MAY 30 2017

VOGUE — NO TRICKS, JUST RICK! A CANDID CHAT WITH RICK OWENS ON THE EVE OF HIS CFDA LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD— MAY 30 2017 — BY STEFF YOTKA

“DO YOU WANT TO SEE MY PLACE? I’M GOING TO GIVE YOU A TOUR OF MY PLACE. I’M IN VENICE RIGHT NOW. HOW DOES THIS WORK? YOU KNOW I’VE NEVER DONE THIS BEFORE. I FACETIME’D SOMEBODY BEFORE, BUT VERY BRIEFLY,” SAYS RICK OWENS, TAKING OFF HIS GLASSES AND STEPPING ONTO A BALCONY BEAMING WITH SUNLIGHT, BLUE SKIES, AND EVEN BLUER WATER. THE DESIGNER AND I ARE ON HIS SECOND-EVER FACETIME CALL, AND HE’S BROADCASTING LIVE FROM THE DECK OF HIS FLAT IN VENICE, ITALY. HE TAKES HIS IPHONE—AND ME—FROM THE BALCONY TO HIS BEDROOM, PAST A BLACK STONE BATHROOM—“YOU HAVE TO SEE THE BATHROOM!” HE EXCLAIMS—AND THROUGH AN OFFICE WHERE HE’S LINED UP THE SPRING 2018 MENSWEAR COLLECTION HE’S GOING TO BE SHOWING IN PARIS IN JUNE. IT’S A SPECTACULAR SIGHT, BUT WHAT HE REALLY WANTS TO TALK ABOUT IS MY BROOKLYN APARTMENT AND WHY RIDING THE SUBWAY TO WORK EVERY DAY CAN TAKE ME ANYWHERE FROM 20 MINUTES TO TWO HOURS.

“I’M KIND OF FASCINATED BY YOUR SOPHISTICATED URBAN LIFE,” HE SAYS. BY ALL STANDARDS, OWENS’S OWN LIFE IS PLENTY MORE SOPHISTICATED. HE LIVES IN A FORMER COMMUNIST BUILDING IN PARIS’S SEVENTH ARRONDISSEMENT THAT ALSO HOUSES HIS DESIGN STUDIO, AND SPENDS HIS SUMMERS ON VENICE’S LIDO IN ANOTHER ELEGANTLY SPARE PENTHOUSE APARTMENT.

BUT IT WASN’T ALWAYS LIKE THIS. OWENS’S LIFE BEGAN IN PORTERVILLE, CALIFORNIA, A SMALL CITY IN THE SAN JOAQUIN VALLEY. HIS MOTHER IS A RETIRED TEACHER OF MEXICAN HERITAGE; HIS FATHER WAS A CONSERVATIVE SOCIAL WORKER. HE’S DESCRIBED HIMSELF AS A CHILD AS “A SMALL-TOWN SISSY.” BUT HE BECAME THE SEXIEST GOTH IN LOS ANGELES, LIVING IN A WAREHOUSE ONLY ACCESSIBLE THROUGH ITS FIRE ESCAPE. (“PERFECT FOR CAPES,” HE ONCE WROTE OF THE ARRANGEMENT.) HE STUDIED PAINTING, WHICH HE QUICKLY TRADED FOR PATTERNMAKING, AND PRODUCED SOME LANGUID MOSTLY BLACK READY-TO-WEAR IN THE ’90S THAT PROPELLED HIM TO HIS FIRST NEW YORK FASHION WEEK SHOW IN 2002, SPONSORED BY VOGUE AND STYLE.COM. HE GOT THERE IN PART BECAUSE HIS ASYMMETRICAL LEATHER JACKETS—YOU KNOW, THE ENDLESSLY KNOCKED-OFF ONES—WERE A RUNAWAY HIT AT BARNEYS NEW YORK. THEN CAME INVESTORS, FOLLOWED BY A TRANSATLANTIC MOVE TO PARIS, WHERE HE’S REMAINED THE ONLY AMERICAN DESIGNER TO CONSISTENTLY SHOW HIS OWN LABEL AT PARIS FASHION WEEK SINCE 2003.

THOSE ARE THE FACTS. MORE COMPELLING IS RICK’S GENERAL LOVELINESS. RICK OWENS HAS BEEN UNASHAMEDLY, UNSTOPPABLY RICK SINCE DAY ONE. HE’S AN INDEPENDENT BUSINESSMAN, AN ALCHEMIST OF SILKS AND SKINS, A FURNITURE DESIGNER WITH A THING FOR CONCRETE, A STYLE ICON, AND ALSO THE GUY THAT SUSPENDED A PUNK BAND FROM THE CEILING, PUT A STEP TEAM ON THE CATWALK, HARNESSED MODELS TOGETHER LIKE HANS BELLMER DOLLS, SHOWED DICKS ON THE RUNWAY, AND PRODUCED A SHORT FILM OF HIMSELF SIMULATING INTIMACY WITH A HORSE. HE IS SO HIMSELF, THAT IN RESEARCHING HIS LIFE AND CAREER, I DISCOVERED THAT HE’S USED NOT ONLY THE SAME EXPRESSIONS, BUT ALSO THE SAME OFFHAND WORDS TO DESCRIBE HIMSELF AND HIS WORK FOR 15 YEARS. HE’S NOT LAZY OR GUARDED, HE JUST KNOWS EXACTLY WHO HE IS AND WHAT THE BEST WAY TO EXPLAIN HIMSELF IS TO US LAYPEOPLE IN OUR T-SHIRTS AND MEDIUM-WASH JEANS. HE ONLY WANTS TO BE HONEST.

THE IMPRINT OF RICK OWENS IS FELT THROUGHOUT FASHION. WHEREVER THERE’S AN ODE TO GOTH, A LANGUID BIAS DRAPE, THE LEATHER THROAT OF A BOOT CHOKING UP A THIGH—THAT’S RICK. BUT WHAT HIS IMITATORS CAN’T REPLICATE IS HIS AUTHENTICITY. YOU COULD TAKE AWAY ALL THE CLOTHES, STRIP HIM OF THE CONCRETE BUNKER, ERASE THE FAMOUS CABAL OF FRIENDS, AND YOU’D STILL HAVE RICK AND YOU’D JUST LOVE HIM. EVERYONE WHO’S MET HIM DOES.

“AS TIME PASSES, I WANT TO BECOME MORE AND MORE RICK OWENS,” HE TOLD VOGUE IN 2006. “AT THE END OF MY LIFE, I WANT THERE TO BE A THREAD RUNNING THROUGH EVERYTHING I'VE DONE.” ON THE EVE OF HIS GEOFFREY BEENE LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD FROM THE COUNCIL OF FASHION DESIGNERS OF AMERICA, THE DESIGNER REFLECTS ON HIS CAREER AND THE AMERICAN SPIRIT THAT MADE AND KEEPS HIM A SUCCESS.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO BE RECOGNIZED BY AMERICAN FASHION’S GOVERNING BODY?

THE CFDA IS PRETTY MUCH THE TOP OF THE HEAP, NOT JUST TO AMERICANS, BUT INTERNATIONALLY. IT’S QUITE A SURPRISE TO TELL YOU THE TRUTH. IT’S NOT DELIBERATE; I HAVE NEVER REALLY PARTICIPATED IN THAT WORLD—AND I ALWAYS CALL IT “THAT WORLD,” BUT OBVIOUSLY I AM A PART OF IT. I’VE ALWAYS CONSIDERED MYSELF MORE KIND OF BEHIND-THE-SCENES.

WELL, NO, THAT’S STUPID ISN’T IT? BECAUSE I’VE DONE SOME VERY PROVOCATIVE FASHION SHOWS. I DO ALL SORTS OF INTERVIEWS ALL OVER THE PLACE, AND I DO VIDEOS WHERE I’M, LIKE, FIST-FUCKING AND HORSE-FUCKING, SO I MEAN IT’S NOT LIKE I’M THAT QUIET. I’M DEFINITELY OUT THERE. IT’S SILLY FOR ME TO SAY THAT, BUT I ALWAYS DID FEEL THAT I WAS KIND OF OUTSIDE OF THAT [MAINSTREAM]. I’M VERY NICHE, AND I WAS ALWAYS OKAY WITH THAT. I HAVE THE BEST OF ALL WORLDS: I HAVE A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF RECOGNITION FOR WHAT I DO, BUT IT’S ALSO NOT OVERWHELMING RECOGNITION. IT’S NOT LIKE I’M OBLIGATED TO DO A LOT OF THINGS THAT I DON’T WANT TO DO.

BEING RECOGNIZED BY THE ESTABLISHMENT—AND THAT’S WHAT THIS IS, AND I’M NOT SAYING THAT WITH ANY DISRESPECT. I LOVE ESTABLISHMENT. ALL OF THE BOOKS THAT I’M READING ARE ABOUT CULTURAL ESTABLISHMENTS, ABOUT CULTURAL REVOLUTIONS, THAT EVENTUALLY BECAME [THE] ESTABLISHMENT. RIGHT NOW I’M READING ABOUT MARTIN MUNKÁCSI, HE’S A PHOTOGRAPHER AND IF YOU LOOK AT HIS PHOTOGRAPHY, ABSOLUTELY EVERYBODY KNOCKED HIM OFF. IN THE ‘30S HE WORKED WITH CARMEL SNOW AND AVEDON. HE WAS SOMEBODY WHO WAS REVOLUTIONARY AND THEN HE BECAME ESTABLISHMENT. I’M ALWAYS FASCINATED BY THOSE BIOGRAPHIES OF HOW PEOPLE MOVE CULTURE FORWARD. CULTURE ALWAYS MOVES FORWARD IN CYCLES WITH PEOPLE REACTING AGAINST IT AND THEN BECOMING IT. I’M FALLING IN THERE SOMEWHERE. I’M NOT EXACTLY SURE WHAT DEGREE I’M AT RIGHT NOW, BUT BEING RECOGNIZED, THAT’S INCREDIBLY VALIDATING.

THE FASHION INDUSTRY IN NEW YORK CITY IS A LOT MORE INTENSE THAN ANYTHING THAT I’VE EVER HAD TO EXPERIENCE, SO THAT’S WHY BEING RECOGNIZED BY THE CFDA IS JUST ASTONISHING, TOO. I REALLY TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THAT THIS IS THE PINNACLE OF AESTHETIC CULTURE AT THIS POINT IN HISTORY AND I’VE BEEN INVITED TO BE A PART OF IT. THAT’S VERY MOVING.

DO YOU FEEL THAT THERE’S A CERTAIN AMERICANNESS TO YOUR DESIGNS OR YOUR DESIGN PROCESS?

WHAT I’VE ALWAYS SAID IS THAT I FEEL THAT WHAT I’VE DONE IS I’VE TAKEN AMERICAN BLUNTNESS TO EUROPEAN COMPLEXITY. IF YOU READ PROUST—I DON’T MEAN TO SOUND POMPOUS; I’VE NEVER READ IT COMPLETELY. I SPEAK NO FRENCH, BUT FROM WHAT I’VE TRIED TO READ, YOU CAN JUST SEE THE COMPLEXITY IN THE WAY THE LANGUAGE IS CONSTRUCTED. THAT INFLUENCES THE WAY YOU THINK, AND BEING IN A COUNTRY THAT IS THAT DENSE WITH HISTORY IS JUST AUTOMATICALLY COMPLEX. AMERICANS HAVE A REPUTATION FOR BEING A LOT MORE FORTHRIGHT AND DIRECT. I’VE ALWAYS ADMIRED THAT INTELLECTUAL COMPLEXITY, BUT I’VE ALWAYS WANTED TO INTERPRET IT IN MY OWN BLUNT AMERICAN WAY. THAT’S BEEN MY SCHTICK ALL THIS TIME. I’VE ALWAYS BEEN LOOKING AT EUROPEAN CULTURE FROM THE 1930S AND APPLYING MY SCOTCH TAPE, BRÂNCUȘI, PUNK ROCK AESTHETIC TO IT. SO YES, THE AMERICANNESS DID SERVE ME VERY WELL, AND I’VE USED IT IN A CALCULATING WAY.

DO YOU FEEL LIKE THERE’S ALSO AN AMERICANNESS TO THE WAY YOU’VE STRUCTURED YOUR BUSINESS?

I DON’T KNOW IF IT’S THAT AMERICAN. YOU MEAN BY MOVING TO EUROPE AND BEING INDEPENDENT?

AND THE WAY THAT THERE ARE DIFFERENT COLLECTIONS THAT HIT DIFFERENT PRICE POINTS AND THE COLLABORATIONS WITH ADIDAS.

IS THAT DIFFERENT? ISN’T THAT KIND OF WHAT EVERYBODY DOES?

EVERYBODY DOESN’T SEEM TO BE DOING IT AS SUCCESSFULLY AS YOU ARE.

REALLY? THE WAY WE’VE PROGRESSED HAS BEEN ONE LOGICAL STEP AFTER ANOTHER. IT’S NOT LIKE WE’VE EVER REALLY TRIED TO BITE OFF MORE THAN WE COULD CHEW. LET ME PREFACE THIS BY SAYING THAT I BY NO MEANS AM A BUSINESS GENIUS. I HAVE BUSINESS GENIUSES AS PARTNERS, WHO ARE MORE TALENTED THAN I AM. IT TAKES A CERTAIN KIND OF BALANCE, PATIENCE, AND FINESSE TO DO WHAT THEY HAVE DONE WITH WHAT WE’VE GOT. THESE ARE THE SAME PARTNERS THAT I’VE HAD FOR 15 YEARS NOW.

MY WHOLE THING WAS I WAS JUST GOING TO WORK ON HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD, AND I WAS JUST GOING TO DO MY THING FOREVER, COME HELL OR HIGH WATER, AND I WAS JUST GOING TO BE POOR. I’VE ALWAYS SAID THAT I WANTED TO BE CHARLES JAMES. I WANTED TO BE THIS ROMANTIC HERO, HAVING STUCK TO MY VISION, DYING IN SQUALOR, LEAVING BEHIND ALL OF THESE BEAUTIFUL ARCHIVES. MY OWN BUSINESS PLAN WAS THAT I WAS JUST GOING TO KEEP MAKING THINGS AND KEEP STICKING TO MY AESTHETIC UNTIL I RAN INTO SOMEBODY WHO COULD HELP. TALK ABOUT SIMPLISTIC—THERE’S NOTHING MORE NAIVE THAN THAT BUSINESS PLAN. IT ACTUALLY KIND OF WORKED. I MET SOME ITALIAN DISTRIBUTORS WHO WANTED TO START SOMETHING ON THEIR OWN, AND THIS WAS, I THINK KEY. I THINK I ENDED UP WITH PEOPLE WHO WANTED TO DO THEIR OWN PROJECT. THEY WEREN’T OVERSATURATED WITH A MILLION DESIGNERS, AND THEY WERE EVERY BIT AS DRIVEN AS I WAS TO SUCCEED BECAUSE THEY HAD SOMETHING TO PROVE AT THE EXACT SAME TIME THAT I HAD SOMETHING TO PROVE.

I’VE BEEN VERY LUCKY; I DON’T THINK THAT OPPORTUNITY COMES UP FOR A LOT OF PEOPLE. I CRINGE WHEN I THINK OF WHAT SOME OF THESE DESIGNERS HAVE TO GO THROUGH WITH GROUPS WITH A LOT OF PEOPLE, A LOT OF VOICES, AND A LOT OF PERSONALITIES. WOW. THAT’S WHY I FEEL LIKE I’M LIVING IN THIS DIFFERENT WORLD, BECAUSE I’M KIND OF LIKE A COUNTRY MOUSE. WE HAVE A LITTLE MOM-AND-POP OPERATION IN OUR VILLAGE, AND EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE WE GO TO THE BIG CITY TO SELL OUR APPLES, AND THEN WE COME BACK HOME AND JUST KEEP ON CULTIVATING WHAT WE DO.

HOW DO YOU THINK YOUR YOUTH IN CALIFORNIA INFORMS YOUR WORK TODAY?

FOR SOMEBODY WHO FELT VICTIMIZED WHEN THEY WERE YOUNGER, BEING ABLE TO CONTROL MENACE AND MANIPULATE MENACE AND PLAY WITH MENACE, THAT’S PROBABLY SOMETHING THAT’S STAYED WITH ME FROM MY YOUTH. YOU KNOW, PEOPLE REFER TO ME AS BEING DARK, BUT EVERYBODY’S DARK. EVERYBODY LOVES A LITTLE BIT OF MENACE. LOOK AT ALL THOSE MOVIES ABOUT FEAR AND PEOPLE PURSUING EACH OTHER AND DESTROYING EACH OTHER. MENACE IS A PART OF EVERYBODY’S LIFE.

THEN THERE’S THE WHOLE THING OF RULES, THAT WAS THE OTHER PART OF THE VICTIMIZATION. BEING A FLAMBOYANT KID IN A SMALL TOWN, THERE WERE A LOT OF RULES ABOUT WHAT WAS THE PROPER WAY FOR A PERSON TO BEHAVE. THERE WAS A LOT OF JUDGING. THAT MADE ME REACT VERY STRONGLY, AND I THINK THAT HAS BEEN A BIG PART OF WHAT I WANTED TO DO. AT FIRST IT WAS MORE AGGRESSIVE; NOW IT’S MORE GENTLE. NOW I LIKE TO TEASE THE RULES A LITTLE BIT. WHAT IF WE LOOSENED UP THE RULES A LITTLE BIT? WHAT IF WE TRIED SOMETHING ELSE?

DO YOU FEEL ANY MORE OR LESS AMERICAN NOW AFTER HAVING LIVED IN PARIS FOR 15 OR SO YEARS?

NO. I THINK THERE’S SO MUCH DIVISIVENESS BETWEEN WHAT COUNTRY PEOPLE BELONG TO, WHAT COUNTRY PEOPLE SHOULD STAY IN, AND WHAT COUNTRY OTHER PEOPLE DON’T WANT PEOPLE TO COME IN TO THAT I JUST WANT TO PROMOTE THE IDEA OF US LIVING IN ONE BIG CITY CALLED THE WORLD. THAT SOUNDS REALLY DUMB, BUT I DO. HOW CAN I HELP PEOPLE THINK A LITTLE BIT DIFFERENTLY, NOT IN TERMS OF BORDERS? I FEEL BORDERLESS IN A WAY. I FEEL LIKE I COULD JUST AS EASILY BECOME COMFORTABLE ANYWHERE, BUT I WOULD STILL BE DOING THE SAME THING. I WOULD STILL BE CREATING MY OWN LITTLE BUBBLE, SO FOR SOMEBODY THAT WANTS OPEN BORDERS EVERYWHERE, I DEFINITELY HAVE MY OWN PERSONAL BORDERS.

[OWENS PAUSES.]

DOING INTERVIEWS IS A WEIRD THING BECAUSE I ALWAYS TRY TO BE HONEST, AND I’VE REPEATED SO MANY THINGS THAT I FEEL KIND OF LIKE A DOUCHE, LIKE I’M REPEATING THINGS THAT PEOPLE KNOW. THEN I THINK, WELL, IT’S ARROGANT TO THINK THAT EVERY PERSON ON THE PLANET HAS READ EVERY INTERVIEW THAT I’VE GIVEN. BUT PEOPLE READING VOGUEPROBABLY HAVE AN IDEA OF ALL OF THIS STUFF, AND THEY MIGHT THINK I DON’T HAVE ANYTHING FRESH TO SAY. NOT EVERYBODY KNOWS MY WHOLE STORY, SO A LITTLE BIT OF REPEATING ISN’T GOING TO KILL ANYBODY. BEFORE, NOBODY KNEW ME AND I WAS ABLE TO SURPRISE EVERYBODY WITH EVERYTHING.

I APPRECIATE THAT YOU REPEAT YOURSELF. AND I AM ALWAYS STRUCK BY YOUR CANDIDNESS ABOUT WHO YOU ARE AND YOUR LIFE. THAT’S RARE.

IF I CAN DO ANYTHING, IT’S THAT THERE ARE VALUES THAT I WANT TO PROMOTE AND I HAVE A PLATFORM TO PROMOTE THE VALUES THAT I BELIEVE IN. THOSE VALUES ARE KINDNESS, COMMUNITY, TOLERANCE, ACCEPTANCE, AND SELF-ACCEPTANCE, WHICH IS A BIG THING FOR ALL OF US, ACCEPTING YOUR LIMITATIONS, ACCEPTING WHO YOU ARE, WHAT YOU’VE GOT TO WORK WITH, AND FIGURING OUT HOW TO MAKE THE BEST OF IT. IF I CAN PROMOTE THOSE THINGS I FEEL LIKE I’M DOING THE RIGHT THING. DOING THE RIGHT THING IS IMPORTANT, AND PROMOTING THE IDEA OF DOING THE RIGHT THING.

I CAN ALSO USE MYSELF AS AN EXAMPLE. ADMITTING FLAWS AND THINGS THAT I’M UNCOMFORTABLE WITH ABOUT MYSELF AND MY VULNERABILITIES, I THINK THAT’S A GOOD THING. I THINK THAT SEEMS HEALTHY—BUT, YOU KNOW, THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO OVERSHARE. [LAUGHS] SOMETIMES WHEN I READ INTERVIEWS, I FEEL LIKE I SOUND A LITTLE TOO OPINIONATED AND A LITTLE TOO STRIDENT. I DON’T WANT THAT EITHER. THERE’S ENOUGH STRIDENT OPINION IN THE WORLD. WITH THE SHOWS AND THE CLOTHES THAT I DO, I WANT TO SUGGEST THAT WE HAVE OTHER AESTHETIC OPTIONS TO START WITH, AND THAT OPENING UP AESTHETIC OPTIONS CAN LEAD TO OTHER OPTIONS, TOO. THAT’S NOT A BAD START. IT’S A GOOD MESSAGE.

DO YOU THINK YOU WOULD EVER RETURN TO AMERICA FULL-TIME?

I HAVE NO IDEA. THE MOVE TO EUROPE WAS REALLY A TECHNICAL ONE. I STARTED MANUFACTURING IN EUROPE, JUST BECAUSE THAT’S WHO FOUND ME. LIVING IN L.A., I HAD TO GO BACK AND FORTH AND I JUST COULDN’T KEEP UP. IT MADE MORE SENSE [TO LIVE IN EUROPE] IF I WAS GOING TO WORK IN ITALY. ALSO, I HAD SO MUCH TO LEARN THAT I HAD TO STAY IN THE FACTORY A LOT IN THE BEGINNING. I HAD TO BE THERE A LOT, AND I STILL DO. THERE WAS A MOMENT A FEW YEARS AGO WHERE I THOUGHT, I CAN PHONE IT IN NOW. I CAN WORK FROM PARIS, I CAN HAVE MY STUDIO THERE AND I DON’T HAVE TO GO TO THE FACTORY ANYMORE. I TRIED AND IT JUST DIDN’T WORK. I DIDN’T FEEL THE CONNECTION, I DIDN’T FEEL LIKE I HAD MY HANDS IN THE DIRT ENOUGH. THERE IS A CERTAIN SPONTANEITY IN BEING IN A FACTORY WITH ALL OF THOSE FABRICS, ALL OF THE CUTTERS, AND BEING ABLE TO DO SOMETHING IN 10 MINUTES. I’M NOT THE MOST SPONTANEOUS GUY IN THE WORLD AT ALL, BUT HAVING OPTIONS IS A GREAT THING. THAT’S WHY I LIVE IN EUROPE, BECAUSE I HAD TO MAKE IT WORK HERE. I’VE ALWAYS LOVED EUROPE; I JUST NEVER DREAMED I WOULD LIVE HERE.

ARE YOU SURPRISED THAT FOR SOMEONE WHO HAS SUCH A SINGULAR PERSPECTIVE AND OPERATES ON YOUR OWN TERMS THAT YOU’VE ACHIEVED SUCH A CULT FOLLOWING AND HAVE SUCH A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS?

WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS? I DON’T KNOW. HOW DID THAT WORK? DO YOU KNOW?

I HAVE A HUNCH BUT I WANT TO HEAR WHAT YOU THINK FIRST.

I DON’T HAVE A THEORY. I DON’T HAVE A THEORY AT ALL.

ONE THING I DO HAVE A THEORY ABOUT, ACTUALLY: I THINK OF DONALD JUDD A LOT. IF YOU HAVE SOMETHING THAT YOU WANT TO SAY, YOU NEED TO FOCUS AND CLEAR OUT A LOT OF THE CLUTTER AROUND IT. YOU HAVE TO KNOW WHAT IT IS THAT YOU WANT TO SAY, AND YOU HAVE TO REPEAT IT OVER AND OVER AGAIN, NOT BECAUSE YOU’RE THUMPING PEOPLE OVER THE HEAD WITH IT, BUT BECAUSE YOU REALLY BELIEVE IT IN YOURSELF, BECAUSE YOU LOVE IT. I THINK CONFIDENT REPETITION IS A BIG PART OF WHAT MADE PEOPLE RECOGNIZE ME, BUT ALSO I THINK I GOT EXPOSURE AT A TIME RIGHT BEFORE WE WERE OVERWHELMED WITH EVERYBODY HAVING A LOT OF EXPOSURE. I HAD ENOUGH SPACE AROUND ME AT A POINT IN TIME WHERE PEOPLE COULD REGISTER WHO I WAS. THAT WAS JUST LUCK, JUST BEING IN THE RIGHT PLACE AT THE RIGHT TIME. OKAY, WHAT’S YOUR THEORY?

I AGREE ABOUT THE TIMING, BUT I WOULD ADD THAT THERE’S AN AUTHENTICITY TO YOU AND YOUR BUSINESS THAT PEOPLE, DESPITE HOW CYNICAL THEY MIGHT BE, RELATE TO—AND YOU CAN’T FAKE THAT. PEOPLE WANT TO BELIEVE IN SOMEONE THAT THEY THINK BELIEVES IN THEMSELVES.

WELL, THAT’S A LESSON FOR ALL OF US: TELLING THE TRUTH USUALLY WORKS.

WE SHOULD POST THAT ON ALL THE BILLBOARDS IN AMERICA.

WELL, YEAH. [LAUGHS]

WHEN YOU’RE IN EUROPE OR ABROAD AND YOU LOOK AT WHAT’S GOING ON IN AMERICA, DO YOU FEEL DISCONNECTED FROM IT IN ANY WAY?

EVERY PLACE IN THE WORLD HAS ITS CRAZY MOMENTS, AND I TEND TO BE A LITTLE MORE FATALISTIC ABOUT THESE KINDS OF THINGS. I THINK IN TERMS OF EONS OF TIME. THERE HAVE BEEN CULTURAL UPHEAVALS AND POLITICAL UPHEAVALS FOREVER. I WAS WATCHING MY CAT TORTURE A MOUSE THE OTHER DAY, AND I WAS THINKING, LIFE IS NOT FAIR, BAD THINGS HAPPEN, AND THEY HAVE TO. THIS IS JUST THE WAY IT IS. CATS ARE GOING TO BE TORTURING MICE FOREVER, LONG AFTER WE’RE DEAD. CONFLICT AND UPHEAVAL ARE NEVER GOING TO GO AWAY. OUR JOB IS TO PROMOTE GOOD ENERGY, AND GRACE, AND BEAUTY. THAT’S WHAT WE’RE ABLE TO ENJOY ONCE ALL OF OUR NEEDS ARE MET. ONCE WE HAVE FED THE CHILDREN AND WE HAVE SHELTER, THE JOY OF BEAUTY AND CREATION, THAT’S WHAT WE’RE ON THE PLANET FOR, SO TO LET THE CHAOS OF CONFLICT AND—DO I SAY THE WORD EVIL? THAT’S A BIT MUCH—TAKE OVER . . . . YOU CAN EITHER HAVE A MORBID FASCINATION WITH THAT OR YOU CAN PUT YOUR ENERGY INTO CREATING POSITIVE ENERGY THAT’S GOING TO MOVE FORWARD.

I SOUND VERY ZEN AND VERY NEW AGE, AND I’M NOT. I’M REALLY NOT. THAT’S PART OF WHAT MY LABEL IS ABOUT: I DON’T HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS, BUT I’M LOOKING. LOOKING FOR THE ANSWERS IS A GREAT THING.

CHANGING GEARS: THE CFDA FASHION AWARDS ARE IN A WEEK—DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU’RE GOING TO WEAR?

I’LL WEAR THE SAME THING I ALWAYS WEAR. I ONLY WEAR ONE THING FOR FORMAL OCCASIONS. I JUST PUT ON A JACKET—THAT’S IT.

WILL YOU BRING A DATE?

MY DATE’S MICHÈLE! I’M BRINGING MY PARTNERS, TOO, SO IT’S JUST THE FOUR OF US. NOTHING TOO SPECIAL.

NO CELEBRITY FRIEND, MODEL, OR IT PERSON?

MICHÈLE IS MY IT PERSON. WOULDN’T YOU BE DISAPPOINTED IF I CAME WITH A CELEBRITY? WOULDN’T YOU BE GROSSED OUT? YOU WOULD FEEL A LITTLE DISAPPOINTED—I’M SURE YOU WOULD.

THAT’S TRUE.

THERE ARE SOME THINGS THAT I JUST CAN’T DO. MICHÈLE HAS BECOME SUCH AN ATTRACTIVE FIGURE FOR A LOT OF PEOPLE. I SEE ON THE INTERNET. SHE IS AN INSPIRING PERSON. SHE’S GOT THIS LIFE FORCE THAT I LOVE THAT PEOPLE HAVE RECOGNIZED. SHE’S BECOME THIS KIND OF STYLE ICON—SHE’S ALWAYS BEEN THAT—BUT PEOPLE ARE RESPONDING TO HER NOW. SO, YEAH, SHE’S MY IT GIRL. THAT’S EASY.

AND MICHÈLE WILL PRESENT YOU WITH THE AWARD. WHY HER?

SOMEONE WAS ASKING ME ABOUT PRESENTERS, AND I SAID I HAD CONSIDERED MICHÈLE AT THE BEGINNING, BUT THAT WAS PROBABLY TOO INSULAR. IT FELT LIKE IT WOULDN’T BE IN THE RIGHT SPIRIT OF PARTICIPATING IN THEIR EVENT. WHEN I DO THESE THINGS, I THINK I’M A GUEST IN THEIR HOUSE, SO I’M NOT GOING TO REARRANGE THEIR FURNITURE, I’M GOING TO RESPECT THEIR VIBE. THEN I THOUGHT, NO, THE MOST HONEST THING WOULD BE TO [ACKNOWLEDGE] THAT THE WHOLE REASON THAT I’M HERE IS BECAUSE I AM INSULAR AND BECAUSE THIS IS A VERY CLOSE-KNIT, VERY INTIMATE ORGANIZATION, AND IT WOULD BE THE RIGHT THING TO DO. A LITTLE ROMANCE DOESN’T HURT EITHER. I THINK THAT’S A GOOD MESSAGE TO SHARE. I MEAN, I’M NOT GIVING HER A FREE DRESS—WELL, YES, I AM! [LAUGHS] NO, SHE PAID FOR IT IN HER OWN WAY.

LAST QUESTION: WHAT, WHO, OR WHERE DO YOU THINK OF WHEN YOU THINK OF HOME?

PARIS, BUT THAT COULD CHANGE. IF I NEEDED TO BE SOMEWHERE ELSE, HOME COULD BE ANYWHERE. IT’S ONLY PARIS BECAUSE THAT’S WHERE I AM NOW. REMEMBER: NO BORDERS, NO BORDERS, NO BORDERS.

THIS INTERVIEW HAS BEEN EDITED AND CONDENSED.