Hazine

28.10.2015 - Jessica Marrazzo

Designer

Subtle Rebellion

CALIFORNIAN BORN RICK OWENS HAS MADE HIS MARK ON PARISIAN FASHION OVER RECENT YEARS WITH HIS GLAMOROUS TAKE ON GOTHIC GRUNGE. HIS CREATIVE STRENGTH LIES IN REBELLION, EXPERIMENTING WITH AVANT-GARDE CONSTRUCTIONS AND AGED FABRICS WITH A LUXURY TWIST. WITH A STRONG CULT FOLLOWING, THE DESIGNER HAS ENJOYED GREAT SUCCESS IN RECENT YEARS, BRANCHING OUT WITH A FURNITURE LINE, ARTISTIC DIRECTION FOR FRENCH BRAND REVILLON, AS WELL AS HIS DIFFUSION LINE DRKSHDW.

With over 30 years experience in the industry, Rick Owens is renowned for breaking the rules. His unconventional training paved the way for an inherently creative brand, pushing the boundaries of conceptual clothing. Understated and sophisticated, the designer brings a touch of American allure to the fashion conscious wardrobe with a wholesome street-style influence that is rooted in everyday reality.

A NEW AESTHETIC

Born and raised in Porterville, California, Rick learned how to sew as a teenager, creating complicated forms with a conceptual twist. After studying fine art at the Otis-Parsons Art Institute, he dropped out to concentrate on pattern cutting at a local trade college. He later described this period as a firm foundation for his later work, learning the fundamentals to break the rules in an abstract way. 

Over the following years, he started to pattern cut for knockoff businesses in the city, before working for a Los Angeles sportswear company owned by Michelle Lamy. His bond with Lamy soon became his source of inspiration, motivating him to start his own label in 1994. Working out of his own home with a single full-time sewer, he slowly built up his business by selling his collections in local boutiques Charles Galley and Barneys. He surprised his clients with an unexpected mix of luxury grunge, underpinned with lush fabrics and unconventional cuts.

BROADENING HORIZONS

In 2001, Owens sought international expansion to meet the needs of his growing business. He then signed a deal with sales agency EBA, moving production to Italy. Soon enough, his collections came under the spotlight after features in French and American Vogue, with Anna Wintour backing sponsorship for his first catwalk show at New York Fashion Week later that year. The mix of neutral hues became his signature colour palette, complimenting the colours of Owens’ own colourful neighbourhood

His international acclaim prompted historic French fur company Revillon to appoint Owens as artistic director in 2002. Suzy Menkes later commented that he had transformed the concept of business, knocking the “stuffing and stuffiness out of furs”. The following year, he relocated to Paris with his long-term partner Michelle Lamy, moving into a five-storey mansion, which became home to his growing studio, offices and personal apartment.

THE STYLE REVOLUTION 

Over the past decade, Rick Owens’ brand has gone from strength to strength, enjoying international expansion with branded boutiques and the launch of an in house e-commerce website. He’s not afraid to follow his own direction, building up his stand-alone empire at his own speed, trusting his artistic vision to secure the next successes. His signature creative ethos forms a strong identity with a timeless flavour, leaving behind industry trends in favour of a more personalised identity. He comments that in fashion, “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”. It’s this subtle rebellion that attracts his cult following, the free spirit that continues to emerge with each passing season.

SS16 Runway Show

TIMELINE

1962 - Californian roots

Rick Owens is born in Porterville, a small agricultural town close to Los Angeles, California. He is an only child, raised in a conservative family. His mother Connie teaches Rick how to sew, and by the age of 18 he starts to experiment with his own complicated constructions. 

1979 - Student Life

Owens moves to Los Angeles to attend Otis-Parsons Art institute as a fine arts student. He is particularly captivated by the work of the conceptual artist Joseph Beuys, which initially sparks his interest in using creativity as insulation and protection. 

1981 - Foundations

After two years, he realises that he lacks the intensity and discipline that he believes is essential to become an artist, and decides to leave the Institute to study pattern cutting at a local trade college. He later describes this as a firm foundation in clothing construction, teaching him the fundamentals so that he could later break the rules in a more abstract way. At this time, he begins to create costumes for local artists and performers, indulging his creative side. Over the following years, he begins to work for knockoff houses in Los Angeles, copying the work of famous designers in low-cost fabrics.

1988 - Michele Lamy

Owens begins to work as a pattern-cutter for a Los Angeles sportswear company owned by Michele Lamy, a French entrepreneur. After two years working there, he starts an affair with her. She soon leaves her husband and they move in together. At the start of their relationship, they are heavily inspired by local rock culture, emulating the lifestyles of their favourite artists, such as Iggy Pop, Keith Richards and David Bowie.

1994 - A New Label

He decides to start his own label, starting with inexpensive fabric remnants that he transforms into effortlessly sophisticated dresses, skirts and T-shirts with chic cuts. Working out of his own house with a full time sewer, he begins to sell exclusively to the department boutique Charles Galley, one of the city’s hottest and most directional retailers at the time. The surrounding urban subculture becomes his inspiration, translating a mix of glamour and grunge onto fabric by machine-washing and tumble-drying leather to achieve a used look – something that later becomes a part of his iconic style.

1999 - International Expansion

In the late nineties, Owens’ work begins to feature in avant-garde fashion magazines, and his line soon gets picked up in Barneys. In 2001, the business grows too large for him to continue production at his home studio. Owens signs a deal with EBA, an Italian sales agency, subsequently relocating production to Italy. Later that year, he presents his first fashion show in New York for Spring Summer 2002.

2002 - Paris Relocation

French fur company Revillon appoints Rick Owens as artistic director. A year later, he relocates to Paris with his long-term partner Michele Lamy. They move to a five-storey mansion in the seventh arrondissement of Paris, hosting their branded studio, offices and personal apartments. In 2006, Rick Owens marries Michele Lamy. A year later he is awarded an international design prize, commending his achievements for innovation in fashion.

2014 - An Established Brand

The brand continues its worldwide expansion with the unveiling of eight own-brand boutiques, in key design cities such as Paris, London, Milan, Seoul and Tokyo. This year sees the launch of an e-commerce store as well as a redesign of the Rick Owens website, exploring a new digital age.

2015 – Art Meets Fashion

Known for his outstanding and unique brand, Rick Owens has always had a thing for merging art and fashion. Combining architectural inspired clothing and human harnesses, Rick Owens went beyond breaking the rules through unconventional fashion creating not only a new collection but also an art performance for his SS16 collection.

Photo:

© Gettyimages, Imaxtree

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