Rick Owens is a peculiar designer. To label him "a designer" seems so wrong, as it is the same label donned by personalities and celebrities who pose the past with a flourish of modern trend and pass it off as "new". Rick Owens is on a completely different plane compared to other designers. Owens focuses on ideas, not just the concrete notions surrounding him and then put into clothing form, but ideas from his own mind on his surroundings and then materialized. The difference between original ideas sparked by your surroundings and ideas from your surroundings put into your head places Owens on a separate level. For instance, when searching for inspiration to create a new collection, Owens looks not to the past, or forecasts of the future, or films, or nature, but to his own work. For him, the design process does not end with a bow and wave at the end of a show; it's an ongoing cycle, a book with every new collection marking the end of a chapter, not a volume.
He doesn't aspire to dress the world, he designs for himself, as he said in a recent interview with Surface magazine: "The only way this thing stays pure is if I isolate what I really like and what is a personal expression." And "pure" really is the best way to describe his designs, free from influence, trend, and outside inspiration, the complete product of Rick Owens' mind. His designs are provocative without being in-your-face, utilitarian while still being decorative, grunge-y without the grit. His designs indirectly question society by having society question it; why does this look ugly/unflattering/undesirable? where did we learn to think so?
His clothes don't make me think of characters or dream girls or models, but humans in their purest form. Thoughtful and intelligent, yet primal, ignorant, and shameless: nothing to hide. His designs are initially harsh on the eye, but there is a subliminal soothing element to them, something natural, something proportional, something just right. Rick Owens isn't just about clothes, he's a lifestyle, although that's another word I hate to use with him because of it's association with those not on his level. His much-imitated, if not the most imitated, aesthetic is not just a sartorial decision, it's a full idea, a mindset. In the interview I mentioned above with Surface magazine, we get a glimpse of this shy, yet sure figure, apparently untouched by the outside world and aware only of his own bubble of studio and staff. It's a figure we don't see enough of, but I would gladly keep it that way.