Rick Owens is without a doubt one of the most important people in fashion, and any creative arts for that matter, of our era. He has singlehandedly changed the way we look at fashion and given us an insight into his philosophy like no other. His vision is clear, and his message direct. When I interviewed the Paris based designer earlier in the year for The New Order Issue 2, I starred a way from his private life, and for that matter his path to today, in this extract Owens explains.
Extract below from PARIS, LA Magazine.
“I had always lived on Southern California. I grew up in Porterville, which is next to Bakersfield. I went to LA to go to college at Parsons, but I didn’t graduate; I was an art school drop-out. I studied fine arts there for two years, but it was too expensive and I didn’t really see a real job ahead. So I went to a two-year program at a trade college learning how to pattern-make with all these Korean ladies – not glamorous. I didn’t grow up in the industry, like Marc Jacobs at Halston and I ended up working for knock-off companies in L.A. I just knocked off patterns for years.”
“It’s funny, Rick always just wanted to have a modest company, and to be independent and comfortable. He just wanted to keep doing what he thought was right. But it would be disingenuous if I said he wasn’t ambitious. In the beginning, I remember him seeking out the best stores he could find while protecting his identity. He didn’t do many fashion spreads. So he worked with just one store in LA, Charles Gallay. He doesn’t do clothes anymore, but he was a fashion pioneer back then. He was the first to carry Versace, Montana, Mugler—all the really extreme stuff. He was the biggest buyer in the world of Margiela’s first season. Rick showed his clothes to him first. Gallay bought them. And he prepaid.”
“I was operating on a real fringe back then. In those days, I was a part of the wicked Hollywood Boulevard hustler bar world. I hung around people like Goddess Bunny, a dwarf friend of mine, and Mr. Beanbag in super sleazy, crystal, tranny hustler bars just off Hollywood Boulevard, a couple of blocks from my studio. Some were involved in the arts and the punk rock scene, people like Glenda. He now has a Born-Again Christian country band, but he does songs like “Hot, Born-Again and Horny.” It’s all really sexual Christian stuff. It’s really funny. He’s a total pervert, one of the most extreme people I know. Then there’s Vaginal Davis. She was around every once in a while. They all fit into my aesthetic of broken idealism. That was my milieu, they were my friends. I call them my ‘baroque pearls’.”
“Michèle Lamy and I met through my boyfriend – one of her best friends. So it’s true that I’m bisexual. It’s supposed to be the other way around, isn’t it? People are against bisexuality. It’s either shit or get off the pot. It would be great if things were that black and white, but life is all about ambiguities, and sometimes you have to make up the rules as you go along. I was introduced to her so I could get a job as a patternmaker. She had a sportswear company. I worked for her for two years, but I could never really understand her because she has a really thick French accent. Then it just kind of happened and I really can’t imagine having a relationship with anyone else. It’s been almost fifteen years. God, who knows what that would be in fag years?”
“And soon she became the restaurateur that people know her as. That’s probably why we have a comfortable relationship: because I need a lot of alone time, but she’s super gregarious. It was perfect because she basically had a party every night and was very consumed by it, while I had privacy. In a way, Michèle and I had the perfect life. Money was tight, but we had a great lifestyle. We had a decent car, had enough to go away on the weekends, and ate the most glamorous dinners every night. And then the Italians contacted me.”
“You know Rick, he’s always been pretty point-blanc about not being conceptual. He says instead that his main concept is that the conceptual is unnecessary, and never a replacement for the minimal and the straight-forward. When explaining it, he compares a William-Adolphe Bouguereau painting with a Brancusi sculpture. Rick Owens is the Brancusi sculpture, you know: just a slab of metal on a hunk of wood, but I guess it’s about the right piece of metal and the perfect gesture.”
“I try to make clothes the way Lou Reed does music – with minimal chord changes,” Owens writes. “It’s about a worn, softened feeling. It’s about an elegance tinged with the barbaric, the sloppiness of something dragging and the luxury of not caring.”
“People are always surprised, you know, as we responded to a global recession with relentless expansion. It just worked out that way. Believe me, there was no master plan but once we saw how well the Paris store was working, we got into a retail fever. For a lot of designers their reward is the walk down the runway, but for me it’s about selling. I’m not that extroverted and I have a very ascetic life now. I like the idea of the line being in stores. I’m more pragmatic. It’s not about the glory for me. Also, I know that my stuff is not very flamboyant or fashiony. It’s almost monotonous. I see fashion as something more permanent, like art or architecture. Designers used to be like that, but not anymore.”
Text collaged by Nabil Azadi.