We recently had the opportunity to speak with American fashion designer Rick Owens about his The Masters collaboration with London's Selfridges.
Fall, with its run-up to the lucrative Holiday period, is always an important period for retailers. The big department stores vie for attention with impressive campaigns. London’s Selfridges is welcoming in the autumn season with The Masters – a selection of twelve designers they recognize as shaping the fashion landscape today. Dries Van Noten is Master of the Eclectic, UNDERCOVER’s Jun Takahashi is Master of Subversion, Thom Browne – Master of Showmanship and Yohji Yamamoto is identified as Master of Defiance. All are presenting a series of commissioned films made by SHOWstudio, will have a dedicated front window and exhibit archival pieces along with specially commissioned products available through all Selfridges stores and online.
Rick Owens has been singled out for special treatment as Master of the Elements. In acknowledgment of his play on proportion and volume, plus the fact that the American designer has reached 20 years since officially launching his label, the store have given him a wrap of four prominent windows and the ground floor Concept Store to stock a curated selection of his favorite products. Bigger yet will be the specially commissioned 25-foot statue that is positioned by the public clock over the store’s main entrance. A side view of a torso made from steel, coated polystyrene and leather hair, it is handcrafted by Doug Jennings, who is responsible for all the Rick Owens sculptures in his various flagship stores, and brought to life by Hot House IWG. This will be the largest to date and will hold a flame-burning torch that will ignite every 15 minutes.
In a recent interview for Highsnobiety’s Fall 2014 magazine, he elaborated on this.
This is a bolder, more impactful rendition of your Dustulator presentation at Pitti Uomo in 2006 when you caught the industry’s attention with that lifelike sculpture of you urinating on to a mirror. How does it feel to be larger than life?
"Actually, when Selfridges proposed the idea of my image I was flattered but countered with the idea of using an image that I had taken of my fit model Konrad holding a flaming torch. It had become an emblem for this project. But I didn’t want to be a party pooper and since the image had to be turned into a sculpture to be enlarged anyway, it was just easy for me to pose for Doug. It was a reunion of sorts because he had done the original pissing sculpture years ago and the continuity felt nice.
I rationalized that since the figure is turned away and the face is hidden, I’ve evaded the blatant ego-gasm of it all. It could be just any guy with long hair…
The whole wax figure thing was originally my private portrait over the fireplace exercise that mocked and indulged my vanity at the same time. A commissioned portrait is about mortality, clutching at a moment of glory that will be over all too soon, as it’ll all just be downhill from there. I showed it at Pitti because it had just been finished and the timing seemed right. But after that, it became unbearable in the house and the Paris store was too pretty and needed a disturbing element. So now it’s become a bit of a tradition for the subsequent stores.
I explain this as often as I can because of course they’re terribly silly…but they do illustrate that this label is about one person’s very personal expression and presence, for better or worse. I know that that’s what I want in a designer."
Jennings and his team of 20 craftsmen spent 12 weeks putting together the 25-foot centerpiece that weighs in at 1.5 tons. The hair alone – something of an Owens signature look – comprises 24 kilometers of material.
Selfridges is calling this two month campaign, launching today, The World of Rick Owens. There will be an exclusive 20-piece collection of mainline and DRKSHDW pieces comprising several trans-seasonal pieces. They range from his signature t-shirts and shorts to the iconic footwear and leather jackets. Prices start from £25 for a tote bag up to £1,775 for a leather jacket, and the label’s two-stripe tag will be co-branded with Selfridge’s canary yellow colorway. Owens has also been busy preparing a raft of items that offer insight in to his artistic world. In addition to books on the designer will be favorite autobiographies, albums, DVDs and fragrance candles. Furniture, tableware, unique design pieces and ceramic art by Georges Hoentschel will also feature prominently. Of the latter, Owens explains:
“Hoentschel’s pieces are relics from one of my favorite glamour moments, Art Nouveau, Paris. Hoetschel designed interiors for Robert de Montesquiou who was supposed to be the inspiration for both [writers] Proust and Huysmans. I have an urn of his that was part of the façade of the Musée des Art Décoratifs for the 1900 World Fair but I want more… and I’m not really big on collecting things.”
One of Owens’ favorite sound artists, Ryoji Ikeda has provided a digital son et lumiere installation to further hermetically seal customers in to this unique environment.
Supporting this will be four street-level windows that he has described as “magic and logical” and references his favorite Strauss opera, based on Oscar Wilde’s “Salomé”. The music from which was used to soundtrack his first official menswear catwalk show in January ’09. As he puts it, “Depravity and elegance is one of my favorite combinations.”
The World of Rick Owens concept store runs until the end of October 2014.
Read more on Rick Owens in Highsnobiety Magazine Issue 9, due out on September 12.