Though one is established and the other is emerging, both Rick Owens and Ludovic de Saint Sernin are designers defined by the singularity of their visions. For almost 30 years, Owens has been at the bleeding edge of fashion, helming a brand that is as grand as it is grunge, devoured by its devoted following. Bold, confrontational, subversive, transgressive are all words that can be used to describe his world – which is exactly that, a world, more than it is just clothes. For just over three years, De Saint Sernin has been captivating the fashion industry, as well as his own devoted following, with his sensual designs which embody a new, elegant and elevated take on homoeroticism. And while on an aesthetic level, these two designers may seem like poles apart, they have more in common than you might think. Fresh off the back of a collaboration – a zine titled TYRONE BY RICK FOR LUDOVIC – the pair sit down with AnOther for a conversation spanning food, form and fashion, as well as their commonalities.
Rick Owens: I found out about you through Tyrone. What struck me was that your aesthetic was so precise and so rigorous. I loved that it was a hedonistic world that you were showing us, but it was paced very deliberately. It wasn’t voraciously hedonistic, it was very confident and secure and relaxed in a way. It wasn’t frenzied the way hedonism is portrayed so often. Everything that you did felt very carefully planned. It didn’t feel overly precious but it felt seriously considered. And the aesthetic that you had, the homoerotic part, was different than we’d seen before. It was more graceful, the balance of cardinal and grace was new. Usually it’s more carnal but you did it with this new elegance that felt really new and so sophisticated. To apply that aesthetic to man seemed really new. The further along that you went, you kept this rigorous pace that was very steady and wasn’t trying to throw everything into a show, it was almost minimal. When I went to your shows, that careful consideration was what I thought was really special. So that was my introduction to why I started paying attention to your work so much.
Ludovic de Saint Sernin: For me, growing up and looking at fashion, you were one of the stars. What really struck me was that you were so independent and that you managed, pre-Instagram, to create a community that was so dedicated. If you’re a Rick boy or Rick girl, it’s for life. I really admire this because it’s easier now to create a community, with Instagram and social media, because you can connect with people all over the world. Being able to achieve this through so many years and for people to have been following you for so many years is just incredible. When we met in real life and started talking, I felt like I was meeting someone who was just starting, but also someone that had been doing it for a while. It was refreshing to see your perspective on it because you were so curious on what I was doing.
RO: I was so curious about your path because it was so different than mine, that’s why I asked so many questions because it fascinated me how you had done it in such a different way. Your rigorous approach is what appealed to me because that’s what I try to do. I try to be very precise and move at a very deliberate pace.
LdSS: I don’t know how to be anybody else but myself and I feel like you’re the same. We’re just being ourselves and contributing to an industry that can sometimes feel like you’re just selling a product – it’s great to have an aesthetic but it’s really important to have a message as well, to be able to show it in your work and that your work is a world. You’ve managed to create a very unique world.
“What really struck me was ... that you managed, pre-Instagram, to create a community that was so dedicated. If you’re a Rick boy or Rick girl, it’s for life” – Ludovic de Saint Sernin
RO: What do you do for self-care Ludovic?
LdSS: I need to learn about this from you.
RO: You know what? I smoke all the time and I eat cake all the time so it’s all a balance.
LdSS: I’m a real creature of habit. I have a frappuccino from Starbucks every day and I have done that for the last ten years. That’s my lunch. And a cookie.
RO: Do you wake up with a coffee or juice or water or what?
LdSS: I wake up with cereal, I don’t have milk with it, just cereal, it’s a dry breakfast and I have apple juice. That’s it.
RO: You don’t have coffee?
LdSS: I don’t drink coffee, I don’t smoke, I don’t really do adult things, I’m like a baby.
RO: Do you drink milk?
RO: Do you eat ice cream?
LdSS: Well, the frappuccino is basically an ice cream so yes. I have an addiction to ice cream, icy stuff – I put an ice cube in my wine. I’m very American like that.
RO: Do you watch what you eat because you want to stay slim or are you naturally slim?
LdSS: I’ll be honest, I try to workout. My boyfriend is a dancer so he has an incredible, perfect body. I’ve been trying to match that and keep up with him really.
RO: That’s motivation.
LdSS: For sure. What about you? What do you have for breakfast?
RO: I just have coffee. That’s all I have. When I’m at the factory, I’ve gotten into the habit of having an apricot croissant, like a big juicy slutty apricot croissant.
LdSS: Sounds delicious.
RO: It’s incredible. I have that in the mornings and for lunch I have a big thing of chicken with pasta or purée and then for dinner I have a big thing of chicken and pasta and purée too. I eat a lot, it’s surprising. I’m just really lucky that I have a metabolism that doesn’t pick up a lot of fat because I never do cardio, I hate it.
LdSS: Did you always have that body, did you always work out?
RO: No, I’ve been doing this for 20 years now. Before, I was very soft and had little girl tits and full hips.
LdSS: I’m the same.
RO: As a kid, I had the two teeth that stuck out. I was really different. But then I had braces and when I was in my 30s I started working out – I was an alcoholic then so I was always hungover but I was always working out. Then I shot up steroids and I had trainers which changed everything. It’s all maintenance now.
LdSS: That’s another thing we have in common. I think because of the bodies that we were born with, we have a special relationship to the body. All our work is based around the body and how to dress it and reveal it or not. We have a really strong relationship to our body or image. Our image plays a big role in the aesthetic of our brand.
RO: I absolutely agree. For a long time, I rejected the body because I worked on my body for so long that the clothes became irrelevant. The clothes didn’t have to show the body because it was already formed, so I didn’t feel like I had to enhance it, which is the opposite of you because your clothes reveal the body in such a way that your body really has to live up to your clothes. Mine can be shrouded because personally I wear big baggy clothes because somewhere there’s the confidence that underneath the body is good so I don’t even have to show it. But that’s also an age thing – when you’re 30 you have urges that you need to express. Your sensuality is such a prime force in your clothes – mine isn’t as sensual, mine is a different kind of sexuality. Yours is way sexier, which is funny at my age, all of a sudden I’m interested in that. I’m really enjoying looking at the way you portray your clothes, the way they portray the bodies that you focus on, because you have a particular body – it’s not muscle man, your bodies are very lithe and they’re all very elegant and they’re not bulky. Is that accurate?
“Fuck commercial, just do what delights you ... If I ever have any advice, it is to be completely selfish” – Rick Owens
LdSS: Yeah, I don’t really notice what I choose to show, I just do it instinctively.
RO: Good. Don’t overthink it.
LdSS: It’s interesting to put yourself in this vulnerable position where you let people in on your own exploration of your work and your relationship to your work. It’s interesting and challenging because you might feel like you’re doing it for you but actually people are watching.
RO: That is so important, that’s one thing that I’ve learned, you have to only please yourself, because if you start considering other people then it distracts you and it’s not a good thing. You have to be completely selfish and only think of what delights you. Fuck commercial, just do what delights you. There have been times in the past where I started feeling responsible for people that worked for me and thinking I have to keep the numbers up and look at what people want and it just didn’t work. If I ever have any advice, it is to be completely selfish.
LdSS: It’s not a bad thing.
RO: Not at all. Everybody benefits.
LdSS: For sure. There has to be something for everyone and at the same time you can’t please everyone.
RO: You can’t please everyone so you really need to just focus on what you’re doing. It’s not easy. When I look at what you’re doing, it takes the strong will to keep that straight path. That’s admirable. That’s why I like you.
LdSS: Thank you. I like you too.
RO: What do you hate about yourself Ludovic? What are your flaws?
LdSS: Oh my god, stop, I have so many flaws. I don’t know what to say not to sound superficial to answer this question.
RO: I think about my flaws a lot and I put them in my men’s clothes so I’ll give you a start – one of my biggest flaws is impatience. To me, impatience is a big flaw because it implies fear of something. You’re only ruffled when you’re threatened. At my age I’m thinking why should I feel threatened? How could I have gotten to my age and still feel threatened? It makes me crazy because I feel like at my age I should have reached an amazing level of serenity but I still get shaken up and impatient about things. That’s what I consider my biggest flaw. Part of that I know is a natural aggression that men have, so I accept that I have this certain amount of aggression in me. I’m proud of it but I’m also ashamed of it. So that’s one of the flaws that I have that I constantly try to keep in balance. Trying to use it instead of letting it use me. That’s my flaw.
LdSS: What’s your star sign?
Ludovic: My flaw is in relation to my star sign [which is Virgo] – I’m a perfectionist. I really need things to be exactly the way I want them to be and if they’re not, then I feel vulnerable. I have a hard time letting go of the most minute detail and won’t sleep at night if something doesn’t look exactly the way I want it to look.
RO: It can be a flaw but can also be one of your greatest assets. You need to be a perfectionist and it shows. It looks like what you do, it comes from someone who is very very careful and thoughtful. It’s a strength but I know what you mean, it can cause anxiety but that’s the side effect. It’s not the worst thing. We didn’t finish your day, what do you have for dinner?
LdSS: For dinner I love cheese, pasta and wine. I’m very French in that way, all the delicious pleasures. It’s just getting in between me and my dream body. I could never be vegan or vegetarian. I want to be but I can’t.
RO: I wouldn’t have been surprised if you told me you were vegan.
“It’s fun to throw something spontaneously creative out there without any agenda ... Our version of having a little playtime” – Rick Owens
RO: [The zine] was so spontaneous because I think you asked me when I was putting together my men’s show and Tyrone was still in Paris. So I went back through some old pictures – it wasn’t that old, it was a month ago. We’d done this shoot with your briefs and I thought maybe it’d work. I went back to look at it and we shot videos and stuff, so I took some stills from the videos. I did it in one night actually, here in the factory. I just collated everything and edited it and it was a real fun night of putting it together. I love having a little creative project like that. Then we sent it to the printers, after Tyrone approved it, of course. It seemed like a fun thing to do because the three of us had enjoyed spending time together, so it was a natural, easy thing. It turned out really nice.
LdSS: I love the way it came out. Even though I’m all about Instagram and digital, I am an old-fashioned gal, too. Most of the press that I’m in, I will go out and buy the magazines, so I really treasure print and I think other people also do because when we put it out at the gallery, we had so many people come in specially to get the zine. When I opened it for the first time, I just loved that it was matte and that you didn’t see clearly the details. I thought it had the perfect balance of showing and wanting more because you couldn’t really see the details. I had people DMing and asking how they could get it. People were really desperate to get it. It’s such a nice touch, it’s like a collector’s item and it’s something that you can leave the gallery with, you leave with a piece of that moment and I think that’s so generous and special.
RO: I agree how it turned out, it did have a bit more mystery. The intention was supposed to be very raw and not super glossy or high res. It was supposed to be a low-tech exercise, it ended up going a little further low-tech than I thought it was, but I still love it. It’s fun to throw something spontaneously creative out there without any agenda. Just playing with somebody. Our version of having a little playtime.
LdSS: For me, I think this is the beginning of a great relationship and that I want to do so many more things with you. I have so much to learn as well and I can’t wait to be reconnected in real life and to be able to pick up on where we left off last time we saw each other. I’m grateful and can’t wait to see what the future holds for you, me and us.
RO: Are you really frustrated you’re not doing shows?
LdSS: I’m not because I loved my first show, the S/S20 ’Wet and Wild’. The second one I did was the heartbreak collection and it was all about my breakup, it was really intense and really draining and it was as emotional and as beautiful as it could be. What I learned from your last show is that each and every picture is a beautiful image. I need to be able to do my next show where I love each and every image. I am grateful for the little break that I could reflect on that and have that in mind for the next one.
RO: Spoken like a true perfectionist.
TYRONE BY RICK FOR LUDOVIC is a limited edition zine of 500 copies by Rick Owens featuring Tyrone Dylan wearing Ludovic de Saint Sernin. The Ludozine is available now at Joyce Gallery Paris.