Rick Owens: Secure in His Own World
Video on NyTimes
Q. How long have you been in this building?
A. Twelve years now. When we first moved in, it had drop acoustical tile ceilings with fluorescent lights and carpeting and wallpaper, and we ripped it all out. We did it right before a show period, so we hadn’t had time to seal anything, like the concrete or the walls or anything, so the bottom floors were filthy and everybody, all of the buyers, knew who had been to the Rick Owens showroom in Paris because they would be walking in the streets covered head to foot in dust. Nobody really complained. I think they were delighted a little bit because it was such an extreme experience and they probably felt like they had an adventure. As well as some asbestos poisoning or something.
Q. Was it weird to move from Hollywood Boulevard, where you started your career, to the Seventh Arrondissement in Paris? You are right behind the Assemblée Nationale.
When we first moved to Paris, we lived in the Marais, and there’s just too many parties with all of those kids running around. Here, it’s just embassies and old families. Everybody in this building has some kind of aristocratic name, and I am this nouveau riche American that’s ruining the neighborhood. One of my favorite things is going to sleep at night, and we can hear the footsteps on the gravel of the guards patrolling the garden. It’s just the most delicious sense of security.
Q. Why did you decide to come to Paris?
I was manufacturing in Italy, and going back and forth between Italy and Los Angeles just didn’t make sense, and since I’d started showing in Paris, it made sense to move everything here. It doesn’t really make a difference. There were times that I kind of forget I am not still in Los Angeles, because I kind of create the same triangle here: the couple of restaurants I eat at, my house and office, and the gym. It’s just that now I walk through the Jardin des Tuileries to get to the gym, which is very different than Hollywood Boulevard.
Q. Has the office changed a lot since you’ve been here?
This room just recently changed. It used to be very destroyed, and the ceiling was kind of falling apart. It was a little bombed-out looking. It’s only very recently that I plastered it all up and made it all extra shiny white. As I get older, I need more organization. It’s not because of the pace of fashion or anything, because to tell you the truth, I’m so addicted I don’t think I would want it any slower. I’m fine with it being fast. I’m fine with the deadlines and stuff. It gives me a silly little sense of purpose.
Q. Did you make the chair and the desk?
Yeah. When we first moved in here, we needed a lot of stuff, and that would have been a fortune. So I just faked it with what we had in hand. The chair is just a box with pillows. I like reducing everything that I do to a rock and a fire and a fur in a cave. So I’m thinking, What are the essentials? We need a couple of benches, we need a bed. What else? Light switches. Light switches should be great because you have to touch them every day.
Q. So you keep most of the materials on your desk, or do you sketch?
I don’t sketch. I mainly do it with draping. What I do every season is order toiles of past styles that we’ve done. Then I manipulate them here and take photos and sketch over them, or I do a line, or paste them up together, and then they send me another toile and I manipulate that, and that’s how we work here. Right now I’m trying to figure out how to make tulle look like concrete. Fashion is just a fresh combination of elements that we all connect with.
Q. There’s very little other than tulle on your desk.
There are some crystals. I just like how they seem kind of spiritual even though I’m not at all. Kind of spiritual and prehistoric. I like to think about the grandest scale possible. When I see things that are a little too traditional or things that I can define too easily, it makes me react and want to do something that is more a summary of our experiences instead of just one facet.
Q. Do you like working where you live?
I do. I have this incredible advantage of being independent and this being kind of my personal indulgence. I really do stay in my own world. There have been times when we were growing where I did feel a sense of responsibility, and I started to think about what do people want, what are people responding to, what should I do next? And I learned that that was a mistake. I learned that listening didn’t work for me. I couldn’t interpret well enough. I hadn’t developed the social skills to filter what was valuable and what was distraction. So finally I learned that I really had to be completely selfish and just think about what amused me, what I enjoy. Because people seem to respond to the things that I connect to the most.