Rick Owens was born in 1962 in Porterville, California. He studied fine arts at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles before taking a pattern cutting class which led him to abandon his fine art studies for a career in fashion.
He launched the Rick Owens designer label in the mid nineties but it was not until almost a decade later when a shot of Kate Moss wearing one of his fitted, distressed leather jackets appeared in Vogue Paris that he gained worldwide attention and the support of American Vogue’s Anna Wintour.
In a market where luxury goods conglomerates, excessive merchandising and logo emblazonment are often de rigueur, Owens’ brand of understated luxury stands out. Rick Owens fashion is the antithesis of conspicuous wealth and has led to some coining his look ‘stealth wealth’. Owens does not advertise and only shows two menswear and womenswear collections a year. His bi-annual collections tend to showcase more of an evolution in his design aesthetic rather than dramatic shifts in style. The Rick Owens look has been described as ‘glamour-meets-grunge’ but Owens himself says “I try to make clothes the way Lou Reed does music, with minimal chord changes.... It's about giving everything I make a worn, softened feeling”.
Owens is a romantic at heart. His skill at mixing light and dark with hard and soft has earned him a cult-like following of faithful consumers and critics who avidly lap up every Rick Owens collection. Owens has become the industry go-to label for softly luxurious leather jackets, Cimmerian colours, sinuous drapery and fierce footwear. Most recently Owens has shown a softer glamorous side while still staying true to his monochromatic elegance. While his hefty price tags enable him to sit alongside his haute fashion contemporaries, Owens treats his materials with a great deal less reverence. Rabbit fur is formed into macabre rabbit shaped bags, cashmere is ripped and laddered and the finest chiffon is chewed and frayed. He also uses opulent fabrics such as sable to line his jackets; there to please no one but the wearer.
Owens’ clothing for the most part is as functional as it is visionary and costly. His atelier produces a large amount of separates, which are also accessible to those with non-model figures. Typically Owens cuts with a narrow shoulder and longer sleeves creating the look of slimness and he often designs with an indentation in the lower back where the spine curves; as he says it “always makes your ass perkier”. He has never been a designer to manipulate or morph the shape of the body, choosing rather to embrace shape and use drape, bias cutting and jersey.