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LONDON — When Rick Owens is stuck for fashion inspiration, his first instinct is to turn to Le Corbusier for help — and the late Swiss-French architect never fails to deliver.
“I look at architecture for inspiration. If I’m wondering where to go with a collection, all I need to do is open a Le Corbusier book, and the consistency, the integrity of his work tells me what my next step should be,” said Owens, who’s famous for his dark, dramatic silhouettes and passion for fur.
This story first appeared in the September 22, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Le Corbusier has been an inspiration in other ways too. When Owens realized he couldn’t afford to own any works by Le Corbusier — or those by his other 20th-century design idols like Jacques-Emile Ruhlmann, Robert Mallet-Stevens and Eileen Gray — he started making furniture of his own.
“I faked it — I Scotch-taped things together and made cartoon versions, inspired by what I love,” he said in a telephone interview from Paris. Over the years, his very personal furniture collections have blossomed into a design business that’s shown and sold separately from his fashion line. Now he has his first-ever London show, “Evolution,” at Sebastian + Barquet’s gallery here, which runs until the end of September.
The show features Owens’ imposing, raw-edged chairs, sofas, tables and lamps crafted from materials supple and sharp: Antlers, black-and-white marble, shearling and fisher fur.
He calls the antlers on his angular plywood chairs “brutalist crowns,” and said he loves the way their elegance contrasts with the chairs’ crude wooden shapes. Plywood is one of his all-time favorite materials, and a staple, “the washed black leather,” he said, of his furniture collections.
He works in limited runs and tries to keep the collections “raw.” The furniture sells through art galleries rather than through his stores. “It’s 1,000 miles away from a ‘home collection.’ He is a designer who happens to be working in another medium — and coming from an entirely different direction from the fashion,” said Oscar Humphries, who cocurated the show with Rudy F. Weissenberg. “He’s got a clear view of how he thinks people should live, and that’s very inspiring,” said Weissenberg.
The limited edition pieces are for sale, with prices that range from 1,800 pounds, or $2,970, for a wooden bench to 22,000 pounds, or $36,300, for a suede and wood sofa. Owens agrees with the gallerists — he said he doesn’t want the furniture to be viewed as some sort of accessory to his clothing. However, he admits the origins are the same. “It all has to belong to one universe,” he said.