Rick Owens - Conversation taken from TTA3 - SS 2012
Interview Paul Kominek & John Roberts
Selection of Archival Photographs Rick Owens
Rick Owens began his career as a fashion designer in 1994 when he founded the label that bears his name in Los Angeles. After showing his collection in New York the following years, he relocated to Paris in 2003, where he still lives and annually presents new work. Building up a world-renowned brand while retaining his independence as a designer has earned him a unique position in a market otherwise dominated by multinational companies. We spoke to him as he arrived in Dubai to exhibit some of his furniture shortly after the presentation of his most recent collection at this spring's Paris Fashion Week. He has also generously offered The Travel Almanac a peek into his private photo archive to divulge his impressions of Rome.
Hello Rick, where are you at the moment and how do you feel right after your show during this spring's Paris Fashion Week?
I'm in Dubai for an exhibition of my furniture. I feel light as a feather – the gap between my women's fall show and my men's spring show is the longest of the year. I'll probably start getting antsy, having gotten addicted to the pace.
Where are you showing your furniture in Dubai?
I'm here for Design Days Dubai and the Dubai art fair – I'm exhibiting nine pieces independently in an industrial warehouse. Everything's held up in customs for a few days so I've just been at the beach for two days, which was part of the idea. There's a perverse Land-of-Oz energy about Dubai that appeals to me. Evolution seems to have fast-forwarded here and there's something attractively unsettling about that.
Where are you staying in Dubai?
I'm staying at a beach resort with a very manicured path from my bungalow terrace to the very manicured beach. When you're swimming in the very clear water there's a Utopian skyline in the background with the thumping of techno faintly drifting in from circling yachts. And as I write this I'm feeding a cookie to a peacock. There's an eerie unnaturalness here that I'm loving...
What do you think about presenting your work on the catwalk these days? I know that you haven't been the biggest fan of them in the past.
For better or worse, I've established an identity that I'm comfortable with. And after making some mistakes along the way I've come to fully enjoy doing shows. It's a wonderful moment of commitment and resolution. Runaway shows are ceremonies of beauty that can give us a satisfying shot of communal wonder.
Living right in the middle of the whole fashion hustle of Paris, how can you find peace and time to relax after such a show?
I live in my own little concrete bubble there.
But can this concrete bubble shield you from it all, or does it sometimes get to be a bit much that living and working are so closely connected for you?
Living and working being connected is kind of my thing. I don't mean to dismiss outside influences, as I'm sure they're impossible not to absorb, but I find a slightly unhealthy, introspective insulation seems to work best for me.
Can you tell us a bit about the pictures that we see accompanying this interview – your trip to Rome and the connection you have to these places?
These pictures usually have the silhouette of my better half wandering through them. They're my version of postcards from the grand tour with her as the common theme. I kind of delight in the way she glides through any location, becoming a tiny monument among the monuments.
And what did draw you to Rome in particular?
I had been looking for a location to open a store in Italy and felt Rome might be less saturated with designer shops than Milan. And there's that layer of ancient rawness that appeals to me. It would be great having an excuse to spend more time there, but I didn't find the right spot yet. I was disappointed that I couldn't get into Mussolini's fencing gym to take pictures but the EUR complex was epically deserted and made up for it.
What role has photography played as you've moved through various periods in you life?
I'm strictly an amateur. I'm hopeless technically, and anything that comes out well is purely coincidence, I assure you. I always console myself that some of the photographers I've admired from the past relied on just daylight and no assistants.
What do you find most appealing about Los Angeles now that it isn't your home?
The consistent climate. The novelty of waking up in European winter darkness has worn off a bit.
Have you discovered any methods to cope with the severity of European winters?
Throw yourself into it. This winter I went to St. Moritz to improve my snowboarding.
Was there a place that you idealized as a child away from California?
My parents had a library with a lot of fin-de-siècle French literature – Mallarmé, Proust, Huysmans. These authors lived in a world as exotic to me as the moon. I never had the imagination to consider visiting, much less living there.
How did you spend your summer as a child?
Waiting for something to happen.