Rick Owens

Tonie Ong

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Articles on Rick Owens

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Usually, fashion designers are inspired by the past when creating their new collections. With past rich with fashionable influences and revolutions, designers often use nostalgia to create a new narrative of products for the upcoming season. For example, when John Galliano was at Dior, he would often go back to periods such as the Renaissance era, the turn of the century, or the 1950’s, when the house of Dior was the most popular brand in the world. It’s not new for designers to recreate looks and silhouettes for their future collections, but it is rare for a designer to take inspiration from the distant future. However, Rick Owens has done exactly that.

From the 90’s to today, Rick Owens has become one of the most influential fashion designers in the entire industry. His work is often alluded to as some the most modern designs, introducing shapes and silhouettes that none have seen before, presented every season. He frequently features futuristic, at times even post-apocalyptic collections that challenge both the mind of the spectator and the body of the wearer. While most of the fashion world focuses on ready-to-wear, his creations are often avant-garde and better fit inside a museum than worn on the street.

Designer and Brand History

Owens was born on November 18, 1961, in Porterville, California where he grew up. Otis College of Art and Design is where he studied fashion design in college but dropped out after a couple of semesters. He then studied pattern-drafting and draping at the Los Angeles Trade-Technical college, further perfecting his craft. He went on to work for a number of garment manufacturers during the 1980’s, even making copies of high fashion runway looks, to be then sold at a lower price. He established his eponymous brand in 1994, opening his own store at Hollywood Boulevard.

One of his first retailers at the time was Charles Galley in Los Angeles, the only one to sell his pieced during his first years. To expand internationally, Owens partnered up with Eo Bocci Associati in 2001, introducing his fashion line to the European market. That same year, his brand gained international prominence when a photo of supermodel Kate Moss wearing a leather jacket of his was featured in French Vogue. As a result, Owens met with Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of American Vogue, who sponsored his first few shows in New York Fashion Week. His debut show in the Fall 2002 season led him to win the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s New Talent award that year. A year later, Owens moved his studio to Paris, where it is based now as he continues to show each season in Paris Fashion Week.

Elaborate Style and Memorable Shows

Through the years, Owens’ style has changed dramatically. During the company’s first years, he introduced a new style called “Glunge”, a mixture of glamour and grunge, two looks that were heavily-popular during that time. He often produced leather pieces, deconstructed garments, and bottoms with unequal hems – details that make them unique yet quirky at the same time.  As he went on, his style began to be more elaborate, and he focused a lot more on draping. His shapes became more interesting, from tightly draped on the body, almost restricting the wearer, or big and oversized for more impact. He has since become one of the most influential avant-garde designers in the industry today.

The designer and label are also known for their fashion shows, especially when they started showing in Paris Fashion Week. His shows have transcended the concept of humanity, using non-professional models on his catwalk, or using human beings as accessories. One of his most memorable and groundbreaking shows was his Spring 2013 show, when he trotted out female step dance groups, all wearing his designs, to perform for the fashion press audience. The women were all plus-sized and exuded toughness and grittiness, far from the dainty models used in other shoes. Another iconic show is Spring 2016 when he accessorized his runway models with actual human beings as their backpacks. Prior to that, no one had used people as accessories on their shows.

Modern Muses

Even though his clothes are often unwearable on the street, a lot of celebrities and prominent figures have fallen in love with Owens’ unique and edgy style. His eternal muse is his wife, Michèle Lamy, who has become a fashion icon herself through his designs. From Hollywood, actresses like Jennifer Aniston, Jessica Alba, and Lindsay Lohan, as well as actors Orlando Bloom and Jude Law have been spotted in the label’s glunge pieces. Pop stars Janet Jackson, Victoria Beckham and Taylor Swift have also become fans of the designer label. Although they wear his more wearable pieces, they still give the designer and label more awareness.

For an industry that claims to dress people for the future, Rick Owens remains to be one of the very rare designers and labels that actually take inspiration from the future. The brand’s pieces are entirely new, conceptual, and modern, veering away from the nostalgia strategy other fashion designers and houses have been using.

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