Six People on Why They Love Rick Owens and His Work

After his S/S20 menswear show at Paris Men’s Fashion Week, we speak with members of the designer’s tribe

Last week, the Palais de Tokyo courtyard in Paris was smeared with several tonnes of wet clay that Rick Owens had shipped in from the studio of British artist Thomas Houseago, specially for his S/S20 show. This clay is now being gathered back up to be sent on to its next destination, the École des Beaux-Arts, where the students will be able to make use of it in their work. This small gesture alone speaks of Owens’ generosity of spirit – one that those who are close to the designer speak of in volumes.

It’s well-known that Rick Owens is a brand as much as it is a lifestyle and a subculture, embodied in the designer’s ‘Tribe’ (a term used to denote Rick Owens devotees). Such loyalty surely stems from Owens’ uncompromising attitude to all that he does: he refuses to advertise and his shows, presented four times a year, never deviate from his singular point of view. Each one is executed with purpose and integrity. “Working out is modern couture. Buy less clothing and go to the gym instead,” he famously said, in a quote that now sits alongside some of the great fashion-isms. Here, we speak with six people who share why they love Owens and the universe he has created. 

Gaika, Musician

“I own this parka by Rick Owens – I got it about six months ago. It’s black, with a funnel neck and oversized. If I could have designed a down jacket when I was as a kid, this is what it would look like. It fits perfectly and it’s very warm and makes me feel secure and like I’m ready to deal with the world and to tackle what I need to tackle. I’ve got a thing for coats – I have about 50 overcoats – and I need to get rid of some of them. But obviously, Rick’s is staying forever because I just love it. I think a lot of clothing at the moment feels a bit futuristic and unwearable, but Rick manages to do both things at the same time. His pieces are made properly and although there’s a lot of ‘fantastical’ things on his runway, there are a lot of pieces that you’d just want to wear every day. But he never loses the innovation in those pieces either. I’ve got a lot of things that are like, fancy, or conceptual, and you wear it once or twice and that’s it. With Rick Owens, it’s never like that. I’ve got my eye on so much at the moment. I want the grey sneaker boots with the white toe cap – I wore them on a shoot and thought they were sick. They’d go well with my coat... I’ve never met Rick before but I’ve spent time with Michèle. I think they have created a great business together because they have supported young talent. Gareth Pugh, for example. It also just goes to show that you can be successful at what you do and also be nice people.”

Bryan Black, DJ and Producer

“Rick and I first met because he used my music for one of his runway shows. I wrote to his press agent and he wrote me back the next day saying that Rick is a big fan of my music and that’s how I got pulled into the whole Rick Owens world. That was the S/S12 collection, and ever since I’ve been collaborating with Rick and Michèle on different projects. Rick did the artwork for my Black Asteroid project and Michèle sings on it too. And of course, I’ve been collecting clothes along the way. The first thing I got were these black leather creeper boots. It’s still one of my favourite style of boots that he makes. I probably have about two dozen black leather boots from Rick, actually. I just love them. I think it’s because they have side zippers – I travel through airports a lot so I can get them on and off really easily. They’re also comfortable, not at all heavy and clunky like you might think. Rick’s clothes are the most wearable out of all the ‘avant-garde’ designers. They are so functional. His geo-shearling jackets are amazing – it’s just the best winter coat. I have some sleeveless vests from the S/S16 Cyclops collection that I really like too. I love the leather bombers, the biker jackets... A lot of people go for the more sporty side to Rick but I’m more into the sort of darker side to his work. Also, Rick is an amazing tailor. I get a lot of compliments when I wear his tailored pieces.”

Lala, Rick Owens Devotee

“I only wear Rick Owens. Not that I don’t look at other brands. And sometimes I really wish that I could find as strong pieces from other brands, but maybe I have to look harder. The first piece of Rick Owens I owned was a leather jacket from A/W02 Sparrows, which was Rick’s first runway show. It was my first discovery of Rick Owens and it started the whole journey. That one piece has now developed into a wardrobe of more than 350 pieces of Rick Owens, mainline, Palais Royal, Hunrickowens, plus runway and prototypes that didn’t make it into production. I couldn’t even name a favourite piece. They all are! Besides my first buy, the leather jacket, it has to be my Hunrickowens collection. My Brancusi boots, my first robot leather jacket, plus some early Rick Owens furniture pieces. I like it when Rick’s work becomes dark, complex, non-commercial and unattainable, yet is still beautiful. That’s what draws me to it. Also the almost couture tailoring and clever uncompromising details. Rick’s design is otherworldly yet always projecting the nuances of real life. It’s innovative, and at the same time grounded in history. My features are strong and fierce, so I need strong pieces to wear. With Rick, I can always find those pieces that create the perfect dialogue between who I am and what emotions the pieces express.”

Giovanni Bassan, Head of Furniture at Rick Owens

“I met Rick and Michèle about nine years ago. At the time, I was modelling and I was in Paris for a shoot with Matthew Stone and Michèle was in it – we were all naked, including her! A while later, I was shooting with Matthew in Paris again and then I was supposed to go to London for a job. But then I had a bit of a run in with the police... I was a young kid from Italy, I didn’t speak a word of French and the police took all my documents and said I have to go back to Italy. My friend said ‘go and speak to Michèle – she’ll make sure you’re sorted and safe’. And I thought ‘I can’t do that!’ I had only met her six months ago on a shoot when we were both completely naked. But she came to the police station, picked me up, gave me her credit card to buy me a ticket back to Italy and said that I was able to stay at her’s and Rick’s place overnight. She was so kind. Obviously, I was young and broke and I couldn’t send her back the money I owed her for the ticket. So they just asked that I send them one of my paintings in return. As soon as she saw my work, she said ‘I need people like you working for us’ and the rest is history. It really is like a family – it’s such a respectful and nurturing environment. I wear Rick Owens every single day, 365 days a year, so it’s so hard to choose a favourite piece. I love the runway pieces, but also the basics – I like the sporty side of his work. I wear the tank tops all the time. You might think ‘what’s so special about them?’ But Rick’s are so different: the length, the fabric, the colours, everything. There is one piece that I care about so much – a sleeveless T-shirt lined with mink. I would never normally wear fur, but this is one thing that I treasure because it was gifted to me by Michèle.”

Gill Linton, Co-Founder of Byronesque Vintage

“The first piece of Rick I owned were over-the-knee boots from 2008 – shame on me, that makes me a late starter. I forgot how epic these still are, so I’m going to say these are my favourite piece. My favourite Rick collection would have to be A/W19. It was an incredible return to ‘vintage’ Rick. I think he has, for now, eclipsed himself. What he does at the moment is pure Rick Owens on elevated luxury steroids. He creates what we at Byronesque call ‘Future Vintage’. Things that will become collectable and wearable in years to come. My fondest personal memory of Rick and Michèle includes having a Christmas dinner with them in Marks & Spencer’s paper party hats. And any moment where they outclass the industry is always inspiring. The Whitehouse, The Comme des Garçons Met Gala... I think the line ‘thank fuck Michèle and Rick have turned up’, from when I reviewed that red carpet for Dazed pretty much sums it up.”

Olivia Singer, Executive Fashion News Editor at British Vogue

“The first piece of Rick I bought was a cashmere jumper. The cashmere is the best cashmere in the world. My favourite piece is a dress that I bought in January from the S/S19 collection he showed on the day that Christine Blasey Ford was testifying against Brett Kavanaugh. We were all listening to the live stream on our phones at the show and then when it started, a pyre in front of us began burning. Against that backdrop and the backdrop of what was going on in the world, there were all these women walking the runway who had such a strength of character, but also their clothes were so graceful. I think the amazing thing about Rick Owens is that yes, there are the incredible ideas and the community and the politics and the spirit of a subculture that he represents. But equally, he is an exquisite pattern cutter and draper. Rick is also generous, warm and open – it would be really easy for someone who looks like he does and creates this aesthetic around him to be cold or aloof, but he isn’t in any way. One of the things I love is that after shows, he takes the time to speak to journalists one-on-one – he stopped speaking to us in groups because he thought it was rude. We have to queue up and it takes bloody ages, but it’s absolutely worth it.”