LONDON — Rick Owens hasn’t held back in his major collaboration with Selfridges, which is set to be unveiled next week. From the 25-foot statue of the designer’s muscular form that will sit atop the department store’s Oxford Street entrance to a boutique in the store’s Wonder Room that Owens said represents “what I’d carry into my burial pyramid,” the designer has distilled the spirit of his 20-year-old label into the Selfridges installation.
The World of Rick Owens, which will run from Monday through Oct. 24, is the “biggest single designer concept that Selfridges has initiated,” said Sebastian Manes, the retailer’s buying director. The idea to collaborate with Owens was originally part of Selfridges’ creative concept The Masters, which runs concurrently with Owens’ installation and celebrates the influence of designers from Marc Jacobs to Oscar de la Renta. But Manes said the project “grew into something much bigger,” as Selfridges and Owens “pushed what we all originally felt was achievable in terms of scale, complexity and atmospherics.” The installation will span a concept boutique with products selected by Owens, a temporary women’s wear shop on Selfridges’ first floor and a permanent Rick Owens men’s space also on the first floor, alongside dramatic window displays.
“It’s very theatrical, isn’t it?” mused Owens during an interview. Indeed, alongside the imposing statue, Owens has created four arresting windows for Selfridges, which take their cues from Richard Strauss’ opera “Salome,” a recurring inspiration for the designer’s draped, poetic creations. In one window, a giant image of Owens’ fit model Terry-Ann Frencken as the “Salome” character is etched onto glass, with a screen on her forehead playing a 1923 silent film version of the story, starring Alla Nazimova. Another window shows a gold-leaf moon slowly spinning and a third showcases a black wooden staircase, which will be shrouded in fog. “I love that [‘Salome’ is] classic and I love that it’s depraved…those are kind of motifs of mine that [are] always underneath everything I do,” said Owens.
Equally, the designer wanted the edit of books, music and furniture that he’s put together for the Wonder Room’s concept store to be just as emblematic of his work. “It’s a desert island selection — what are the things that would be the most important to me to carry into my burial pyramid or something,” he mused. “It’s the music that inspired me, the books that moved me [and] the art that I’m fascinated with, old and new.”
Among the objects that made Owens’ cut are vinyl LPs of Iggy Pop, David Bowie and Klaus Nomi’s music; artworks by Georges Hoentschel from New York’s Jason Jacques Gallery; pieces of the stark furniture line designed by Owens, such as a marble urnette, and singer Jayne County’s autobiography, “Man Enough to Be a Woman.”
“I refer to it as kind of a mixtape,” said Owens. “Everyone loves making their own mixtape and giving it to people.…It’s a complete indulgence…that’s kind of how I look at it, but hopefully it might appeal to somebody.”
The designer has also created a 20-piece, limited-edition collection of Rick Owens and Drkshdw designs, such as leather jackets, T-shirts, crewneck sweaters, bandanas and sneakers, that will be sold across the women’s wear, men’s wear and concept store boutiques. Prices for the line run from 30 pounds, or $50 at current exchange, for a tote bag through to 1,775 pounds, or $2,940, for the leather jacket. They will also be sold at Selfridges’ online store and in the store’s Manchester and Birmingham locations.
And the designer points out that the imposing sculpture at Selfridges’ entrance — which Owens created with his longtime collaborator Doug Jennings, who has made similar pieces for Owens’ stores — is another symbol of his strong, singular vision. “It seems quite egotistical and there’s a side of me that’s kind of embarrassed about [the sculpture], but…also it’s to remind people that this [label] is one person…it’s a one-man thing, it’s one person’s expression,” he said. “That’s the designer that I was always interested in — a lone wolf expressing themselves come hell or high water.” And, he deadpans, “An egotistical designer is not the newest thing in the world — if you want to interpret it that way, that’s fine.
After the space is unveiled on Monday, Selfridges and Owens will host what Owens described as “a late-night dance party,” to fete the launch on Sept. 13. Music will be provided by Byetone, the DJ who created the soundtrack to Owens’ fall 2013 show, when college step dancers gave an arresting, buzzed-about performance wearing his designs.
Reflecting on how his label has evolved over the past two decades, Owens opined that it “kind of turned out better than I thought it would.”
“I was very content to be a starving artist for the rest of my life on Hollywood Boulevard — I was fully prepared to be broke doing exactly what I wanted,” he said. “So not being poor is a huge plus…a big surprise.” Though he modestly credited his “incredibly talented partners” — Elsa Lanzo, his chief executive officer, and Luca Ruggeri, commercial director — with the label’s success, “If you don’t get [the collection] in the right place at the right time and the right amount, no matter how talented you are, it’s not going to work,” he said. “[My partners’] side of the business has great integrity and commitment. I think having a vision is 5 percent of the whole equation, 95 percent is the execution.”
Manes added that the success of Owens’ work has “had a profound effect on retailers’ understanding of the commercial, and the true potential of independent labels,” he said. “[Owens] has built a powerful brand that is loved by a broad and loyal customer base, but continues to avoid the mainstream.”
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