Rick Owens is Fashion’s Unapologetically Outspoken Opponent.

Longtime Parisian designer Rick Owens has been called many things. “Prince of darkness” goth. His mostly noir, gray, and ice-hued work, pentagram motifs on undergarments, and rapturously anti-establishment style have earned him this nickname.

Owens, whose mother is from Puebla, Mexico, was born and raised in Porterville, California, before founding his namesake business in Los Angeles in 1994. He moved to Paris in 2003 with his partner Michèle Lamy and now splits his time between Paris and Venice, Italy’s Lido, where he has a penthouse apartment overlooking the sea and staged and filmed intimate runway shows during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thursday’s Paris catwalk marked his return to the city after a year and a half.

His main collection, diffusion lines, furniture collection, brand partnerships, and more generate hundreds of millions of dollars in sales for his label, which he and Lamy own. He is an industry favourite despite being a dark horse, having received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America. He’s also popular with celebrities like Lil Uzi Vert, Kim Kardashian, Rihanna, and Timothée Chalamet, who wore Rick Owens to the Met Gala.

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People want to imagine that everything’s going to be fine, and that we’ve got it all under control.

Owens, who turns 60 in November, may be one of the most unfiltered designers working today, especially since many premium businesses have strict corporate approval processes and safety checks. Honesty: “I appreciate bombast, but there’s always rage. I was enraged by my conservative, judgmental hometown “Owens. “I’m still furious. My retribution. Vengeful. Still spiteful Scorpio.”

Owens’ sumptuous product doesn’t conform to mass-marketed opulence. His signature style is defined by blistered leathers, exotic skins, tape-thin cashmere knits, overwashed denim, and roughened glamour, such as sequins or foils. His silhouettes are large, clinging, languid, and intriguing. It fuses into something futuristic and primordial. Neanderthal to extraterrestrial, but somehow modern.

He believes he strives towards auteurship. “I’ve always sought to offer an alternative to the world’s rigorous aesthetic. I bend the rules. I present this as an alternative to the norms you’re used to, not in a forceful sense. We created our own beauty with confidence, flare, and bravery. Smarter beauty.”
Owens’ controversy and genius represent his belief that fashion can thrive as a tug-of-war between darkness and joy.

A model in Owens’ June 2015 presentation brandished a banner reading “Please Kill Angela Merkel Not.” Some thought it was an inside job, a violent publicity gimmick (Owens denies any prior knowledge of it).
The latter has two standouts. Owens presented his Spring-Summer 2014 collection in September 2013 with American sorority step teams instead of models. The event was a hit years before the fashion industry’s push for racial and size diversity.

One is a 2019 runway show. Owens often presents at the Palais de Tokyo, which requires creative space-filling.

Thomas Houseago’s sculptures were on display that summer. Owens’ set had one such piece in the middle. The designer added clay from Houseago’s Los Angeles workshop to Parisian mud and staged it. “It’s clay that came from Los Angeles that was in a Rick Owens show that ended up at the Louvre,” Owens adds. “Loved that. I thought that solved runway show excesses.”

Spring-Summer 2022’s “Fogachine” collection highlighted Owens’ hallmarks, like a dip-dyed elongated sheer top over a barely-there body suit with splint-like python boots and a billowing, almost caftan-like tulle dress embellished with iridescent raven feathers. The collection was a confident, elegant-yet-menacing homecoming, but Owens doesn’t attribute too many emotions to his work.
As always, he grapples with huge questions: “Everyone wants to flex when shows return after the pandemic. Everyone wants to prove they’re stronger than ever. I understand. I’m thinking that. No one likes humility. Nobody likes humbling lessons. People want us back at full force.” “People want to imagine that everything’s going to be alright, and that we’ve got it all under control,” he says, smiling mischievously.