MARCH 2019

H-MAGAZINE — DARK BEAUTY — MARCH 2019 — BY MAX BERLINGER

DESIGNER RICK OWENS BLENDS THE STRANGE AND ALLURING, CREATING A WORLD THAT’S TRULY ONE-OF-A-KIND.

WITH HIS ANGULAR FEATURES, LONG, STRAIGHT BLACK HAIR, AND HIS GYM-CHISELED FRAME COCOONED IN HIS OWN GRECIAN-GALACTIC READY-TO-WEAR, RICK OWENS IS A SIGHT TO BEHOLD. THE ICONOCLASTIC DESIGNER HAS BEEN CREATING VISUAL FEASTS - FASHION AS SCULPTURE, CLOTHES AS ARMOR - FOR MORE THAN TWENTY YEARS, AND TODAY HAS A REPUTATION IN THE FASHION INDUSTRY THAT HOVERS SOMEWHERE BETWEEN CULT MAINSTAY AND BOUNDARY-PUSHING ELDER STATESMAN. HIS VISION OF GLAMOUR IS UNEXPECTED AND STARK, YET AT THE SAME TIME, IT TRANSCENDS TYPICAL IDEAS OF BEAUTY TO PRESENT SOMETHING DARKER AND TRANSFIXING; A MORE INCLUSIVE AND EXCITING VISION OF WHAT FASHION CAN ASK OF ITS WEARER.

OWENS WAS BORN IN PORTERVILLE, CALIFORNIA AND STUDIED PAINTING AND SCULPTURE IN LOS ANGELES BEFORE MOVING INTO THE WORLD OF FASHION DESIGN, LEARNING PATTERN MAKING AND DRAPING AND CREATING A READY-TO-WEAR COLLECTION IN 1994. IN 2002, HE PRESENTED HIS FIRST COLLECTION AT NEW YORK FASHION WEEK, A MANIFESTO OF MOODY GLAMOUR AND HARD-EDGED ROCK ’N’ ROLL COOL THAT HAS BEEN AT THE HEART OF HIS WORK EVER SINCE. HE SUBSEQUENTLY LEFT THE WEST COAST FOR PARIS WHERE HIS COMPANY IS CURRENTLY BASED. IN RECENT YEARS, HIS WORK WITH ITS LANGUID SILHOUETTES, DRAMATIC DRAPING, AND ASYMMETRICAL LINES HAVE MADE HIS RUNWAY SHOWS THE MOST ANTICIPATED OF THE PARIS LEG OF FASHION WEEK. HIS LOOK BOTH FORETOLD THE CURRENT MANIA FOR STREETWEAR AND THE SPORTY AESTHETIC CURRENTLY DOMINATING THE INDUSTRY BUT ALSO PUSHED IT FORWARD IN AN INTELLIGENT, EXPANSIVE WAY.

ONE THING HE’S ALWAYS DONE, THOUGH, IS CREATE A LOOK THAT IS UTTERLY UNIQUE
AND
COMPLETELY RECOGNIZABLE.

WHAT ARE YOU DOING RIGHT NOW?

I’M FINISHING THE PRE-COLLECTION AND STARTING ON MEN’S RUNWAY. THAT MEANS STARTING TO LOOK AT THE FIRST SHAPES. I ALWAYS ASK TO HAVE THE FACTORY PREPARE TWELVE SHAPES WE’VE DONE IN THE PAST, MADE OF MUSLIN, AND THAT’S WHERE I CHANGE THEM, ALTER THEM, CORRUPT THEM, DEGENERATE THEM, RAPE THEM. I GUESS RAPE ISN’T A POLITICALLY CORRECT THING TO SAY IN A MAGAZINE, IS IT? I WANT TO FUCK THEM UP.

WELL, IF THAT’S WHAT YOU FEEL YOU DO, THEN YOU CAN SAY IT.

YEAH, BUT THAT’S NOT WHAT A MAGAZINE WANTS TO HEAR.

BUT THAT DOESN’T MEAN YOU CAN’T SAY IT! SO, THEN, WOULD YOU SAY THIS THE MOST EXCITING PART OF YOUR DESIGN PROCESS?

YEAH, IT REALLY IS. THERE ARE REALLY DISTINCT STAGES. THIS IS THE EXCITING PART BECAUSE EVERYTHING IS FRESH AND IT HAS POTENTIAL TO BE THE BEST COLLECTION EVER IN THE UNIVERSE. AND THEN LATER, IN DECEMBER, I’M GOING TO HAVE RESULTS AND IT’S GONNA BE A COMPLETE DISAPPOINTMENT BECAUSE EVERYTHING LOOKS STUPID AND NOTHING CAME OUT THE WAY I WANTED IT TO. THEN IT’S ALL ABOUT JUST SCRAMBLING TO SAVE THAT. AND THEN IN JANUARY, THERE IS THE WEEK BEFORE THE SHOW WHERE I HAVE AGREED TO STAY AWAY FROM THE FACTORY AND LET THEM WORK IN PEACE, BECAUSE I’LL JUST GET IN THEIR WAY AND START CHANGING THINGS.

THEN IT ARRIVES ON THE SUNDAY BEFORE THE SHOW, BECAUSE I SHOW ON THURSDAY. THEY’LL PUT IT IN MY OFFICE AND I’LL GO TO THE GYM AND THEN I’LL LOOK AT IT WHEN I GET BACK BECAUSE I’M ALWAYS IN A BETTER MOOD, A LITTLE MORE SERENE OR MAYBE IN A MORE TOLERANT MOOD. I’LL LOOK AT IT, USUALLY, AND I’LL BE PLEASANTLY SURPRISED THAT WE PULLED IT TOGETHER AND THERE’S ENOUGH STUFF TO EDIT AND EVERYTHING WILL BE OKAY. AND THAT’S USUALLY HOW IT WORKS. SO RIGHT NOW EVERYTHING HAS HUGE POTENTIAL. IT’S A BIG, MAGICAL, SPARKLING, EMPTY CANVAS AND ANYTHING COULD HAPPEN.

IS THAT EVER INTIMIDATING?

YOU KNOW, IT’S REALLY INTIMIDATING, ACTUALLY. I GO TO DEPARTMENT STORES AND I THINK: HOW ON EARTH CAN WE EXPECT PEOPLE TO CHOOSE OUR STUFF, SO WE CAN SUPPORT OUR BUSINESS, WHEN THERE’S ALL OF THIS GOOD STUFF? I EVEN WONDER HOW ARE THEY GOING TO SELL ALL OF THIS STUFF IN THREE MONTHS BEFORE IT HAS TO GO ON SALE. THAT PART ALWAYS UNSETTLES ME.

ALSO, IT JUST SEEMS A LITTLE BIT MORALLY WRONG. IT SEEMS LIKE EXCESS AND WASTE. BUT MY SOLACE IS THAT PEOPLE COMMUNICATING AND ENJOYING BEAUTY IS ONE OF THE REASONS WE’RE PUT ON EARTH, IT’S ONE OF THE BEST THINGS TO DO WHILE WE’RE HERE. SO IT’S A LITTLE MORAL TUSSLE THAT I HAVE BECAUSE I HATE BEING SOMEBODY THAT IS JUST CLUTTERING THE WORLD. I’M KIND OF TEETERING BETWEEN MAKING AN HONORABLE CONTRIBUTION AND BEING A TOXIC WASTE.

I’VE READ THAT YOU TRY TO RESIST CERTAIN CLICHÉS AND CODES THAT HAVE COME BEFORE IN FASHION DESIGN. DO YOU FIND THAT JUSTIFIES CONTINUING TO CREATE SEASON AFTER SEASON?

YEAH, IT DOES BECAUSE ALSO, BY DOING THAT, I’M PROMOTING, IN A VERY MINUSCULE WAY, A SENSE OF TOLERANCE. I’M MAKING SUGGESTIONS THAT WE THINK OUTSIDE NARROW, MAYBE BIGOTED, ATTITUDES AND WE CONSIDER BEING MORE GENEROUS AND WE CONSIDER OPTIONS THAT ARE NOT SO OBVIOUS. I DO FEEL THAT’S SOMETHING POSITIVE THAT I CAN DO.

BUT WHAT YOU MAKE IS SO UNIQUE, IT’S UNLIKE WHAT MOST OTHER DESIGNERS ARE MAKING. DOES THAT MAKE YOU FEEL BETTER ABOUT WHAT YOU CREATE?

OH YEAH, THERE’S A LOT OF BULLSHIT OUT THERE. THERE’S GOOD STUFF. THERE ARE SOME REALLY GOOD IDEAS AND THERE’S SOME BEAUTIFULLY MADE THINGS, AND THERE ARE VERY ATTRACTIVE THINGS OUT THERE. IT’S NOT LIKE I THINK THAT I’M DOING SOMETHING THAT’S UNIQUE. A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE DOING UNIQUE THINGS. THERE’S BEAUTIFUL THINGS OUT THERE AND THAT’S WHAT MAKES IT UNSETTLING. LIKE GOD, THIS STUFF IS REALLY GOOD. WHY WOULD THEY BUY MINE?


IS THAT THOUGHT IN YOUR HEAD WHEN YOU’RE DESIGNING?

WELL, IT’S A FUNNY THING. THERE’S TWO MINDS THAT I HAVE TO CONSIDER. ONE, IS THIS A LOGICAL EXTENSION AND EVOLUTION OF WHAT I’VE DONE BEFORE? I HAVE TO DO SOMETHING THAT I THINK IS NOT TOO OUTLANDISH AND THAT PEOPLE WILL RESPOND TO IT, THAT PEOPLE CAN IDENTIFY AS COMING FOR ME AND THEREFORE HAVE A GOOD REASON TO GET IT.

THEN THERE’S THE OTHER SIDE OF MY BRAIN THAT GOES, “YOU KNOW WHAT? FUCK EVERYBODY ELSE. WHAT DO I REALLY WANT TO SEE? WHAT DO I REALLY WANT TO HAVE? WHAT DO I REALLY WANT TO BE? WHAT REALLY EXCITES ME?” THEY CAN BE VERY SEPARATE THINGS, IT’S A WEIRD THING. IT’S NOT EASY TO FOCUS ON YOUR SELFISH ID. IT SEEMS LIKE IT WOULD BE, BUT IT’S NOT. IT’S ALMOST LIKE A REALLY SELFISH PSYCHOLOGICAL ZONE YOU HAVE TO CONJURE UP.

IS THERE A PART OF YOU THAT THINKS, “I’VE GOT TO THINK OF WHAT’S GOING TO SELL. I HAVE EMPLOYEES, I HAVE TO PAY BILLS, I HAVE TO PAY FACTORIES.” DOES THAT FACTOR IN OR DO YOU TRY TO FREE YOURSELF OF THAT SORT OF THINKING?

THAT’S THE LOGICAL SIDE. IT’S NOT LIKE THIS IS AN ASSIGNMENT WHERE I COMPROMISE BECAUSE FOR EVERY CATEGORY THAT MAKES SENSE FOR ME TO FILL, I FILL IT WITH THINGS THAT I’M PROUD OF. LIKE EVEN THE SIMPLEST PRE-COLLECTION T-SHIRT, IT’S MADE FROM A JERSEY I LIKE AND IT’S SOMETHING I WOULD WEAR. A T-SHIRT HAS JUST AS MUCH AS DESIRABILITY AND STATUS TO ME AS SOME OF THE MORE EXTRAVAGANT THINGS - ALMOST MORE BECAUSE I LOVE THE IDEA OF THINGS THAT I MAKE AND THAT COME FROM ME AND THAT GO THROUGH MY FILTER BEING THINGS THAT PEOPLE WEAR EVERY SINGLE DAY AND NOT JUST ON SOME SPECIAL OCCASION.

WHAT DO YOU THINK ATTRACTS PEOPLE TO YOUR WORK? OR HAVE YOUR CUSTOMERS EVER TOLD YOU WHAT IT IS ABOUT YOUR DESIGNS THAT THEY LOVE?

THERE IS EARNESTNESS TO WHAT I DO. IT CAN BE CORNY, THAT I WOULD PROBABLY MAKE FUN OF, BUT IT’S ABOUT GENUINELY CONNECTING WITH PEOPLE WHO BELIEVE IN A CERTAIN KIND OF RIGOROUS PURSUIT OF A CERTAIN AESTHETIC. IT’S A VERY SPECIFIC AESTHETIC THAT I’VE BEEN VERY LOYAL TO AND I THINK PEOPLE HAVE RESPONDED TO THAT. THEY RESPECT SOMEBODY WHO HAS A VERY STRONG OPINION ON SOMETHING. AND THIS OPINION IS INCLUSIVE AND TOLERANT AND AFFECTIONATE AND HAS A FAIR AMOUNT OF DRAMA - AND EVERYBODY LOVES A LITTLE DRAMA.


ALSO, I THINK PEOPLE REALLY FEEL LIKE THIS IS SOMEBODY WHO IS REALLY MAKING AN EFFORT TO SPEAK TO ME. THIS IS SOMEBODY WHO GENUINELY BELIEVES IN WHAT THEY’RE SAYING. I FEEL THAT MUST COME THROUGH SOMEWHERE.


IS IT HARD TO MAINTAIN THAT REALLY HONEST ENERGY?

NO, IT ISN’T. IT GETS EASIER AS I GO ALONG BECAUSE I HAVE LESS FEAR AS I GET OLDER. EVERYBODY DOES. I HAVE A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF HISTORY NOW, I’VE BECOME MORE CONFIDENT THAT I’M NOT GOING TO DISAPPEAR. MAYBE 15 YEARS AGO, I WOULDN’T HAVE HAD THAT CONFIDENCE. NOW I FEEL IT. IT WOULD BE HARD TO GET RID OF ME. I FEEL THAT MY RESPONSIBILITY IS TO DO SOMETHING THAT I BELIEVE IS TRUE AND THE REST SHOULD FALL INTO PLACE.

YOU TALKED ABOUT YOUR DAILY AFTER-LUNCH NAP AND GOING TO THE GYM. DO YOU FIND THAT THOSE RITUALS HELP GROUND YOU AND CREATE A SPACE FOR YOU TO BE CREATIVE?

MAYBE OR MAYBE THEY HOLD ME BACK BECAUSE I CLING TO THEM SO NEUROTICALLY, I’M NOT SURE.

ALSO, YOU LIVE IN PARIS BUT DON’T SPEAK FRENCH VERY WELL. DOES THAT HELP YOU CREATE A WORLD WHERE YOU CAN FOCUS ON WHAT YOU WANT TO FOCUS ON?

IT REALLY DOES. IT’S ANOTHER LAYER OF PRIVACY. IT ALSO HELPS MAINTAIN THIS DELICIOUS SENSE OF ALIEN-NESS. I’M ALWAYS AN ALIEN HERE, WHICH IS NICE.

YOU WORK OUT A LOT, YOU’RE INCREDIBLY FIT, AND YOUR WORK IS ABOUT SHAPING THE BODY IN SOME WAY. DO YOU SEE A RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN GOING TO THE GYM AND DESIGNING CLOTHING?

I THINK A LOT OF IT IS ABOUT CONTROL AND SCULPTURE. I THINK IN A VERY SCULPTURAL, 3-D WAY.

FOR MY BODY, THAT’S A FANTASTIC SENSE OF CONTROL, BECAUSE IT’S ONE OF THE FEW THINGS YOU ACTUALLY CAN CONTROL. IF YOU REALLY APPLY YOURSELF, YOU CAN REALLY MAKE SOMETHING HAPPEN, YOU CAN ENACT CHANGE. YOU MIGHT NEVER GET RICH OR GET SUCCESS. EVEN WITH RELATIONSHIPS, YOU CAN’T CONTROL THEM. YOU HAVE TO LET OTHER PEOPLE BE WHO THEY NEED TO BE, BUT WITH YOUR BODY YOU CAN BE A COMPLETE FASCIST. IT’S BETTER THAN GARDENING. IN GARDENING YOU HAVE TO KIND OF DEAL WITH OTHER FACTORS LIKE WEATHER AND NATURE, BUT WITH YOUR BODY - IT’S PATHETIC REALLY - BUT IT IS SOMETHING THAT YOU REALLY CAN CONTROL. THERE’S SOMETHING VERY SATISFYING ABOUT THAT. I DON’T KNOW IF I’M EXTENDING THE CONTROL FROM MY BODY INTO CLOTHES, OR IF I’M EXTENDING THE CONTROL OF THE CLOTHES TO MY BODY, BUT IT IS A VERY SYMBIOTIC THING.

DO YOU GET IDEAS AT THE GYM?

I HAVE A LOT OF GOOD IDEAS RIGHT AFTER I GET UP FROM MY NAP. THE WHOLE NAP THING IS REALLY A TOOL. I CALL IT A TEMPORARY SUICIDE BECAUSE YOU ARE ABLE TO DO THE FIRST HALF OF THE DAY AND RESPOND TO A LOT OF QUESTIONS. I HAVE A LOT OF PEOPLE THAT ARE ASKING A LOT OF QUESTIONS EVERY DAY. IT’S NOT UNCOMFORTABLE, BUT IT’S NOT MY COMFORT AREA. SO THE IDEA THAT I KNOW THAT I CAN ESCAPE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY AND I COULD JUST COMPLETELY GO AWAY IS GREAT.

THE OTHER THING IS THAT I HAVE A FINITE AMOUNT OF ENERGY AND BRAINPOWER. THIS JOB IS NOT ABOUT STAMINA FOR ME, IT’S ABOUT MAKING THE RIGHT DECISIONS. I ONLY HAVE LIKE MAYBE FOUR HOURS A DAY WHERE I’M REALLY FOCUSED AND REALLY AT THE TOP OF MY GAME. SO I PROTECT THOSE FOUR HOURS BY SEPARATING THEM WITH THAT NAP. I’M BEST IN THE MORNING AND I’M BEST RIGHT AFTER MY NAP OF WHERE I HAVE THAT PERFECT BALANCE OF BEING ALERT BUT NOT BEING OVER SATURATED.

YOU’VE BEEN DESIGNING FOR A LONG TIME. ARE THERE THEMES YOU FIND YOURSELF COMING BACK TO OVER AND OVER AGAIN?

THOSE THEMES ARE PRETTY CONSISTENT. THERE ARE AESTHETIC THEMES AND SPIRITUAL THEMES. SPIRITUALLY, THERE’S A FATALISTIC ATTITUDE THAT YOU DO YOUR BEST, ALTHOUGH IT’S DUE. EVERYONE CAN RELATE TO THAT BECAUSE IT’S A VERY PROFOUND CYCLE. IT’S A CYCLE THAT’S BEEN GLORIFIED IN OPERAS, TV SHOWS, IT’S THE CYCLE OF LIFE, IT’S ABOUT MORTALITY.

AESTHETICALLY, THERE’S A GRAY BRUTALISM AND A BROODING DARKNESS THAT HAS ALWAYS APPEALED TO ME. AT THE SAME TIME, THERE’S A GIDDINESS, YOU CAN’T TAKE THAT DARKNESS TOO SERIOUSLY. THAT DARKNESS IS THERE, IT’S THERE FOR ALL OF US AND IT’S WONDERFUL TO INDULGE IN IT. BUT THERE’S THE CAMP SIDE OF ME THAT KNOWS THAT IT’S INDULGENT AND THERE’S THE CAMP SIDE OF ME THAT CAN’T HELP BUT MAKE FUN OF IT.

WHAT’S THE BIGGEST CHANGE YOU’VE SEEN HAPPEN IN THE FASHION INDUSTRY SINCE YOU STARTED WORKING?

IT’S BECOME OVERSATURATED. I DON’T KNOW IF THAT’S A BAD THING. I EQUATE IT WITH THE SUNSET STRIP IN THE 1970S WHEN THERE WAS A VERY BIG ROCK MOMENT. ALL OF A SUDDEN, BANDS WERE BEING SIGNED EVERY TWENTY MINUTES AND ANYBODY COULD GO TO SUNSET STRIP AND TRY TO BE A ROCK STAR. 20 YEARS AGO WHEN I STARTED, THERE WEREN’T THIS MANY DESIGNERS. I DON’T KNOW HOW MUCH IT’S MULTIPLIED BUT WE ALL KNOW IT HAS. ELITISM ISN’T A POPULAR WORD THESE DAYS, BUT THE INTERNET HAS DEMOCRATIZED EVERYTHING. I’M GOING TO SOUND LIKE A DOUCHE BUT EVERYBODY GETS TO BE RIGHT NOW. WE ARE TRYING TO SATISFY THE LOWEST COMMON DENOMINATOR NOW. I HOPE YOU FIGURE OUT A WAY TO PUT THAT WITHOUT MAKING EVERYBODY HATE ME. STANDARDS HAVE LOWERED. THERE, I SAID IT.

PEOPLE HAVE BEEN REALLY RESPONDING POSITIVELY TO YOU, ESPECIALLY IN THE LAST FEW SEASONS. DO YOU PAY ATTENTION TO THE CRITICS?

THERE WAS A TIME WHEN I HAD A PRESS AGENT AND I HAD TO GET RID OF HIM BECAUSE I REALIZED THAT I DIDN’T LIKE HAVING THE CONVERSATION EVERYDAY OF WHAT MY STATUS WAS IN THE FASHION INDUSTRY AND HOW IT NEEDED TO IMPROVE. IT MADE ME CRAZY. IT MADE ME FEEL INSECURE AND ICKY, SO I THOUGHT “FUCK THIS,” AND I MOVED ON.

WHEN I FELT LIKE I WAS STABLE, LIKE I’M KIND OF ESTABLISHED, THEN I REALIZED I NEEDED A PRESS AGENT IN MY ORGANIZATION JUST TO DEAL WITH THE REQUESTS. I THINK THE THING THAT SETS ME APART NOW IS THAT I’VE STUCK TO MY THING AS THE WHOLE FASHION WORLD HAS BECOME SO TRANSIENT, WITH DESIGNERS BOUNCING AROUND OR GETTING FIRED SO BRUTALLY. THAT MAKES SOMEBODY LIKE ME, WHO’S STUCK TO MY LANE, STAND OUT MORE THAN EVER, IN CONTRAST TO DESIGNERS WHO POP UP AND DISAPPEAR OR WHO ARE BEING REPLACED. ALL THAT SIGNIFIES IS A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF INSTABILITY AND SUPERFICIALITY, THE SUPERFICIALITY THAT EVERYONE ACCUSES FASHION OF - THAT ONLY EMPHASIZES IT. WE DON’T ALLOW PEOPLE TO DEVELOP THEIR VOICE. IF THEY DON’T PERFORM OR ASTOUND THE AUDIENCE IN THE FIRST YEAR, THEY’RE SACKED. THAT’S PRETTY BRUTAL. I DON’T LIKE THAT WORLD; THAT SEEMS LIKE AN UNSTABLE AND RUTHLESS PLACE. IT’S LIKE WATCHING GLADIATORS AT THE COLOSSEUM BATTLE EACH OTHER TO THEIR DEATH. THAT JUST MAKES SOMEONE LIKE ME STAND OUT ON THE OTHER END OF THE SPECTRUM. FOR PEOPLE WHO DON’T LIKE GLADIATORS HACKING EACH OTHER TO DEATH, I CAN BE A RELIEF.


WHAT DO YOU THINK IS BEAUTIFUL, AND HOW DO YOU TRY TO EXPRESS THAT IN YOUR WORK?

KINDNESS IS BEAUTIFUL. WIT IS BEAUTIFUL. NOT EVERYBODY IS BLESSED WITH CLASSICAL BEAUTY, I DON’T REJECT CLASSICAL BEAUTY. CLASSICAL BEAUTY IS WONDERFUL. AND I RESPOND TO IT TOO. I DON’T REJECT IT, BUT I’M JUST SAYING, YOU KNOW, NOT ALL OF US COULD GET THAT CLASSICAL BEAUTY SO WHAT ARE THE OTHER OPTIONS? WHAT OTHER THINGS CAN WE DEVELOP? SO THAT’S WHAT I TRY AND DO. I TRY AND EXPLORE THAT SIDE BECAUSE THERE’S RUTHLESSNESS TO BEAUTY TOO. THE WAY THE INTERNET WORKS NOW, MORE AND MORE PEOPLE ARE PRESENTED WITH THESE IDEAS OF BEAUTY AND YOU GET THE FEELING THAT YOU’RE ENTITLED TO IT. WE’RE NOT, WE’RE NOT ENTITLED TO ANYTHING. WE’RE NOT ENTITLED TO HAPPINESS. WE’RE NOT ENTITLED TO BEAUTY, WE’RE NOT ENTITLED TO COMFORT. WE’RE LUCKY IF WE GET A FRACTION OF ANY OF THOSE THINGS. THAT’S THE CYNIC IN ME … AGAIN.

SPEAKING OF THE INTERNET, ARE YOU A BIG INTERNET USER? I DON’T SEE A PERSONAL ACCOUNT ON INSTAGRAM.

TO A CERTAIN EXTENT, I AM. I’M NOT ON INSTAGRAM, I MEAN WE HAVE A BRAND ACCOUNT … OR WHAT DO YOU CALL IT? CHANNEL? I DON’T EVEN FUCKING KNOW WHAT TO CALL IT! WHAT DO PEOPLE SAY? ACCOUNT?

YEAH, ACCOUNT.

THERE’S RICK OWENS ONLINE, WHICH I CONTROL VERY CLOSELY, BUT I’M DOING IT WRONG BECAUSE IT’S VERY CURATED AND CALCULATED. I HAVE A GUY WHO’S BEEN WITH ME WHO TAKES CARE OF ALL THE VISUALS AND THE PHOTOGRAPHY. HE COLLECTS IMAGERY OF OURS, MAKES A CURATION AND PRESENTS LIKE TWO WEEKS WORTH OF IMAGERY. I PICK THROUGH IT AND CHANGE SOME STUFF. IT’S STIFF AND CALCULATED, BUT IT’S ALSO VERY PERSONAL. THAT’S LIKE THE WHOLE STORY OF MY COMPANY. IT’S VERY STYLIZED AND VERY CALCULATED, BUT I’M THERE BEHIND EVERY SINGLE THING. IT’S NOT SPONTANEOUS, BUT I’M BEGINNING TO THINK THAT SPONTANEITY IS A LITTLE OVERRATED. I LIKE THINGS A LITTLE MORE FORMAL, MORE THOUGHT OUT. I LIKE THINGS TO BE PRECISE.

YOU KNOW, MICHELE [LAMY, RICK’S WIFE AND MUSE] IS ON INSTAGRAM. SO SHE’S CHECKING HER INSTAGRAM AND WE’RE IN THE CAR GOING SOMEWHERE AND I LOOK OVER HER SHOULDER AND WE’RE GIGGLING, AND I SEE MICHELE HAS A WHOLE DIFFERENT LIFE THAT I DON’T KNOW ABOUT! SHE’S SCROLLING THROUGH INSTAGRAM AND I’M LIKE, “OH MY GOD, YOU’RE STILL, YOU’RE STILL IN TOUCH WITH JOANNE FROM 20 YEARS AGO?” SHE’S HAVING THIS WORLD EXPERIENCE WITH PEOPLE THAT I HAD NO IDEA. MY FRAME OF CONTEXT IS EXTREMELY LIMITED. I FEEL LIKE MICHELE DOES IT FOR ME, IN A WAY.

I CALL HER MY TRANSLATOR. SHE CIRCULATES MORE THAN I DO, SHE HAS MORE WARMTH, SHE’S MORE GREGARIOUS THAN I AM. SHE’LL COME HOME AND TELL ME WHO WAS AT THE PARTY, THAT WAY I GET THE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE PARTY WITHOUT HAVING TO ACTUALLY BE THERE.

DOES SHE BRING THE OUTSIDE WORLD TO YOU SO YOU CAN INCORPORATE IT INTO YOUR WORK?

I FEEL LIKE EVERYBODY DOES. I’M CONSTANTLY EDITING EVERYTHING AROUND ME. I GET IDEAS ON THE METRO, WHEN I WALK THROUGH THE TUILERIES ON THE WAY TO THE GYM. I CHECK EVERY SINGLE THING OUT AND THEN THINK OF HOW I CAN APPLY IT TO WHAT I DO. SHE DEFINITELY HAS A SMILE AND ATTITUDE ABOUT LIFE THAT CORRESPONDS WITH MINE. BUT SHE DOES SURPRISE ME. SHE’LL BRING HOME SOME WEIRD-ASS SCULPTURE THAT I HATE AND THEN TWO YEARS LATER, I LOVE IT. SHE STIMULATES ME, BUT I HAVE TO ADMIT A LOT OF THINGS STIMULATE ME. I’M ALWAYS LOOKING TO BE STIMULATED.

HAVE YOU EVER GOTTEN STUCK?

I’M ALWAYS STORING THOUGHTS AND IDEAS. I’M WRITING NOTES TO MYSELF CONSTANTLY, WEIRD LITTLE NOTES LIKE ‘PSYCHOTROPIC EXPLODER INEVITABLE’ AND THAT’S A CODE FOR THINGS THAT I KNOW ABOUT THAT I THINK CAN COORDINATE TOGETHER. I FEEL THAT EVERYTHING’S ALREADY THERE, I JUST HAVE TO UNTANGLE IT EVERY SEASON. BUT EVERYTHING I EVER DO IS ALREADY THERE, INSIDE ME. IT’S JUST A MATTER OF ORGANIZING IT AND MAKING A NEW COMPOSITION FROM IT. I LOOK AT CERTAIN TOUCHSTONES TO MAKE ME FEEL BETTER. I LOOK AT DONALD JUDD, JOSEPH BEUYS, MICHAEL HEIZER. THERE WAS A CONSISTENT, STRONG MESSAGE IN WHAT THEY DID AND HOW THEY WERE ABLE TO TWEAK IT AND MAINTAIN IT. IT HELPS ME REMEMBER THAT I’VE GOT THIS, I KNOW WHAT I’M DOING AND I’VE GOT A BODY OF WORK AND ALL I HAVE TO DO IS GO BACK AND LOOK AT IT AND THAT TELLS ME WHERE TO GO NEXT.


DO YOU CONSIDER YOUR WORK POLITICAL?

YEAH, I DO. I DON’T MEAN THAT I’M CHANGING THE WORLD. I MEAN THAT THERE’S A REAL MORAL ENERGY BEHIND IT ON MY BEHALF. THERE IS A NEED TO CONTRIBUTE. I DO REALLY BELIEVE THAT WHAT I’M DOING IS A POSITIVE MESSAGE, WHICH IS WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS. ANYBODY’S POSITIVE MESSAGE HELPS. MINE IS TINY, BUT EVEN THE MOST MINUSCULE POSITIVE MESSAGE IS THE RIGHT THING.

HOW DO YOU FEEL AS AN AMERICAN LIVING ABROAD AND SEEING WHAT IS HAPPENING IN THE US? DOES THAT AFFECT YOUR WORK AT ALL?

I THINK THE WORLD HAS SEEN THIS BEFORE, IT’S SEEN MISBEHAVIOR, BAD JUDGMENT AND SLUMPS. AND IT HAS RECOVERED. IT’S JUST AN UNFORTUNATE CYCLE. IT IS A LITTLE DISCOURAGING TO SEE THINGS REVERT, TO REVERSE LIKE THAT. BUT FOR A CYNIC LIKE ME, I THINK, “WELL THAT’S THE WAY THE WORLD WORKS.”

WE CAN BE AS LOFTY AS WE WANT, BUT OUR SHIT STILL STINKS. THERE ARE SOME CRUDE ELEMENTS OF LIFE THAT ARE JUST NEVER GOING TO GO AWAY AND THERE MUST BE SOME REASON FOR THEM. THERE MUST BE. THERE MUST BE SOME REASON FOR EVIL. I HAVEN’T FIGURED IT OUT, BUT IT’S NOT GOING AWAY SO THERE MUST BE SOME SORT OF BALANCE. MY ROLE IS TO TRY AND HELP MAINTAIN THAT BALANCE.

DO YOU THINK YOU’RE SUCCESSFUL AT THAT?

WELL, I DON’T KNOW, I HAVEN’T CHANGED ANYTHING. I’M SENDING OUT MESSAGES OF HUMOR, OF NOT TAKING YOURSELF TOO SERIOUSLY, THE MESSAGE THAT SEX IS FUN, OF MAKING FUN OF FALSE MORALITY AND FALSE MORAL QUEASINESS. SO I’M HELPING. I DON’T KNOW IF I’M MAKING A BIG DIFFERENCE BUT I FEEL LIKE I’M DOING THE RIGHT THING.

LOS ANGELES HAS BECOME AN EXCITING PLACE, AND THAT’S WHERE YOU STARTED. WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER ABOUT YOUR TIME THERE?

I HAVEN’T BEEN THERE SINCE I MOVED TO EUROPE, SO I DON’T KNOW. I’VE HEARD IT HAS REALLY TRANSFORMED BUT I HAVEN’T BEEN THERE IN LIKE 20 YEARS. I DON’T KNOW WHY, BUT I DON’T REALLY WANT TO GO. I HAVE SO MANY OTHER PLACES I’D LIKE TO GO AND I DON’T LIKE GOING PLACES WHERE I DON’T HAVE ANYTHING TO DO. I’M NOT VERY GOOD AT VACATIONS. I DON’T LIKE STAYING IN HOTELS, I USED TO LOVE IT BUT NOT ANYMORE. I DON’T LIKE HAVING UNRESOLVED INTERIORS. I DON’T LIKE LIVING WITH OTHER PEOPLE’S COMPRISES. I HAVE A VERY SMALL LIFE NOW. I LIVE IN MY HOUSE, MY APARTMENT NEXT TO THE FACTORY OR MY APARTMENT IN VENICE. THOSE PLACES ARE SO SPECIFICALLY MY AESTHETIC AND IT WOULD IRRITATE ME TO BE IN A SUITE THAT HAD THE WRONG WASTE PAPER BASKET. THAT’S JUST ME TURNING INTO A CRANKY OLD MAN. SO I’D GO TO LA IF I HAD A DECORATED HOUSE TO STAY AT. THE OTHER THING ABOUT LA IS THAT I WAS NOT THE PERSON I WANTED TO BE THERE, I FELT SO UNFORMED. I WAS STRUGGLING, I WAS A MESSY ALCOHOLIC, I WAS INSECURE. I’M NOT IN A HURRY TO GO BACK THERE.

BUT YOU STARTED YOUR CAREER THERE, YOU MET MICHELE THERE.

THAT’S WHAT MICHELE SAYS, SHE SAYS, WE HAD A GREAT TIME. AND I TELL HER, WELL I BROUGHT YOU WITH ME.

IS THERE ANYTHING ABOUT YOU THAT PEOPLE DON’T UNDERSTAND?

NOT REALLY. I’M PRETTY SIMPLE. I’M NOT THAT COMPLICATED. NOT EVERYBODY LIKES ME AND I TOTALLY GET THAT. I’M KINDA OF A LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT PROPOSITION. I CAN SEE WHY I’M NOT EVERYONE’S CUP OF TEA, BUT I DON’T FEEL MISUNDERSTOOD AND IF I AM, IT’S MY OWN FAULT.

SOME PEOPLE ASK ME IF I MIGHT BE CALLED A GOTH, AND IT’S NOT MY FAVORITE WORD, BUT I GET IT. COMPARED TO STELLA MCCARTNEY, SURE, I GET IT. IT’S A BUSY WORLD AND PEOPLE NEED TO SIMPLIFY AND SUMMARIZE, AND I SUMMARIZE ALL THE TIME. I CLOCK SOMEONE AND JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER ALL THE TIME. BUT IF IT WAS AS SIMPLE AS THAT I WOULDN’T HAVE LASTED THIS LONG, AND I THINK PEOPLE KNOW THAT. I DON’T REALLY SWEAT IT.