More Rick Owens
“some 200 pages of great, intelligently lit photography that shows off the lush fabric choices and clear vision of one of the most interesting designers of the last 50 years.”
Fashion designer Rick Owens is known for deconstructed, raw, earth-toned clothing that would look as much at home in another installment of the Mad Max franchise as at a Sunday brunch in SoHo (although, in many ways, what’s the difference?). More Rick Owens serves to double-down on Rizzoli’s previous volume on the designer, giving the reader exactly what it advertises: more!
For those unfamiliar with a Rick Owens runway, you may have seen the memes. His are the ones that people who hate fashion will screengrab to mock the industry, inevitably missing the point of the whole performance. He revels in being provocative, in giving a middle finger to the wider fashion world, and in being just plain bizarre.
Owens was one of the first designers to incorporate transgender models into his runway shows, but he has also played with what some might call stunt performances by hiring sex workers to walk in his clothes. His most notable runway show occurred in 2014, with step dancers acting out a routine in lieu of a traditional catwalk, mugging angry faces at the audience. In 2015, his men’s collection covered all parts of the body except the genitals, providing a rather challenging problem for the press photographing the event. The emperor had clothes on, just not all of them.
This book does not cover those much-publicized years, but focuses instead on what Owens refers to as his “covid quartet”: his men’s and women’s campaigns from Fall/Winter 2019 through Spring/Summer 2023. While beautifully shot and highly editorial, such a brief snapshot of a designer’s career may not be worthy of another book, especially on the heels of Rizzoli’s solid previous compendium. In fact, it is the fourth in a line of books by the designer—who asked for “more”? That said, if you like gritty, raw, haunting fashion shot on moody models reminiscent of the heroin chic of the 1990s, then this is absolutely a book for you.
More so than many comparable titles on other designers, the physical production of the volume beautifully reflects the essence of the Owens brand: the cover is raw cardboard with unfinished edges; the title is understated and small but gorgeously embossed, blending rich black ink with luminescent metallic in a clean, sans-serif, ultra-modern typeface. This blend of restrained, cool modernity with rugged utilitarianism is an overarching theme in Owens’s work, and echoing it in the actual materiality of the book was a wise move by Rizzoli. It makes it the too-cool volume to add to your coffee table stack, the book that will make you feel very Berlin or—dare we say—Scandi (an interesting complement given that Owens is, himself, from California).
As much as highlighting Rick Owens’s clothing, More shows off the talents of photographer Danielle Levitt, who has been working with the brand since those storied 2014 runway shows. These are not static images of models posing pretty or uninteresting catwalk shots, but composed interactions where Levitt has captured interesting moments in a visual conversation where the model embodies the essence of the garment. The cropping feels incredibly intentional, indicating the fleetingness of these moments as a narrative continues off camera. Staged on stark white backdrops, nothing distracts from the textures of the clothing—metal, leather, silk, and wool become as much a part of the finished look as the models’ perfectly taut skin.
While covering a four-year period, there is a uniformity to the collections that some may call a through-line. In SS/20, we see what could be costumes for the second installment of Dune—chunky boots, elaborate headdresses, and an extreme amount of architectural draping on models assuming nontraditional postures and positions. The entire 2021 season for both men and women embraces the pandemic face mask, but makes it high fashion, cascading like ethereal beards down the chins and chests of the wearer. What is new during these years is the addition of color to Owens’s palette. His ever-present blacks, grays, and whites are now accompanied by crimson, oxblood, camel, coral, and cobalt. There are even—gasp—a few patterns!
To the fashion novice, the pages look like a combination of strung-out art students and sexier versions of the Agents from The Matrix. With hollowed out cheekbones roomier than a Los Angeles studio apartment, these haunting creatures sport black contacts, white face paint, and various prosthetics transforming them into the most impractically attired aliens in Hollywood. There are thigh gaps the likes of which the world has never seen. If Marilyn Manson had better taste, he’d have been styled by Rick Owens. But to those who live and breathe high fashion, this book is a lovely addition to your library: some 200 pages of great, intelligently lit photography that shows off the lush fabric choices and clear vision of one of the most interesting designers of the last 50 years.