Rick Owen talks about his time in isolation, and what he hopes is next for fashion.

By Balthazar Malevolent


As we arise from a three-month period of self-isolation, Rick Owens looks back at the lockdown and reflects on the strength of grace and humility, having the time to immerse himself in studying and following the progress of the beehives on his roof and the newly hatched ducklings in next door gardens.

Rick Owens x Moncler Campaign.

We've been spending time at home. How did it work out for you?

We were fortunate enough to have the luxury of plenty of rooms, a slice of outdoors and we spent our days reading and studying under the trees and thinking about stuff we'd put off later. I read Edmund White, I pored over the sketches of Joseph Beuys, I researched the art of Pierre Legrain for Jacques Doucet and Doucet's patronage of Rosseau, Picasso and Eileen Gray and Georges Hoentschel. I've been researching anthroposophic furniture, we've been gardening, we've been playing with the cats, we've been following the progress of our beehives on our roof and the newly hatched ducklings in the gardens next door of our terrace. I listened attentively to the final acts of Richard Strauss' Elektra and Salome which, under the circumstances, took on special significance – stories of misguided urgencies culminating in a transcendent peak of glory before extinction.

What do you feel we're going to take away from that experience?

When you think of all the contention and disharmony and things in the world that could go ecologically wrong, it is a miracle that we have been spared such a crisis for so long. Life is all about cycles and death and rebirth, so the meaning and glory of life is to do our best in the face of this fragility – to do our best while we can. We're going to come out of this with a humility and responsibility lesson and that's the silver lining.

How would you say the lockdown time changed your view of life?

My reminiscence would be that we've had a minute to feel deep gratitude in the face of danger. It made me think of those paintings by Bouguereau sitting alone in the Louvre - of nymphs brushing their hair under trees in a glade while composing poetry in their heads. I felt we were recreating our version of that – suspended time absorbed in beauty appreciation.

Under this situation, what is the value of fashion?

The enjoyment of elegance and beauty is one of the greatest rewards in life and some people are able to feel that better than others. I was allowed to be an aesthetic voice so I feel a duty to bring that to the table. I always choke at calling fashion art. But to stand out, as the fashion world becomes more saturated and competitive, you must go to another level, a level that pushes a lot of the same buttons that art does. When asked to cut arts funding in favor of the war effort, a reply attributed to Winston Churchill was: "What are we fighting for then?". Except that it wasn't – the quote was revealed as a fabrication, but isn't it persuasive and convincing? Sounds right, doesn't it? For years, Hun used that sentence as her leitmotif: "What are we fighting for?" And I always joke to her:" Why should we fight?" But I see her point of knowing what the goals are and take a stand.

Fashion can be escapism - an ambition, a fantasy. Does reality feel this harsh? Or are we just keeping it real?

Fashion may be about escapism but I've always been interested in it's aspirational side – trying to show the self you want to ultimately become. The way you have chosen to introduce yourself to others will telegraph your character, it can show a sense of dignity, respect for others. Before you open your mouth fashion will subtly express a collection of value systems. That's the direction I've always been interested in fashion and I suspect there's always going to be a niche for it.

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