Rick Owens is a truly legendary designer – and one with an unmatched sense of humor. We look back at some of the iconic creative’s most outrageous moments.
Rick Owens is no stranger to controversy. Each collection the legendary American-born, Paris-based designer unveils seems to be met with a headline-grabbing event of some sort. The man himself has made it clear that he is not one to play by the rules; his 2011 Rizzoli book contains the absolutely fantastic line “I would lay a black glittering turd on the white landscape of conformity.”
While Rick’s groundbreaking and esoteric collections have influenced countless designers and found love everywhere from obscure boutiques to hip hop superstars, his many tongue-in-cheek antics prove time and again that being a legendary fashion designer doesn’t mean you can’t have a sense of humor.
With that in mind, here’s a breakdown of ten of the most outrageous moments in the Dark Lord’s long and illustrious career – which shows no sign of slowing down, if his brand’s estimated $140 million revenue is anything to go by. Long may he reign.
While these days it’s no secret that Rick Owens is a remarkable designer with an equally remarkable sense of humor, perhaps his most outrageous moment came nearly a decade ago. A 2006 spread with i-D featured a composite shot of Rick Owens pissing on himself in a decrepit basement. Long a fan of fetish clubs and all things seedy (not to mention sandwich-sized pockets), Owens simply stated in the interview “Dirty habits, that’s what my clothing is all about.” The designer would also shoot himself in the head and be decapitated for a 2008 photo campaign, too.
Pitti Uomo Statues
In 2006 Rick commissioned the experts at Madame Tussauds to create a series of wax statues bearing his likeness. The first statue went to Pitti Uomo’s Immagine tradeshow, and in true to form, depicted a naked Owens urinating on the floor. The statue has since been covered up (sort of) and lives in the designer’s Paris flagship, while further stores would feature doppelgängers with Godzilla-style tails. “At a certain point in his life, when he reaches a level of stature, a man commissions his portrait to go over the fireplace,” Owens commented “It’s a classical tradition, but I thought I’d do it in wax because that’s funnier. It’s my Dorian Gray moment.”
When London’s Selfridges launched its “Board Games” project celebrating skate culture’s influence on the fashion industry, the luxury department store enlisted Rick Owens to create his very own skate deck. True to form, Rick pulled out all the stops with a board crafted from petrified wood that retailed at a whopping $15,000. Obviously meant as an art piece rather than for skating (even if it was skateable, would you use a $15,000 deck?), Rick was nonetheless hounded by mainstream publications of all kinds – who were clearly unappreciative of his esoteric sensibilities. Selfridges would go on to commission a 25-foot statue of the Dark Lord – clutching a burning torch, of course – as part of their “World of Rick Owens” festivities.
It seems as well as life-sized mannequins and colossal statues, Rick is partial to miniature replications of his likeness, too. While there’s very little information on this Rick Owens action figure, we’re extremely happy it exists.
In a career filled with highlights and controversy, Owens’ Spring/Summer 2014 womenswear presentation stands out as a fashion moment of legendary proportions. Rather than the recruiting the standard parade of waif supermodels, the Dark Lord assembled a cast of step dancers from the Washington Divas, Soul Steppers, Momentums and Zetas, who stomped their way round an abandoned industrial space dressed head-to-toe in Rick’s garments.
While the casting of the dance troupe seemed to break every rule in the fashion book, Owens stated that he was mainly challenging the fashion industry’s sizeism. “I was looking around my studio in Italy and all of the women I work with every day…I was thinking, ‘I’m asking all of these nice ladies to work on all these skinny clothes and there’s something gross about that.’ We can take a break from these skinny models for once.” Rick’s casting of step dancers raised salient points about an industry so obsessed with unrealistic standards of beauty – and made for an attention-grabbing performance fitting of his brutalist, brooding clothing.
On His Knees
As if urinating statues and action figures weren’t enough, Rick saved his most ridiculous doppelgängers for his Hong Kong flagship. The store features both table and chairs that saw life-sized models of Owens – complete with bulging biceps and long mane of pitch-black hair – designed as part of the furniture pieces. The table and chair are a tongue in cheek homage to Allen Jones’s 1969 Hatstand, Table & Chair artworks – replacing scantily clad ladies with the Dark Lord himself, naturally.
My Little (Rick) Pony
In the aftermath of the 2015 Nepal earthquake, Italian luxury retailer LUISAVIAROMA teamed up with My Little Pony to create a set of one-off toys with a little help from some designer friends. Balmain, Versace, Missoni and KENZO designed Ponies in a dizzying array of colors and patterns, the Dark Lord stuck to his guns and dressed his sort-of cute toy in all black. Obviously.
Rock ‘n’ Roll
While the aforementioned dance troupe at Owens’ Spring/Summer 2014 women’s show made headlines all over the globe, the designer’s menswear show of the same season was no less extraordinary. Rick recruited Estonian metal band Winny Puhh to play in the middle of the catwalk, decked out in fetish-style masks and using a Motley Crüe-style rotating drumkit (!!!). While for most designers this would be a moment of pure madness, for Owens – admirer of obscure subcultures from New York drag queens to Scandinavian metal – it was pretty much business as usual.
While unveiling his Fall/Winter 2015 “SPHINX” collection, Owens’ models and muses paraded down the runway in a collection that took heavy influence from naval attire. The Dark Lord – ever the prankster – appropriated the portholes used on ships and submarines and placed them at crotch-level on his garments, revealing models’ genitals. “It’s a little bit of juvenile transgression,” Owens commented. “Boys with their dicks out is such a simple, primal, childish gesture.”
Not just confined to esoteric fashion, the world of Rick Owens extends into a pretty considerable line of furniture. Centerpiece of which was this mixed alabaster and marble bed – which took three days to install at the designer’s first furniture exhibition in 2010, before promptly selling for $216,000. Of course, marble isn’t exactly the softest of materials out there – but this is Rick Owens, after all.
For more from the Dark Lord, check out our street style report from his latest Paris fashion show.