously crusted gold leaf, applied with care by makeup artist Lucia Pieroni.
Inspired by Mayan goddesses,” Pieroni used silver, gold and yellow-gold foil to adorn the models’ faces, plastering it to their ears and a bit past their hairlines. And a number of models’ faces were left completely bare, while others wore just a strip of black liner under their eyes. The clean-faced models also served as a reminder of how nice it feels to not have a metric ton of makeup on your face.
While we look forward to the arrival of Owens’ latest offerings, there is still time to indulge in some iconic Spring/Summer pieces.