MARCH 2019

VOGUE U.S.— A DAY IN PARIS WITH RICK OWENS, FASHION’S COOLEST ICONOCLAST — MARCH 2019 — BY NATHAN HELLER

SIX P.M. IN PARIS. SECOND FLOOR OF THE PALAIS BOURBON. THE DESIGNER RICK OWENS, DRESSED IN A BLACK TANK TOP, BLACK WIDE-CUT PANTS, AND CALF-HIGH SNEAKER BOOTS, PUTS ON A PAIR OF EYEGLASSES AND LEANS TOWARD A LARGE SCREEN. HIS RAVEN-COLORED HAIR FLOWS OVER HIS SHOULDERS, WHICH ARE PINCHED FORWARD. IT IS DECEMBER, AND A COOL NIGHT PRESSES ON FRENCH WINDOWS NEAR HIS DESK.

“I WAS THINKING ON THE TOE, SO IT ALMOST EXTENDS THE TOE AND THE SIDES OF THE FOOT ARE STRAIGHT,” HE SAYS SLOWLY. HE IS SKYPE CONFERENCING WITH HIS HEAD MEN’S PATTERNMAKER AND STUDIO COORDINATOR IN CONCORDIA, IN ITALY, WHERE HE SPENDS EVERY THIRD WEEK DRAPING GARMENTS. THEY ARE STUDYING THE PROTOTYPE FOR A SHOE IN HIS UPCOMING COLLECTION: BOOTLIKE AND NARROW WITH A STRUCTURED PLATFORM ELEMENT COMING OFF THE TOE. HIS BROW IS FURROWED; THE DETAILING ISN’T QUITE RIGHT. “IT’S MORE A FAN SHAPE THAN I WAS THINKING,” HE EXPLAINS. “AND REMEMBER THE PLASTIC ELEMENTS WITH THE HOLE YOU PUT THE SCREW IN? I WOULD LOVE TO DUPLICATE THAT SO THE SCREWS WILL BE VISIBLE.”

IT IS AN UNUSUAL REQUEST, BUT OWENS PIONEERS AN UNUSUAL SORT OF LUXURY, AS CAPTURED IN HIS OFFICE DECOR: THE WALLS RAW AND MOSTLY BARE, THE FLOOR CONCRETE, THE GRAY CUSHIONS LIVED-IN AND PILLED. SINCE SOON AFTER HE MOVED TO FRANCE FROM CALIFORNIA, IN 2003, THIS HAS BEEN OWENS’S UNLIKELY VERSION OF A PALACE. THERE ARE LAMPS SHAPED LIKE CHEMISTRY EQUIPMENT, A HORST EGON KALINOWSKI SCULPTURE. OPERA—ONE OF HIS FEW INDULGED PASSIONS—SOARS IN THE BACKGROUND.

GIVEN SUCH MIXED SIGNIFIERS, OWENS CAN SEEM AS MUCH A CIPHER NOW, AT 57, AS DURING HIS FIRST, VOGUE-SPONSORED 2002 SHOW, WHICH EARNED HIM THE CFDA PERRY ELLIS AWARD. WITH HIS HEADBANGER HAIR, SINEWY TORSO, AND ALL-PERVADING UNDERWORLD PALETTE (OWENS, FINDING COLOR A DISTRACTION, EDITS EVEN COLOR DESIGNS IN GRAYSCALE), HE IS THE WEATHERED IMAGE OF A GOTH-ROCKER ADONIS—ONE KNOWN FOR EERIE CULTURAL PRESCIENCE. OWENS’S SPRING 2016 COLLECTION FAMOUSLY FEATURED RUNWAY MODELS BOUND TO OTHER MODELS, WHOM THEY CARRIED OVER THEIR SHOULDERS—AN ALMOST ORACULAR WINDOW INTO WOMEN’S GROWING SOLIDARITY AND STRENGTH—WHILE HIS SPRING 2019 SHOW, HELD DURING THE KAVANAUGH HEARINGS, CENTERED ON A WITCHY PYRE. “I DON’T FOLLOW POLITICS SPECIFICALLY, BUT WHO CAN NOT BE CONSCIOUS OF CULTURAL DISCOMFORT? CLOTHES ARE ABOUT COMMUNICATION AND HOW PEOPLE ARE GETTING ALONG WITH EACH OTHER, HOW THEY WANT TO SAY WHAT THEY ARE,” HE SAYS. “WE’VE ALL BEEN FEELING WOMEN’S FRUSTRATION.” EVEN SO, HE RESISTS PROGRAMMATIC READINGS OF HIS WORK. “WHEN YOU SEE THOSE GARMENTS IN A STORE, ARE THEY GOING TO EXPRESS WOMEN’S FRUSTRATION?” HE LAUGHS. “IT’S ALL MORE VAGUE THAN THAT.”

AT SUCH MOMENTS, A DIFFERENT DESIGNER SEEMS TO COME INTO VIEW. DESPITE HIS REPUTATION AS A RIMBAUDIAN ICONOCLAST, OWENS WAS NO WUNDERKIND—HE WAS 40 WHEN HE FIRST SHOWED ON THE RUNWAY—AND HE CONDUCTS HIS AFFAIRS WITH THE PATIENCE AND EQUIPOISE OF AN OLD HAND. “TO ME, GRACIOUSNESS IS PARAMOUNT,” HE SAYS. LAST NOVEMBER, HE HOSTED SOME 120 PEOPLE FOR A WARM, FAMILIAL THANKSGIVING DINNER. IN CONVERSATION, HE IS RAW AND COURTLY AT THE SAME TIME. (A TYPICAL GREETING: “I’M JUST GOING TO PISS, AND THEN WE CAN PROMENADE!”) “MY FATHER WAS VERY CONFRONTATIONAL AND AN INTELLECTUAL BULLY,” HE SAYS. “MY MOM WAS A PEACEMAKER WHO WANTED TO MAKE EVERYONE COMFORTABLE.” HE SEES HIMSELF AS BEING CAUGHT IN BETWEEN. “THERE’S A HUGE ADOLESCENT SIDE TO ME THAT I CAN’T GROW OUT OF. BUT I FEEL THERE’S A WAY TO TALK ABOUT FLEXIBILITY. I’M PROPOSING OTHER OPTIONS FOR BEAUTY—BUT IT’S A PROPOSAL, NOT A MANIFESTO.”

“HE COMPLAINS THAT I BRING CHAOS TO HIS WELL-PACED WORLD,” HIS WIFE, ARTIST AND SOMETIME COLLABORATOR OF NEARLY THREE DECADES, MICHÈLE LAMY, SAYS. SHE INITIALLY HIRED HIM AS A PATTERNMAKER FOR HER OWN FASHION LINE; AFTER HE BEGAN SELLING HIS OWN GARMENTS, HE WORKED OPPOSITE HER RESTAURANT LES DEUX CAFÉ, ON LAS PALMAS AVENUE IN LOS ANGELES. “IT WAS KIND OF LIKE THEIR LIVING ROOM,” SAYS ARIANNE PHILLIPS, AN INFLUENTIAL HOLLYWOOD COSTUME DESIGNER WHO WAS A CLOSE FRIEND OF OWENS AND LAMY. “IT ENDED UP BECOMING THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE FOR ALL THINGS CULTURAL AND HAPPENING IN L.A.” IN PARIS, OWENS’S ENERGIES ARE FOCUSED OUTWARD, AND HE FOLLOWS AN OBSESSIVELY CONTROLLED SCHEDULE: HE WAKES AT EIGHT AND ANSWERS OVERNIGHT EMAILS FROM BED; ARRIVES BY ELEVEN AT THE OFFICE ADJOINING HIS HOME; LUNCHES AT TWO; RECHARGES WITH A NAP; WORKS THROUGH THE EVENING; VISITS THE GYM; AND GOES TO DINNER AROUND TEN, OFTEN AT THE LOW-KEY BRASSERIE A FEW STEPS FROM HIS DOOR. “I’M LIKE THIS SEDATE GUY WHO LIVES IN A WORLD OF ABSTINENCE AND THE GYM,” HE SAYS.

DUE TO THIS MONKLIKE REGIMEN OF WORK AND REST, OWENS—DESPITE BEING ACCOUNTABLE TO A SMALL EMPIRE OF NINE NAMESAKE STORES, A BUSY E-COMMERCE SITE, MULTIPLE DIFFUSION LINES, AND A FURNITURE BRAND—FEELS FRESH AT A RAGGED-RUNNING MOMENT IN FASHION. (IT MAY HELP THAT HE’S ACCOUNTABLE LARGELY TO HIMSELF: RICK OWENS IS ONE OF THE VERY FEW REMAINING MAJOR INDEPENDENT LABELS HEADQUARTERED IN PARIS.) “I’M NOT TORTURED BECAUSE EVERYTHING IS SO FAST. I LIKE IT FAST,” OWENS SAYS. HE’S SOMETHING OF A CLASSICIST WHO SEES HIS WORK IN DIALOGUE WITH ARCHETYPES OF HUMAN DRESS THAT HAVE LASTED THOUSANDS OF YEARS: ARMOR, THEATER, NATURALISM. “IT MAKES YOU FEEL A LITTLE INSIGNIFICANT, IN A REASSURING WAY.” AND AS A STUDENT OF CYCLICAL HISTORY, HE’S LEARNED TO TRUST THAT ALL ARTFUL AND WELL-MADE THINGS EVENTUALLY RETURN WITH A NEW LIFE.

SO FAR, HE HAS BEEN RIGHT. BECAUSE HIS DESIGNS AREN’T CONVENTIONALLY GLAMOROUS, OWENS IS OFTEN DESCRIBED AS HAVING A “CULT FOLLOWING.” BUT HIS APPEAL IS ASTONISHINGLY WIDESPREAD, EXTENDING ACROSS AGE AND GEOGRAPHIC BOUNDARIES. ALMOST IMMEDIATELY, HIS GARMENTS BECAME OBJECTS OF DESIRE AMONG WOMEN WHO RECOGNIZED THEM AS ROMANTIC BUT UNPREENING, FLATTERINGLY PRECISE YET CURIOUSLY COZY. “HE HAD A SOPHISTICATED DESIGN AESTHETIC, AND HE USED UNCOMMON FABRICS THAT WERE NOT CONSIDERED LUXURY AT THAT TIME,” PHILLIPS SAYS. “I THINK OF A WOMAN IN L.A. WHO DOESN’T DRESS UP TO GO OUT AT NIGHT—MAYBE SHE CHANGES HER SHOES AND PUTS SOME LIPSTICK ON. IT WAS UNPRETENTIOUS AND ELEGANT AT THE SAME TIME. YOU COULD STILL HAVE A PERSONALITY WHEN YOU WORE THEM.” HIS EARLY MEN’S COLLECTIONS, MEANWHILE, HELPED TO DEFINE A MOODY NEW AESTHETIC FOR THE GAY BODY, NEITHER PRIM NOR PECTORAL. (OWENS IS BISEXUAL.) AT THE START OF THE DECADE, KANYE WEST BEGAN WEARING RICK OWENS AROUND TOWN, INTRODUCING A NEW GENERATION AND AN EVEN BROADER AUDIENCE TO HIS DISTINCTIVE STYLE: THOSE PERFECTLY FORMED COATS, SOMEHOW AT ONCE BAGGY AND CONSTRUCTED; THOSE MASTERFULLY DRAPED DRESSES, BOTH VERSATILE AND REFINED. (WEST ADMIRES OWENS’S SPARE FURNITURE, TOO—HE HAS BOASTED OF OWNING A “PETRIFIED RICK OWENS TABLE.”) THE FRESH WAVE OF COOL HAS NURTURED NEW COLLABORATIONS. IN JANUARY, AS PART OF A FALL MEN’S COLLECTION THAT, WITH ITS NAPA SHEARLING COATS, PLATFORM BOOTS, AND SELVAGE DENIM, LOOKED BACK TO THE DESIGNER LARRY LEGASPI, HE ALSO LOOKED FORWARD, UNVEILING A PARTNERSHIP WITH THE ECOLOGICALLY CONSCIOUS SNEAKER BRAND VEJA. AND HE MADE HIS MUSICAL DEBUT—NOT THE SORT ONE MIGHT EXPECT—WITH VOCALS ON A TRACK BY THE ESTONIAN RAPPER TOMMY CASH. “BLACK-MAGIC FUCKBOY, NECROMANTIC SAVAGE, SUPERNATURAL DISTORTION,” OWENS’S CONTRIBUTION GOES.

NOW, AS A TEMPESTUOUS TENOR SOLO BECOMES A SOPRANO ARIA IN THE BACKGROUND, OWENS TURNS HIS SKYPE CALL TO KNITWEAR. “THE LAST JOGGING PANTS THAT WE LOOKED AT WERE GREAT,” HE SAYS. “BUT PERSONALLY, I’D WANT THEM WITH CASHMERE.”

“I CAN KNIT THEM IN CASHMERE AND THE VISCOSE,” OFFERS A YOUNG DESIGNER, MARCO LISA, ONSCREEN. (NORMALLY, OWENS BESTOWS NICKNAMES ON COLLEAGUES: ANNE VAN DEN BOSSCHE, HIS RIGHT HAND FOR COLLECTIONS, IS VANDENDUST—“DUST” BEING A SIGNATURE OWENS COLOR—WHILE ANNA-PHILIPPA WOLF, HIS ASSISTANT, BECAME FIRST ANNA LUPO, FROM THE ITALIAN, AND EVENTUALLY AL.) “FOR RUNWAY, IN TERMS OF COLOR, NOW WE HAVE BLACK, RUST”—ANOTHER OWENS HUE—“AND GRAY...”

“THAT SOUNDS GREAT!” OWENS SAYS, BRIGHTENING AS IF HEARING OF THE IDEA FOR THE FIRST TIME. “I LIKE GRAY.” BEFORE THE GRAY OWENS, THERE WAS THE BEIGE ONE: “A MILD KID IN A CONSERVATIVE TOWN,” HE RECALLS. PORTERVILLE, CALIFORNIA, WHERE HE GREW UP AS THE SON OF A MEXICAN WOMAN AND AN AMERICAN MAN, IS LANDLOCKED AND STRAITLACED. AFTER HIGH SCHOOL, HE LEFT FOR THE NEAREST CITY: LOS ANGELES. HE STARTED OUT STUDYING PAINTING AND BEGAN TO REINVENT HIMSELF, PHYSICALLY—HIS HAIR IS NATURALLY CURLY—AND IN HABIT, VOGUEING AND CLUBBING AT NIGHT. “THE IDEA OF COMPLETELY THROWING YOURSELF INTO EMOTION AND DRAMA APPEALED TO ME,” HE SAYS. “SO I DID, IN EVERY WAY POSSIBLE.”

OWENS HAS NOT VISITED LOS ANGELES ONCE SINCE MOVING TO PARIS IN 2003. ALTHOUGH HIS CREATIVE LIFE BEGAN THERE, IN A TINY STUDIO WITH ONE SEAMSTRESS, CALIFORNIA IS OVERSHADOWED FOR HIM WITH MEMORIES OF HIS YOUNGER SELF. “I’M JUST REMINDED OF THE WEAK ME THERE, NOT COMPLETELY DEVELOPED,” HE SAYS. THERE WERE DRUGS AND BOOZE AND A DISORDERLINESS HE IS KEEN TO LEAVE BEHIND. INSTEAD OF REPORTING FROM THE WEST COAST, HE HAS BECOME FASHION’S LEADING CALIFORNIA EXPATRIATE, FILTERING A CLEAN, CONSTRUCTED COASTAL STYLE THROUGH OLD-WORLD AUSTERITY, WORKING THE EDGY AND THE ANCIENT TOWARD A BALANCE POINT. VOGUE’S LONGTIME WEST COAST EDITOR, LISA LOVE, WHO HELPED HIM PRODUCE AN EARLY PROTO-SHOW IN A TINY BLACK-BOX SPACE AT LES DEUX CAFÉ, SAYS SHE STILL SEES THE THREAD OF THAT L.A. WORLD—“A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD THAT HAD ALL OF THESE INCREDIBLE CHARACTERS FINDING A NEW FREEDOM”—IN HIS RECENT WORK. “THERE’S ALWAYS A THREAD OF A STORY THAT GOES BACK IN TIME TO THAT BLACK BOX,” SHE SAYS. “FOR ME, IT’S ALL THE T-SHIRTS, THE ANDROGYNOUS PEOPLE . . . THE LENGTH OF THE SLEEVE, WHICH COMES OVER ALL THE FINGERS AT THE END.” DESPITE HAVING LIVED IN PARIS FOR SIXTEEN YEARS WITH A FRANCOPHONE WIFE, OWENS PURPORTS NOT TO SPEAK THE LANGUAGE (IT IS LIKELY THAT HE UNDERSTANDS A LITTLE MORE THAN HE LETS ON), AND SETTLED IN THE SEVENTH ARRONDISSEMENT BECAUSE IT STRIKES HIM AS APPROPRIATELY IMPERIOUS: IT MAKES HIM FEEL LIKE AN “ALIEN,” WHICH HE FINDS COMFORTING.

“HE SOMEHOW FINDS A WAY IN PARIS TO PUT HIS HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD FEEL IN A CONTEXT OF OLD WORLD CULTURE,” LAMY SAYS. “HE HAS A CALIFORNIA UTOPIAN APPROACH TO WHAT HE COULD BUILD.” TO A GENERATION THAT DIDN’T EXPERIENCE FIRSTHAND THE DARK, LEATHERY, VAGUELY APOCALYPTIC CASUAL CHIC OF THAT SCENE, RICK OWENS REMAINS ITS STRONGEST VOICE, EXPORTING SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA GOTH TO THE REST OF THE WORLD. HE HAS BEEN KNOWN TO FLY OUT RIPE AVOCADOS FROM PARIS TO CONCORDIA, AND HE REMAINS, IN HIS DISTINCTIVE WAY, A BEACH BUM, SPENDING HIS SUMMERS ON AN ISLAND NEAR VENICE, ON THE SAND WITH BOOKS AND BOOKS AND BOOKS. (HE DEVOURS BIOGRAPHIES.) THE NEXT MORNING, HIS OFFICE COUCH IS THICKLY STREWN WITH OPEN BOOKS ON INDUSTRIAL DESIGN AND ART: CONSTANTIN BRANCUSI, MICHAEL HEIZER. HE’S BEEN STUDYING THEIR CURVES.

“I WAS LOOKING FOR MY KEYS, BUT I DON’T THINK I NEED KEYS,” HE SAYS, DELIGHTEDLY DOFFING HIS GLASSES AND PULLING ON A BLACK PARKA TO MATCH A STOCKING CAP ON HIS HEAD: THE MORE PARED DOWN, THE BETTER. OUTSIDE, HE HEADS TOWARD THE NEARBY CHURCH, SAINTE CLOTILDE, A NINETEENTH-CENTURY BASILICA WITH TWIN GOTHIC SPIRES. ON THE WAY, A YOUNG MAN IN A BLACK THREE-PIECE SUIT STOPS, WIDE-EYED.

“RICK OWENS? I’M A VERY BIG FAN OF YOU! CAN I TAKE A PICTURE?”

“I’M VERY GOOD AT SELFIES,” OWENS OFFERS.

“I LIKE YOUR SHOES!” THE YOUNG MAN CRIES ECSTATICALLY.

“I LIKE YOUR SHOES,” OWENS REPLIES.

"I WOULD LIKE YOUR COLLABORATION,” THE YOUNG MAN CONTINUES, SEIZING THE MOMENT. “THE SHOES WERE MADE IN AFRICA. MY GOAL IS TO INCREASE THE DEVELOPMENT IN AFRICA—I SPEAK THE VERNACULAR!”

OWENS URGES HIM TO GET IN TOUCH ON HIS WEBSITE. AFTER HEADING OFF, THE YOUNG MAN RUNS BACK AND PULLS OFF HIS LEATHER BACKPACK. “THIS BAG IS MADE IN AFRICA. I OFFER IT FOR YOU.” OWENS DEMURS, BUT HE INSISTS. “I’M VERY PASSIONNÉ FOR RICK OWENS,” HE ADDS SWEETLY, AND RUNS AWAY AGAIN BEFORE OWENS CAN HAND THE BAG BACK. HE IS TOUCHED. BUT ALSO: HE IS SQUEAMISH ABOUT BAGS—OR, MORE SPECIFICALLY, BAGGAGE. HE DESIGNED HIS COAT TO HAVE TWELVE POCKETS, SO AS NOT TO NEED TO CARRY STUFF IN HIS HANDS. HE DRAGS THE GIFT, A LITTLE GRUDGINGLY, INSIDE.

THE BASILICA IS VAULTED, GORGEOUS, GRAY. OWENS WAS RAISED CATHOLIC, THEN FELL OFF. BUT HE HAS STUDIED THESE SPIRES FROM HIS BEDROOM WINDOW SINCE ARRIVING IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD, AND THE CHURCH BECAME THE PLACE HE WENT WITH HIS VISITING PARENTS TO DISCUSS SERIOUS MATTERS. “I JUST LIKE THIS SPACE BEING A PART OF MY LIFE,” HE SAYS. “WHEN I WAS GROWING UP, RELIGION WAS MY FIRST EXAMPLE OF THE CONNECTION BETWEEN EXOTICISM AND THE MORALITY OF BEHAVIOR. THERE WAS GLAMOUR, BUT THERE WAS ALSO A SENSE OF HIGHER PURPOSE.”

LAST YEAR, HE HAD A BOLD IDEA: WHAT IF HE HELD A FASHION SHOW HERE IN SAINTE CLOTILDE? IT WOULDN’T BE IRREVERENT, HE THOUGHT, BECAUSE IT HAD BECOME HIS CHURCH—A DEEPLY PERSONAL, SACRED PLACE—AND HE FELT DULY PROTECTIVE OF IT. AFTER MOUNTING YEARS OF LAVISH SHOWS IN GRAND VENUES AROUND PARIS, HE LIKED THE IDEA OF DOING SOMETHING SMALLER AND LESS DECADENT. “I’M THINKING I COULD BE PAYING FOR SOME YOUTH SHELTER INSTEAD OF RENTALS FOR THESE BIG PLACES,” HE SAID. OWENS APPROACHED THE VICAR. “HE WAS INTERESTED IN DOING SOMETHING COLLABORATIVE, LIKE WITH THE ORGAN, WHICH IS BEAUTIFUL. HE WANTS TO INCLUDE SOME SPOKEN WORD. I THOUGHT, THAT MIGHT BE NICE.”

AFTER MAKING A SLOW TOUR OF THE CHURCH—OWENS LOVES THE DARK, TORN TAPESTRIES IN THE BACK—HE HEADS OUTSIDE AGAIN, BOUND FOR A COUPLE OF ANTIQUES VENDORS IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD. IN ESPACE EMMANUEL EYRAUD, HE EXAMINES AN EBONY BOX BY ALEXANDRE NOLL. “HOW MUCH IS THIS? IT’S GOING TO SURPRISE ME, ISN’T IT?” HE ASKS THE SALESWOMAN. THEN IT’S ON TO THE GALERIE J. KUGEL, ONE OF THE OLDEST AND MOST ILLUSTRIOUS SHOWROOMS IN PARIS. “A LOT OF THE PIERRE BERGE AND YVES SAINT LAURENT COLLECTION CAME FROM HERE,” HE SAYS AS HE ENTERS THE MAIN HALL. “EVERYTHING IS FOR SALE.”

OWENS HAS BEGUN TO COLLECT ANTIQUES HIMSELF, BUT WITH RULES. HE LOVES ART NOUVEAU. “THERE’S A SOMBER SENSUALITY TO IT, WHICH IS KIND OF THE OPPOSITE OF EVERYTHING I MAKE, WHICH IS BRUTALIST, REDUCTIONIST, AND ABOUT CONTROL,” HE EXPLAINS. “COLLAPSE AND SENSUALITY—THAT’S WHAT ART NOUVEAU REPRESENTS TO ME.” FOR THIS REASON, HE FEELS THAT HE MUST LIMIT THE NUMBER OF ART NOUVEAU PIECES IN HIS OFFICE AND HIS LIVING SPACES. “IT’S LIKE SENSUALITY CONTROLLED,” HE SAYS.

HE BUYS NOTHING. RECENTLY, HE SAYS, HE REDISCOVERED THE LOUVRE AFTER FINDING THAT IT WAS POSSIBLE TO BYPASS THE TOURIST LINES—NOW HE LIKES TO SLIP IN FOR A FEW MINUTES EN ROUTE TO HIS GYM. HEADING THERE NOW, HE STOPS IN THE JARDIN DES TUILERIES FOR A DOUBLE ESPRESSO—THERE’S A CAFE BY A DUCK POND HE LIKES. OWENS TRIES TO PACE HIMSELF CAREFULLY THROUGH THE DAY: IT’S A WAY OF FOCUSING HIS FINITE ENERGY.

“IT TOOK SUCH A LONG TIME TO GAIN CONTROL, AND THE CONTROL IS JUST BARELY COVERING UP THE ART NOUVEAU INSIDE ME,” HE EXPLAINS. “WHEN I’M PUTTING TOGETHER A COLLECTION, I’M NOT EVEN THINKING ABOUT THE EMOTION, BECAUSE THAT I CAN’T HELP—IT WILL LEAK THROUGH THE CRACKS OF MY CONTROL.” AS HE SPEAKS, A TINY BIRD LEAPS ONTO THE TABLE AND TOWARD HIM, CHIRPING. HE GIGGLES, DELIGHTED AT THIS ATTENTION, AND IT’S A STRANGELY MOVING SCENE: A COOL BREEZE DRAWING UP FROM THE POND, THE BIRD CHIRPING AS IF WITH A MESSAGE, AND RICK OWENS, THE CULT DESIGNER WITH THE ROCKER HAIR AND THE DISSIPATED PAST, LOOKING LIKE SAINT FRANCIS, AN IMAGE OF OPENNESS AND, OF ALL THINGS, PEACE.

EVERY NOW AND THEN, THESE DAYS, OWENS STILL LETS HIMSELF GO OUT DANCING: HE TAKES A MIDNIGHT NAP, GETS DRESSED, HAS A COFFEE, AND GOES OUT, SOBER, TOWARD FOUR, WHEN EVERYBODY ELSE IS COASTING TOWARD THE END OF A WILD NIGHT. “IT’S A WONDERFUL, VERY LUCID EXPERIENCE,” HE SAYS. NOW THAT IS WHAT HE SEEKS. “SATURDAY NIGHTS USED TO BE ABOUT EXCESS AND EUPHORIA,” OWENS SAYS. “BUT THIS LAST SATURDAY NIGHT I WAS ALONE IN THIS EMPTY WHITE FACTORY IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE IN CONCORDIA, FINALIZING THIS MENSWEAR COLLECTION. AND I WAS THINKING, WHAT COULD POSSIBLY BE MORE GLAMOROUS OR EUPHORIC THAN THIS?”