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· Designer Index: Rick Owens

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Designer Index: Rick Owens
by The Kindly One

All truly great designers, whether they be avant-garde, conceptual, or particularly adept with basics, design on two levels: the more visible promotion of the runway and the more saleable retail collection. What is notable about Rick Owens is the consistency of aesthetic between the two collections. Many designers (Miuccia Prada and Marc Jacobs are most notable) produce ostentatious, inspiration-driven collections for the runway while making their mint in handbags and cocktail dresses. With Rick Owens, there is no juxtaposition between the two design levels. His clothes for the runway might be more avant-garde than his basics, but they generally all follow the same aesthetic of "broken idealism," albeit some at a more advanced than others.

This would be an example of an advanced Rick Owens look. I frankly don't get it. I don't think I have the knowledge of fashion design history to put such designs in their proper context, and as such, I am often confused by his runway shows. I don't understand the complicated layering and can't even figure out how to put some of the garments on. It takes a good six months of seeing countless iterations of his designs, whether in Vogue Paris or as Target knock-offs, before I can really absorb and understand them. That's the moment when it clicks, and I revisit his runway shows, realizing the genius that he is (though this will never happen with the above picture).
What ultimately marks Rick Owens's design aesthetic is ease of wear, comfort, and accessibility. Once the complicated layering and intimidating cool of the runway is removed, you're left with simple t-shirts, dresses, and pants comfortable enough to be worn as loungewear, but luxurious enough to be appropriate at venues where simple American Apparel would fail. This is the true genius of Rick Owens - not intimidating coolness, but the ability to continually put his own stamp on the basics, making them interesting and desirable. This is the hardest task a designer can set out to do, which is prossibly why so many designers cop out and take the easier paths of selling youth, sex, and feminity.
That said, I would probably only wear 35% of what Rick Owens designs. As much as I truly appreciate his design philosophy, I prefer to wear spare, urban shapes without excess volume, and Rick Owens very often employs volume in his designs, though empire waists, extreme draping, and oversized footwear. It would be my assumption that all this volume would work as it always does, i.e. hang off me while dragging me down with it. Still, I'm enamored with how he cuts a leather jacket, as in the above example. I am generally not a fan of empire waists, but this jacket is less waisted and more cleverly belted. I am in awe of the sumptuous leather, as well. This is something that would mold to the wearer's particular shape and easily become identifiable with her.

While I'm unable to carry off a lot of volume, I am quite a fan of layering, and this look manages to incorporate both without compromising shape.

Leather gilets may not be basics for everyone, but as someone doesn't wear jewelry, these would provide interest and detail to my outfits without the weight of metal. I'm torn between them. I think I like the brown version better, with its slightly easier shape and contrasting collar. The fit of the black version might end up looking tortured. I would be happy to wear them both, though.
Finally, no discussion of Rick Owens can be complete without reviewing the jacket that started it all. Despite having designed for many years, Rick Owens can be said to really be noticed by the public when Ashley Olsen, and later Lindsay Lohan, were frequently photographed wearing this jacket. This is quintessential Rick Owens: a little bit biker, assymetrical, leather, and very black. Any real Rick Owens fan dreams of owning this jacket someday.

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3/17/2009 [4]

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