More than a talented creator of clothes, accessories and furniture, Rick Owens is also a published author. His works include L'ai-Je Bien Descendu?published in 2007, Rick Owens in 2011, Rick Owens Furniture in 2017, while Rick Owens Fashion and LeGaspi both published last year. He also wrote the foreword to Charles James: The Couture Secrets Of Shape and discussed the influence of America’s First Couturier on his own work. Your coffee table and bookshelves are naked without Rick’s words.
“My original statement of intent was ‘a Brutalist fur on a Brutalist rock next to a Brutalist fire in a Brutalist cave’, Rick explained when asked about the origins of his furniture line (see F).
Followers of Rick will know Insta-famous Gaia and Hortense, his two Bengal cats. While recent addition Pixie, a hairless sphynx, has to be the most on-brand Rick Owens cat imaginable.
Rick is a designer who loves the technical process of creating. The pillars of the house that he built include touching on the bias cut and pattern, the construction of twisted draperies, and cascade draping. When the industry began to question itself during the rise of fast-fashion, Rick hand-draped every single garment of his autumn/winter 16 collection himself. “Every single piece has its signature, its own handwriting,” he explained. “No one is going to write exactly like me, so even though it’s duplicated it’s very unique. In this day and age, that’s something positive that I can offer and it’s maybe as far away from fast fashion as I can do.
By his own admission, fashion is ruthless. Yet, Rick is not only still standing (tall in his 6.5-inch platform boots) after more than two and a half decades deep into his label, he’s thriving. After winning the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017, he was named its Menswear Designer of the Year last year. There’s no stopping Rick.
When Rick and Michéle started making furniture, it was focussed around furnishing their iconic home and headquarters at the Palais Bourbon. Long before they could imagine their work might evolve into products exhibited at global art galleries, their marital bed was the first thing they created. “We don’t buy; we do,” Michéle explained. “We have always been this way, always building spaces; small or big. Rick with his studio, me with Les Deux Cafés…” Ever since the pair began showing the line in 2007, they have continually returned to a number of signature materials – concrete, bone and interestingly textured French wool army blankets – which all contain a certain metaphorical resonance.
The perfect synthesis of glamour and grunge, glunge is his self-prescribed trademark style.
When darkness and gym rats meet. While the term was coined was coined back in 2013 by Mike Grabarek, one-half of the R&B duo Magic Fades, Rick is one of the pin-ups. "Getting fit is like having a big dick,” he famously told Maxim. “It gives you stupid, brutal, primal sense of self-worth and the confidence or delusion that in comparison to what you once were, you are bigger and better. It's shamelessly simplistic, but true." Rick turned to exercise when his drinking and smoking reached excess levels and hit the gym – hard – as a response. “I’m a Los Angeles cliché,” he told Vestoj. “I had a conservative, controlled childhood, then became as uncontrolled as I could, then realised that I liked control after all. This is the story of my generation: kids that were too controlled and then became drug addicts and alcoholics before finding spirituality and Zen. It’s so common. I’m totally common.” Spirituality and zen suits Rick. There are few 57 year olds with a body like his.
Rick has and always will be his own boss. In an industry dominated by fashion conglomerates, Rick Owens is one of the few truly independent brands. 80% of the Owenscorp company is owned by himself, and the other 20% by Owens’ commercial director and CEO, Luca Ruggeri and Elsa Lanzo. “I’ve had fantastic partners who allowed me to develop my voice longer than the three seasons they usually give designers,” Rick recently told Mathew Schneier for New York Magazine.
“The artifice I like is always exaggerated and borderline ridiculous,” he told Vestoj. Rick is constantly challenging the codes of good taste and notions of conservative beauty in a good-humoured, thoughtful way. “Humour is one of the most elegant things in the entire universe, you know,” he added. From commissioning Madame Tussauds to create a series of wax statues bearing his likeness for his Pitti Uomo exhibition, to revealing genitals in his autumn/winter 15 Sphinx collection and making a bed out of alabaster and marble, the Dark Lord is ever the playful and provocative prankster.
Filled with biblical, historical and sociopolitical references, Rick’s collections are so much more than clothes, they provide philosophies to make sense of the world today. From his extensive uppercase-typed show notes to backstage discussions that veer from art history to classical music and Estonian rappers, each season provides a rabbithole into ideas, people, and places that you wouldn’t think to Google.
L-eather biker jacket
“My leather biker jacket really is kind of the DNA and starting point of my collection,” Rick told The New York Times back in 2o15. “I’m proud and happy that everything I do still kind of goes with that jacket,” he continued. With its angular flaps, off-centre zip and second-skin drape, anyone could wear. When Kate Moss wore it in the April 2001 edition of French Vogue, Rick was welcomed into fashion’s inner circle. Shortly after that feature, Anna Wintour and Vogue sponsored his first runway show – spring/summer 2002 – at New York Fashion Week. The rest is history.
“No one makes me lose it like the Hun,” Rick confessed in the opening line of the Rizzoli-published Rick Owens: Furniture. Both life and business partner, muse, collaborator and so much more, the dream duo set relationship goals. The pair met in 90s Los Angeles when Rick began working for her sportswear line, Lamy, as a pattern cutter. Rick started his own label shortly after and teamed up with Lamy, who ran the Les Deux Cafe over the road from his studio on Las Palmas Avenue. The pair moved to Paris in 2003 and married in 2006. Today, they’re closer and more productive than ever. In a 2008 New Yorker profile, he described his Hun [think Attila rather than condescending term] as "a mesmerising sphinx. I'm fascinated by someone who acts completely on instinct and feelings, where I'm so pragmatic and sensible and kind of, compared to her, boring and conservative."
“I always did feel that I was kind of outside the mainstream”, Rick told Vogue in an earlier interview. “I’m very niche, and I was always ok with that.” As his commercial success has grown in the subsequent years, he’s had to come to terms that he is niche no more. “The genie is out of the bottle, I'm never going to be niche again,” he told GQ. “I'm commercial establishment. I would love to be weird and unattainable again. That's what I wanted to be—to live in poverty but be like Giacometti.” As ever he was right both then and now. Rick’s carved his own niche in which he’s successful and wonderfully weird.
At this factory in the small Italian commune of Concordia sulla Secchia northwest of Bologna, Rick Owens’ otherworldly vision is crafted and cultivated.
From catwalk experiences that exposed penises as he highlighted shame and masculinity, to women cradling women as he explored the power of support and casting step sorority sisters as a fuck you to “conventional” beauty, Rick continually provokes reaction, engagement, and discussion. The self-portrait he did of himself urinating in i-D's The Spectator Issue back in May 2002, got the publication into a lot of trouble. “I have a sex club past and I didn't want anyone to think I had anything to hide,” he explained. “I wanted to make it blatant. Extreme behaviour has always fascinated me. It's not something I participated in, but I like the idea of it.”
This A-Z is littered with them because Rick provides the best soundbites. My favourite is the following from the pamphlet of his Triennale di Milano Retrospective as he reflected on two decades of work: “I would lay a black glittering turd on the white landscape of conformity. I wrote this shamelessly bombastic line over 20 years ago and it’s a very simplistic summary of what I initially set out to do,” he noted. “Over the years, this defiance softened into a more tender expression. If I could ever so slightly blur the rigid parameters of what is considered beautiful or aesthetically acceptable I will have fulfilled any potential I had to make a positive contribution in this world.”
From 100 sit ups to elaborate hair care, listening to opera while showering to 45-minute afternoon naps, Rick is a creature of habit. Did you know that Rick’s hair is naturally curly and quite grey? It’s transformed into a health goth’s dream with the aid of chemical straightening, a hefty dollop of Bigen Japanese dye and a squirt of Aesop shampoo, he rigorously maintains his trademark fab sleek long black locks.
Long before he partnered with adidas in a collaboration that pushed possibilities, Rick forever changed the luxury sneaker market with shapeshifting silhouettes and muscular minimalism. Seen through Rick’s lens of dark distortion, the familiar becomes otherworldly. While his cap-toe sneakers, Ramones, have abnormal proportions they are an unmistakable homage to the first and perhaps most famous sneakers – the Converse All-Stars, his high-top Geobaskets are a twisted take on the Nike Air Force 1s. “I’ve become very known for sneakers, which is ironic considering that when I first started doing them it was almost a parody,” Rick explained to Business of Fashion. “I thought sneakers were the most boring things on the planet. They represented complete banality to me. But I was going to the gym and I needed some so I started doing my own exaggerated version, and they’ve become a signature of mine.”
“When I was a kid going to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show, that was the life I wanted,” Rick told Jo-Ann Furniss in an interview with Hero, “all those cheerful, weirdo freaks – I wanted to be one of them.” Now when he walks into the plaza of the Palais de Tokyo in Paris and looks at everyone, he thinks “Jesus, I finally got there.” After his autumn/winter 20 show, Rick explained that he wanted “to be somebody who says, ‘You’re fine, you’re going to do it this way and you’re going to be great.” While we might not all be that kind of beautiful, we can be his kind of beautiful. “When we are walking as a tribe, we advance, we push further the limits and together and much stronger,” Michéle told Polimoda.barriers of any kind, we evolve, we change into a better version of ourselves.
From the site to social and emails to show notes, Rick Owens’ capslock is on. “I like how things almost come out like a proclamation,” the designer told Dazed when probed about his insistence on uppercase. “I might have it completely wrong because I know to some people it’s just shouting, but to me it’s kind of a cheerful proclamation. Everything I say is kind of like, a little artificial and happy. Almost like a child speaking too loudly in church.”
From his appearance on self-proclaimed drag terrorist Christeene’s Buttmuscle to enlisting Estonian heavy metal band Winny Puhh to live soundtrack his spring/summer 14 menswear show, Rick surrounds himself with artists that are as inventive, radical, and weird as he is. Back in 2018, he lent his vocals to Estonian rapper Tommy Cash’s debut album ¥€$. On the track Mona Lisa, his unmistakable Californian drawl delivered the world “Black… Magic… Fuckboy… Necromantic Savage… Wasted aesthetic emotion… Supernatural distortion.”
Throughout his 26-year career, Rick has cultivated an alternate universe, a place in which people who may have otherwise been outsiders can feel welcome. Despite exploring different worlds and mixing mediums, his concept and approach remain uncompromising to his vision. “Furniture is just an outer layer of a look, an extended personal expression,” he told AnOther. “Doesn’t everyone want to customise the space around them in one way or another? We just turned it into a personal game of catch.”
“I do Xeroxes of my past collections and then I draw over them to see where I’ll go next,” Rick recently confessed to Cathy Horyn for New York Magazine. These cut, copied, pasted and manipulated ghosts of previous work are the thread that binds the past, present and future of the house.
You treat yourself to Rick Owens.
After Rick and Michéle embraced spirituality and Zen, the pair have thrived. Who couldn’t find a higher state of mind immersed in their utopia?