A pillar of the contemporary avant-garde, Rick Owens' eponymous label is known for its dark elegance and highly structured visual code. Sitting down with the designer at his Parisian studio and home, the Palais Bourbon, END. and Rick Owens discuss his approach to collaboration and the designer's legacy so far.
Since the launch of the Rick Owens label in 1994, the Californian designer has cultivated a highly specialised impression of the avant-garde. Rooted in minimalism but with a flair for maximalism, Owens' garments offer a dark aesthetic sensibility that encapsulates an outlook defined by elegance, sophistication and a shirking of normalcy. Inspired by the life of glamorous-grunge the Porterville-native lived throughout the '80s, Owens' garments retains a rock'n'roll attitude and louche appeal, while proffering a truly luxurious combination of quality materials and expert construction. Playing with proportion to cultivate an instantly recognisable silhouette, Owens' approach encapsulates a complete dedication to his craft. A careful balance of the refined and the raw, the designer's home offers a continuation of his all-encompassing aesthetic values, delivering a world of abstract furniture, natural artefacts and contemporary art.
Having relocated to Paris in 2004 with his creative partner and wife, Michèle Lamy, the enigmatic pair found a home at the Place du Palais-Bourbon; a five storey building that was once the French Socialist Party's administrative headquarters in the 7th Arrondissement. A formidable building that houses both the label's studio and the couple's home, its myriad of rooms presents the perfect representation of Rick Owens: the man and the label. A blend of natural and human-made textures, the interiors serve as the ideal environment for the designer to carry out his exacting creative vision.
Discussing the impact of collaborations, the contemporary fashion landscape and his legacy, END. visited Rick Owens at home to learn more about the man behind one of the world's most subversive labels ahead of the release of the exclusive END. x Rick Owens DRKSHDW capsule.
In recent years, you have entered into a number of collaborative projects, working with adidas, Tommy Cash, Birkenstock, the United Farm Workers Association and Champion, to name a few. What is it about collaboration that appeals to you?
After my initial suspicions of collabs as just mutual hype hand jobs, I realized that doesn’t always have to be the rule - it’s a great way to meet new people and try new things. Fashion evolves and the sensitive artisanal craft of 10 years ago might have evolved into something more communal to reflect the way digital advances have drastically changed how we communicate. Fashion at the highest level needs to be bold, prescient and maybe ignoring conventionally sentimental aesthetics and embracing a cynical shrewdness does something to move us forward. Not entirely convinced but I’m keeping an open mind…
Does your collaborative design process stray far from your own practice?
I get really passive with collabs because I don’t know how to test people’s limits gently. I was never a team player so I don’t understand the nuances of negotiation. So, I usually just get polite and marvel at how many restrictions are imposed on me. But I shouldn’t whine - I suppose there are compensations.
Do you find that collaboration is expected of fashion houses in the modern age?
Being an insulated aloof eccentric is easy but joining the community every once in a while can challenge and enrich a life.
Do you think that this expectation comes from a customer’s desire to see blends of traditionally high and low fashion or from a desire for limited edition product exacerbated by internet culture?
I think the world is getting used to a lot of stimulation. There is an entitled voraciousness that depresses me a bit.
In working with END. to create a bespoke capsule, was your intention to subvert your original designs or to reframe them from another perspective?
It was a stimulating assignment to adjust my aesthetic to a different context... and to make a friendly move to someone who has been friendly to me.
Is it difficult to balance your own predispositions for certain methods and aesthetics with those of your collaborator when working on a project?
No - I have ample opportunities to be inflexible... the whole point is to listen to someone else for a change.
Has the democratization of fashion through the internet resulted in an absence of agency and meaning within the contemporary luxury set?
Seems like it.
Your collection for AW19, Larry, seems concerned with the idea of heritage and legacy; an homage to the late-great Larry Legaspi. Is your legacy something that you’re concerned with maintaining or controlling?
I'm satisfied that I've controlled my legacy as best I can - I personally staged a museum retrospective, documented it in an extensive catalog and published 3 books. If it all goes downhill from here, I summarized the best part. And I am so deeply grateful I was able to do that.
Presenting a masterful display of luxury-grunge style, Rick Owens DRKSHDW and END. deliver a highly limited eight-piece capsule, centring around the second life of the garment. A union of the Californian designer’s unparalleled prowess and END.’s street-ready perspective, the exclusive offering encapsulates Owens’ dedication and honed vision of menswear.