Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Rick Owens' 10 Rules of Fashion

Rick Owens

When we think Rick Owens, we think black. Otherworldly. Grunge. Primordial. Obscure. Phantasmagoric. There's a thin mist surrounding his designs, as if you are opening Pandora's Box. It's very interesting to see designers' personal perspectives on fashion, because it lies upon a bedrock of style that becomes a philosophy, secluded in the chasms of their minds. Here are his 10 Rules of Fashion.

I'm not good at subtlety. If you're not going to be discreet and quiet, then just go all the way and have the balls to shave off your eyebrows, bleach your hair, and put on some big bracelets.

Working out is modern couture. No outfit is going to make you look or feel as good as having a fit body. Buy less clothing and go to the gym instead.

I've lived in Paris for six years, and I'm sorry to say that the Ugly American syndrome still exists. Sometimes you just want to say "Stop destroying the landscape with your outfit." Still, from a design standpoint, I'm tempted to redo the fanny pack. I look at it as a challenge—it's something to react against.

When a suit gets middle-of-the-road it kind of loses me—it has to be sharp and classic and almost forties.

Hair and shoes say it all. Everything in between is forgivable as long as you keep it simple. Trying to talk with your clothes is passive-aggressive.

There's something a little too chatterboxy about color. Right now I want black, for its sharpness and punctuation.

Jean-Michel Frank, the thirties interior and furniture designer, supposedly had 40 identical double-breasted gray flannel suits. He knew himself and is a wonderful example of restraint and extravagance.

Jean-Michel Frank

I hate rings and bracelets on men. I'm not a fan of man bags, or girl bags either—or even sunglasses. I don't like fussy accessories. Isn't it more chic to be free? Every jacket I make has interior pockets big enough to store a book and a sandwich and a passport.

With layering, sometimes the more the better. When you layer a lot of black you're like a walking Louise Nevelson sculpture, and that's pretty attractive. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable is also one of the most attractive things you can do.

Louise Nevelson sitting before one of her sculptures

It's funny—whenever someone talks about rules, I just want to break them. I recoil from the whole idea of rules.


Clothes cover the body, but still show the human form. Of course, clothes equal functionality. We have pockets for keeping things, and jackets and coats for insulation. My perspective on fashion that ties in with Rick Owens' is that it has to reiterate a person's lifestyle. In essence, clothes are a second skin. They convey a mood, perhaps dramatically. The way you move and walk influences how the fabric flows, and vice versa. It breathes as you do.

Begin with the most basic outfit, but marry it with something eccentric, strange boots, or a peculiar hat. Now that you've got people's attention, work upwards in stages. Have a cascade of bracelets, an abnormal necklace, or earrings and the size of ships. Layer on a jacket or a scarf. The pieces and accessories complement each other, ensuring all chapters of the story corroborate a singular theme. Amidst all this uniformity, have a piece that draws the eye in quietly, creating a micro rift. You don't want people to think you're trying too hard. Remember, passive-aggressive. Mix-and-match, a little clash is good. The least tasteful outfit is halfway to nowhere. The kind that just tried a little bit and couldn't be bothered. There is a thin line between awkwardness and grace. Hence, exercise the restraint. Loathe sloppiness. Dress on high notes. If you have to, max out on the parts that can be maxed out. If you're going for minimalism, max out on the minimalism. The most tasteful outfit dares you to think. It leaves people with questions, not answers. It inspires people to think creatively, for once. It isn't just, Oh she looks good, this time. It becomes, who is this person? Where did she come from? The one you just can't get enough of, the one that doesn't tell everything.

Actress Jean Seberg

Working out is modern couture. Agreed. In plain sight, having a finely sculpted bod as a canvas for dress up is essential. It's hard to top that feeling of being at peace and contented with oneself, knowing you are in a well balanced state. Be comfortable in your own skin. March to your own beat. Go ahead, blaze a trail. Be confident about yourself, because no two people are alike.

On the subject of men's fashion, men who dress sharp are incredibly attractive, be it the crisp and cleanly ironed shirt, the tailored pants or the shiny shoes. Bravo on hating the fussy accessories. Even on women - Yves Saint Laurent has said, a handbag has to leave a woman's hands free. The hands are meant to be expressive. Indeed, accessories should not get in the way but instead enhance, and, leave you effortlessly elegant. And yes, break all the rules. Anti-fashion is Fashion. Forget about the rules. Massacre it and create something totally your own. Create a new instinct, pure and unrivalled. If you're right, a wave of ravenous desire will follow.

With fashion you never know what you can get. It's fascinating how one person can fall in love with a dress, and another can be totally dispassionate about it. Well that's because people are different, their lifestyles are never the same - absurd characters, personalities, idiosyncracies and quirks. Even the cleaning lady at the food court with her fanny pack, bunned up hair, gold earrings, cargo pants and loose sandals has style, because it suits the way she lives, it's one of a kind. Most importantly style has to work with what you do, and not against it. Can style be learnt? It is possible to learn through observation, by raiding the shops, but keep going until you find an instinct that is uniquely yours. Fashion is fluid, you can always go with the flow, but trends come and go. To leave your indelible mark you have to create a new classic, the one style which like love, is neverending, and everlasting.

-Miss C.