Feb 02, 2009 12:00AM

American Mystic - Rick Owens

There is no denying Rick Owens has been at the top of his game ever since he introduced his sophisticated urban silhouettes in the early 90s. His clothes have been widely copied and worn by countless celebrities, from his gorgeous washed leather jackets to shawl-like skinny knits and floor-length skirts in murky tones. Owens loves drama, refinement and singularity but his practical touch always shines through, and comfort and consistency define his designs. Managing to strike the perfect balance between casual and couture, sporty and edgy, Owens surfs the waves of ambiguity with apparent ease. Narrow definitions don't really work here, both in his private and professional life. Married and bisexual, he's also a photographer and furniture designer. He has put men in stacked high heels and favours androgynous-looking women. Think glam rock Bowie meets grounded Armani. In an exclusive interview, the statuesque American talks to Oyster's Phillipe Pourhashemi about the street, mysticism, Klaus Nomi songs and how he relates to distortion.

The theme of this issue is distortion. What does that word evoke to you?

I can totally relate to it. For me, distortion means a lot of things. It's about altering, enhancing, exaggerating, emphasising, corrupting, celebrating and owning what you do.

Your clothes are always wearable. Are you inspired by what you see on the street or do you feel distanced from it?

I'm not on the street the way I used to be, but I remember the basic ideas: anti-conventional flamboyance, embracing the grotesque and feeling immortal. As I got older I kind of got that out of my system, so my aesthetics became more relaxed. Vestiges remain though.

Can you talk me through your austere spring/summer 09 collection?

I was kind of thinking 'healthy, disciplined, hard elegance'.

There was a feeling of ease and comfort too. Is simplicity necessary in uncertain times?

On the contrary, I think that during hard times people are only going to buy something that truly engages them, and it might be the moment for a frivolous, defiant gesture? But I suppose anytime's a good time for that!

Did religion inspire your last show? Some elements seemed to refer to ancient Egypt and priests.

I do love a bit of mysticism. I don't believe in any [religion] but I'm attracted to rituals and devotion. I rather glibly described my show as "Priestesses of longing," but it sounds nice, doesn't it?

Yes it does. So was it about desire in a way?

Longing is something everyone can relate to. Salome's longing for John the Baptist; grimly determined hours at the gym longing for a perfect body. Even drug highs are a longing for euphoria. It's that longing for validation ? a timeless, classic motif.

The silhouette you worked on was soft and fluid, even when you showed more tailored pieces. What fabrics did you use to get that effect?

I always go back to my georgettes, crepes and silk gazers; but this season I had a fantastically drapable soft finish for alligator that I'm going to be using until you all get really sick of it!

The footwear was slightly odd. Can you tell us the idea behind it?

I think that having weight at the end of the leg makes that part of the body look skinnier and kind of floppy. Having that weight drag also adds a nice note of abandon? Did you find it odd?

I did, in a kind of distorted way. Speaking of which, I know you love Klaus Nomi who, for me, was a master at twisting things. What songs of his do you love?

I prefer his straight arias to the pop stuff. Some of these songs dated a bit but I still listen to his 'Samson and Delilah' and 'Dido and Aeneas' arias. Talking about longing, those songs ? performed by a man in inspirational make-up ? are dripping with it.

What have you been up to of late? Any exciting trips?

I took a week off at Christmas for some disciplined, hard, elegant sun in Morocco, and launched a men's collection, denim, women's pre-collection and furs at the January sales.

Your business has been growing steadily over the past 15 years. What's next?

I'm just keeping my head down and trying not to let myself get uptight.


Photography - Chantelle Dosser: www.lejoker.fr

All Clothing by Rick Owens, Spring/Summer 09

Model - Jess Grace @ Models 1

Hair - Philippe Baligan

Make-up Cynthia Baligan