RICK OWENS – The Art of Execution

Rick Owens has been hailed as one of the most creative, eclectic and multidimensional visionary minds in the history of Fashion. His fertile imagination places him – always – ahead of his time, reshaping contemporary creation with geometrical and powerful silhouettes, and his artistic intentions are at the core of an immediate and anticonformist reality, mixing his instinct, his intimate process and a reflective quest. With a solid history of LECLAIREUR standing by the designer since the very early days, founder Armand Hadida and Rick Owens took time to exchange their thoughts on Art, and the arts…

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Armand Hadida: Paris loves you. We’re lucky enough to travel all around the world and it’s been a privilege to witness your increasing presence in all the capitals around the world. We’re proud to have been with you in the early beginning of the story.

Rick Owens: You definitely helped to develop that story.

I love how you introduced the first chapter of your story to the fashion world, and how you’re able to mix, today, fashion, design and art. I use the word Art because fashion, to me, and design, are Art.

I’m sure your perspective on this would be interesting. When we introduced ourselves, I had no idea what everybody else was doing, in a way, so I didn’t know how we were different. I had nothing to compare it to, because I’d never been in the industry. We just did it the way it made sense for us, in our own way, to me, to my partners, Michèle, Elsa and Luca. Their creativity matched mine, in this adventure, and it takes a lot of talent to do what they were doing. They were pretty smart about it. We’ve been together for 14 years now, that doesn’t happen very often, does it, in the fashion world? That kind of longevity is very special to us…

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The way you choose to express yourself is very different, anything but classical or conventional. Take your shows, for example.

We have a great opportunity to express ourselves. I don’t know if i would have been able to express myself in the Art world, even though I went to Art School. At the time, I didn’t really think I had enough to give to the Art world, I was more intimidated by it, impressed by the rules I thought were there, the theory and analysis… It was just too much for me, and I didn’t realize there were other ways to create Art, not just the certain formular way of making art. Now I think I might have miscalculated things, but that’s really the reason I went to fashion. It was another form of creativity, and it was easier.

Now, it’s hard to talk about the Art world without sounding critical or superior, and i don’t want to do either, but I think the fashion world has had to become more sophisticated because it’s more competitive. Clothes are not enough anymore, you need something more personal and intense than just good clothes. There are a lot of good clothes out there. When I go to a department store, I kind of freak out sometimes: so much stuff to buy! How on earth are people going to buy our stuff compared to all of this other stuff? It’s still a mystery.

I think what makes somebody stand out is if they put more into it than just clothes. The funny thing, whenever I talk about things like that, is that I always sound like I know all the answers. I don’t, and I hate sounding like I might, like a know it all, but I feel like we have the opportunity to express so much more than clothes, so much more than just the fashion shows, so much more than the lifestyle. What I’ve done, what I’ve made a point of doing is so much about my life. Sometimes I think there is an element of vanity involved, which disturbs me, but then I kind of forgive myself because we all have an element of vanity. It’s ok. I create a world that takes a lot of energy to make and define in a specific and precise way. Yes, I think there is a lot of ego into that and, well, that’s fine.

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You came to fashion after learning its technical aspects, as a pattern maker, and you combined that with your Art school education. Tools are essential to the evolution of expression, they’re a form of education in themselves, aren’t they? Take young designers, for example; the more tools you give them, the better chance they have at opening doors and expressing themselves beyond the work.

If you’re smart, if you’re a talented person, you’re hungry for information and voracious about looking for it. The thing I had, that made the difference, is technical skills. That’s why I often urge young people, assuming that they are creative, and know what they want to say, to pack it up technically. Everybody has some kind of creative taste. There are a lot of people with good taste. Inspiration. Everybody has inspiration, but execution is everything.

Can you tell me about your plans for the next shows?

I’m thinking of developing something else. That’s why I was getting into gesture and physical movement on the runway: it’s not so much about clothes anymore. I don’t like to use the word « performances » when referring to the shows, but they are certainly a ceremony. I think they are a ceremony on beauty. People gather together to experience, they experience your personal combination of beauty, of what I consider beautiful and when they go to the stores to buy clothes, they come bearing the ceremony they were involved in. That’s how I see fashion shows now. The clothes are only one element amongst many.

The scale that we’ve gotten to is bigger than what I could have imagined but even if we were reduced, I feel I would still be satisfied because all the components are there. Family, creativity, health… We’ve been doing it in a way that I am happy with, and when I look back, I feel proud.

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Do you have any favorite places in Paris, places you go to for inspiration? A special museum or gallery?

I always like going to Pantin. I’m not really good at spotting new contemporary artists. Michèle loves that. Me, I like old Art, old stuff. I go to fairs sometimes. I go because it’s… a party. Sometimes I’ll see things that I like, but I can’t really completely engage with a newcomer because I need to see the whole story. I need to understand it from beginning to end. I need to have the gravity of seeing the full circle, someone maintaining their vision regularly until they die. I kind of need that, and there’s also a sort of… melancholy. It’s over, and that makes it so special, because it’s impossible to reproduce that same experience, or that expression. That said, I also love going to see new Art because I love feeling what a creative community, a cultural community is doing. It’s energizing.

Rick Owen’s groundbreaking collections for men and women can be found at LECLAIREUR Sevigne, Boissy d’Anglas and Champs-Elysees.

Pictures and video footage courtesy of Owenscorp