Conversation With: Rick Owens
Yesterday Ken Downing described Rick Owens‘ show like this: ”Stripes of laser light created a screen that models stepped through, bouncing bright, white light off the cotton pieces that opened the show. Shapes were architectural and voluminous – Grecian draped dresses were topped with washed leather jackets in black and white. A cotton anoak over a wrap maxi skirt spoke to the sporty influences that are at every house this season. White leather formed architectural hoods on leather jackets. Fitted sleeves that resolve into a deep bell expressed Owens’ appreciation for Haute Couture ideas with an urban edge. Terra cotta was introduced and paired with white or worn over terra cotta silk maxi dresses. Contrast binding was shown on hems and deep cuffs. Cubism, Art Deco and African graphic tribal influences are everywhere. Shades of grey, pewter, black and white were shown in graphic Art Deco. Tribal fabric blocked tunics and jackets, many with an open weave of leather on the back. The subtle embroidery of an eye was a nod to Picasso or perhaps Surrealism. Another amazing Rick Owens collection!”
Interview below by Kristen Spaulding.
NM: How much of what you do, as a designer, is a reaction to how and where you grew up in California?
RO: It was European fashion that first attracted me – Montana and Mugler in the Seventies. Parisian fashion seemed even more mysteriously epic seen from the flat, unglamorous, small California town I grew up in. I sometimes see what I do as a blunt American’s interpretation of glamorous European complexity. Fascinated by it but curious to look at it as a condensed sketch. I suppose that is my kind of schtick.
NM: Describe the moment you realized the opportunity you’d been given to express yourself and create. How did you identify the opportunity, and what made you decide to commit to creation?
RO: I always created growing up and it was the main validation I had. I never considered not creating.
NM: What is the ultimate craftsmanship for you?
RO: I recently got a Georges Hoentschel urn designed for the 1900 Paris World’s Fair that is so amorphous that on first glance it looks like the most graceful blob you’ve ever seen. It summarizes the whole Art Nouveau, Sarah Bernhardt, Japonisme period to me. Which has always been my non plus ultra of almost excruciatingly high artifice. I love its mix of Expressionist refinement and grey lump.
NM: In terms of design, your collections have become more controlled. Do you find this a natural evolution?
RO: I think I am designing for people of my generation, and we are all growing up together. There was a time when I was swept away by the romance of collapse and decay, but gradually, I have been interested in the Utopian fantasy of control. Both are unhealthy if overdosed but fun in small amounts. I hope I offer both… Every time I finish a collection it’s about presenting something genuine, within my means, that is as fully resolved and balanced as I am capable of. I’ve done everything I can to eliminate last-minute indecisions and chaos. Some people are going to like it, some people are going to dislike it and most people are never going to know about it. But I usually feel like I did the best I could and I will hopefully learn to do better.
NM: Does monochrome continue to excite you?
RO: I don’t know if excite is the word, but I will probably always propose a monochromatic silhouette. I like the proportion of a monochromatically dressed body as a pedestal for the head where all the interesting stuff is happening. There’s a nice modesty in taking your space gently in a room.
NM: What’s the biggest struggle you face as a designer?
RO: Pushing people for more options.
NM: For Fall your dramatic silhouettes (rounded poplin skirts, floor-length, and capes) cut in plush, luxurious fabrics – cashmere, mink and leather; resulted in an elegant nonchalance that exuded sensuality. Was this intentional?
RO: I wanted something gracefully elemental. Like a blanket thrown over the shoulder to sit on a rock by a fire. If it can be done with elegance, sensuality is never far away.
NM: What does your new book express about your journey as a designer?
RO: I have shamelessly edited and highlighted and eliminated and exaggerated to create a story that at moments even has me convinced. It is a wonderfully validating exercise that I recommend to anyone. I am a big advocate of self-invention and I’ve been fairly clinical with mine. I like to think of it as a courtesy to others.
NM: For someone who’s expressed feelings of shame and rejection during childhood, how does it feel to be accepted and well respected today, as a designer?
RO: Pleasantly vengeful at times.
Shop Rick Owens at neimanmarcus.com and select Neiman Marcus stores.