Rick Owens first runway show was staged at New York Fashion Week in 2002 of his self titled gothic inspired “glundge” styles, it was a sponsored show by Vogue magazine in celebrating Owens as an emerging designer from Los Angeles and his distinct take on 1990s grunge fashion, infused with Owens fascination of 1970s epicurean glamour. He was 41 at the time. To look at this retrospection of the famed avant-garde designer, is also an attempt, despite what might appear to be an unintended ambiguity, which maybe a conscious or an unconscious history of disarray. It is Owens trade mark styles, with his accentuation and unique ability to overlay fits into a dark ensemble, which in turn cleverly portrays his crafted and exclusive reduction of styles; from asymmetrical cuts to skin tight looks, the aesthetics on display reflects the singled minded dedication that Owens has in formulating his collections. Owens Fall 2002 Ready-To-Wear debut offers a slight historic glimpse into the Rick Owens continuum, a show that was solely directed towards his faithful buyers, loyal fan base and more importantly the niche avant-garde clothing market. To which Owens had, over the years, cleverly moulded in building up his brand to become a formidable template in light of his first RTW collection. This was no overnight sensation, nor a star pupil of a renown fashion school breaking into the industry. Owens had been working tirelessly since 1994, eight years prior to the 2002 showing, on his namesake label and here lies the manifestation of a tale filled with an intriguing narrative that is Owens first arrival onto the L.A. fashion scene – all set within his carefully timed and orchestrated plays, that you would expect from the shrewd designer. From his initial beginnings, Owens has been able to maintain an uncompromising integrity of his signature label, which stands today as one of the last of the bigger independent fashion brands.
After finishing school in the mid 1980s, Owens went onto to study at the Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles, after a brief stint of just two years, he dropped out. He then went onto to study at the L.A. Trade Technical Collage as a pattern cutter, to which he completed his studies in the early 90’s. In an attempt at trying to find suitable employment and aware of the ‘knock offs’ of designer leather goods, Owens was able to work with ‘Korean’ (based in L.A.) imitation luxury retailers, cutting patterns for the fake designer products from the iconic fashion houses of Europe. There is an irony in all of this, more so the fact that Owens’s start was specifically centred around his L.A. street artfulness, in this unorthodox entry into the fashion world, in so many ways reflects his own iconoclastic and at times, ambiguity. Yet, this is Owens as a self created icon, with roots firmly set within the 1990s of Los Angeles. In a pre-digital interconnected world, were entrepreneurialism was seen as a given, for the many who had hopes and dreams of becoming the next big thing, for Owens the 90’s resonated a possibility of configuring his take on gothic/grunge and glamour envisioned styles, turning them into a viable product. A uniquely Owens Hollywood Boulevard story, that mirrors a romantic surrealism, as a visible participant of the L.A. nightclub scene, to which Owens frequented the city’s many underground clubs, where he met the enigmatic and creative entrepreneur Michèle Lamy.
A Hollywood darling for the many celebrities that attended her two cafeterias in L.A. throughout the late 90’s, Lamy herself was no native to the glamorous West Coast scene, she was born in Paris in 1944, who left France for America in the 1970s, she quickly became a recognisable figure of the New York City ‘Studio 54’ years, moving to Los Angeles in late 70’s, she began to immerse herself within the art, cinema and fashion industry of L.A., where she met her first husband and business partner Richard Newton, the experimental artist and film-maker. The crucial element in the Rick Owens success story is Lamy’s firm imprint she and her first husband had at the time, over the L.A. club and fashion scene. When she created her fashion line Lamy in 1990, she hired Owens, who was introduced to Lamy by Owens’s then boyfriend, as her new business partner to assist in designing the collections, to which they became a couple soon after. Lamy subsequently folded her label in the mid nineties to focus on the Le Deux café which was situated on a parking lot behind the famous Hollywood Boulevard, after buying a dilapidated former ‘crack house’ for $5,000 and setting it down onto the vacant car park. In a true reflection of Lamy’s eccentricity, she recreated a French inspired café within its American urban surreality. When Owens begin to work on debuting his signature brand in 1994, Lamy quickly became his muse wearing and representing the layered and gothic looks, whilst she continued running the celebrity hot spot. It would be the now defunct avant-garde Charles Gallay boutique on Sunset Boulevard, that was once run by Madeleine and Charles Gallay, known to be exclusive retailers for the Hollywood elite. With the proprietor Charles Gallay buying large selections of Owens designs, being the first to provide financial support, it also showcased this new designer from L.A. to the young rich trend setters. Owens first sell to a Los Angeles boutique paid off, as the larger store Maxfield took note, soon becoming a more substantial buyer, which continues to this day, of the Rick Owens label. Lamy’s Le Deux café was shelved after issues she had in 1997 of the actual ‘house’ collapsing and the rising costs of maintaining the endeavour. In the final years of the 90’s a switch occurred with Owens leading the creative helm of his brand with Lamy, his soon-to-be-wife, overseeing the business dealings. Yet, what might seem to be a reversal of fortunes, was balanced equally on the couple’s interest of the hedonistic, Lamy maybe the enchanting Gothic like character with her plethora of contacts and Owens the edgy designer who flirts with oblivion — however L.A. regardless of the romanticism is notorious for chewing up and spitting out the idealist, with or without that taste for fame. To which Owens was quoted in an article, “…I was going to make beautiful things and live in glamorous squalor on Hollywood Boulevard and die the hero for having stuck to my vision and not compromised.”
However, oblivion did not beckon and Owens and Lamy set forth to reinstate a next chapter for the new century which began via a photographic editorial for Vogue France in 2001, with Kate Moss adorning a Rick Owens leather jacket. Photographed by the late Corinne Day, the image caught the attention of Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour, who, organised to sponsor Owens Fall/Winter 2002 runway show for New York Fashion Week.
In 2013 Rick Owens and Michèle Lamy left Los Angeles and relocated to Paris, forming a partnership company called Owenscorp and in 2006 they got married.