Tuesday, March 11, 2008

rick owens' monsters

Every once in a while, The New Yorker publishes a retrospect on a fashion designer that will rival devotional poetry in its complete reverence for the artist. This week's piece on Rick Owens not only succeeded in describing why Owens has established a cult-like following, but also to elevated him to the level of the great conceptual designers such as Rei Kawakubo. Rick Owens' aesthetic has been described as "broken idealism." His elaborately sculptural pieces evoke the sentiment of a seedy crumbling city--perhaps Lima or St. Petersburg. The walls of his own Paris apartment, which he shares with his wife Michele Lamy, are crumbling, shorn of wallpaper, the floors are dusty concrete slabs, the ceilings are a tangle of ducts, wires and pipes. Owens has a similar attitude to clothing--he takes something perfect and fusses it up a bit, whether it be the shape or the fabric. Soft leather jackets are machine washed and dried, semi-transparent organza is layered, t-shirts are long and clingy, dresses are elegant but always asymmetrical: this is glunge (glamour + grunge) at it's finest.

Shown here: jacket, cashmere jersey tube skirt and top from the Lilies collection (2007)

There is a sad romanticism that all of his pieces have which draws me to them. His designs embody the crumbling paint on a cathedral wall. In fact, a large inspiration to Owens are the robes worn in church:
"In Catholic school I always loved that aesthetic of all those robes dragging in those dusty temples, with Jesus and the disciples and all that. It was very exotic and very alluring to me in my very safe little world of small-town California. When I look around here in the studio, I see wanting to re-create those dusty temples and robes and stuff."
At times, I was annoyed with Owens' California-boy-in-Paris life, his conservative parents following him around fashion week and his insistence that he was a "deeply cultured person." All of these trappings of celebrity probably made his personality a bit grating to me from the page but the laudatory style with which the article was written really put Owens in a position of high esteem. Check it out if you get a chance!


Anonymous Anaka said...

I could be mistaken, but I feel as if I've seen this before. The exaggerated collar is very Issey- Miyake- ish and it's possible that Rei has also experimented with this already.

5:57 AM  
Blogger odilean said...

anaka--you are absolutely right. the de-constructed sculptural collar is very prominent in the works of many of the more theoretical japanese designers. it is also a good example of what owens does...the "drippy" long silhouette, the unlikely use of fabric (knitwear rather than a more structured fabric), and a california casualness which is part of his visual vocabulary and that makes him unique. But all of the real innovation in his work is the stuff that has already been experimented with...i completely agree with you.

7:35 AM  

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