The Californian Paris-based designer Rick Owens is famed for his artistic take on dressing, his avant-garde eye and his daring designs. Iconic in the fashion field, he also creates furniture and works intensely in connecting clothes with a deeper metaphysical and creative experience. His furniture has been widely exhibited under such enigmatic titles as Pavane for a Dead Princess or To Pop a Boner. In 2007, he was awarded the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award. A monograph about his work has just been published by Rizzoli.
How would you connect fashion to elegance?
Everybody probably has their own definition of elegance. Personally, I’ve seen some pretty transgressive fashion that was elegant in its wit or exuberance. I think everyone would agree that elegance is the most desirable part of fashion.
What is the role of history and art history in your conception of fashion?
History has provided us with touchstones and symbols that we get to mix and rearrange to create new compositions in fashion. These arrangements can at times hit similar chords that art can.......
Would you describe fashion as a language and a discourse, as Barthes did it?
Barthes would be a lot more elaborate. I like to think of fashion as a quiet opportunity to participate and communicate. First impressions can be significant and I like the idea of putting your best foot forward. The effort to charm is generous and never hurts.
The word "intellectual" was coined in a time of great political distress.
Does fashion have a political role? And in which way?
I think fashion can only comment, react or protest. I’m not sure that it really has that much more power.
How would you relate the concept of "fashion" to the one of "style"?
Fashion can be cruel. Style is a gift to others.
What does fashion have to do with intellectuality?
How we present ourselves can be the first step in setting the tone of how we hope to behave.
Your designs seem to be based on a confrontation of elegance and a certain
wildness. Would that be a way, for you, to redefine beauty?
The story I’m telling is about the balance of control and collapse and the temptation to overdo either. I like the idea of idealism, misguided or not, and its inevitable defeat. I like self-invention and even more when it goes a bit morbid.
You pay a lot of attention to the presentation of your collections, working with the same stylist and creating fascinating pictures. How would you relate
the clothes themselves to the way they are "staged"?
When I started, runway shows weren’t in my plan. I felt that my aesthetic was too grey and narrow to endure the scrutiny of a status and novelty driven system. And I don’t mean that disapprovingly. But the opportunity was presented to me in such an ideal way that it would have been ungrateful not to try, and after a while I grew to really enjoy them. I feel that the clothes become relics of a ceremony that we’ve experienced together. A harmless ceremony to enjoy a communal moment of beauty. And those shows hopefully can give us a perfect moment to think about living up to.
Rick Owens is also featured in the latest issue of Another Man as he sheds some light on the hedonistic history behind his new after-hours venue the Spotlight.
Organised around a regular pattern: in this column each interviewee picks the picture that illustrates their interview, answers six questions that are the same for all contributors and then two more that are designed specifically for them. In two weeks Donatien will be interviewing the curator Massimiliano Gioni.