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By Rick Owens’ estimation, he’s been to New York two times in the last seven years, once for his store opening in 2008, and now — he’s staying at the Bowery Hotel all week. As it turns out, Owens prefers to stay within a four-hour travel radius of his home in Paris — he even passed on recent store openings in Seoul and Tokyo — which makes this rare Stateside visit kind of a big deal.
This story first appeared in the May 5, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
No, he’s not in town for the Met gala, to which he was invited but didn’t attend for reasons he’d rather not discuss. (He did, however, make the after party circuit, swinging by Mick Jagger and L’Wren Scott’s at The Carlyle).
Rather, the occasion for Owens’ visit is a weightier matter, like two tons of alabaster shipped in from Paris. The designer mounts his furniture exhibition, produced by Rudy Weissenberg and Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn and titled “Pavane for a Dead Princess,” at Salon 94 gallery, Saturday to June 25. It’s not Owens’ first stab at furniture design (he specializes in Cubist chairs decorated with antlers), but it is his first time showing it in New York. Same old antlers wouldn’t do.
“I was thinking, let’s rise to the occasion,” says Owens by phone from the lobby of the Bowery Hotel. “[Weissenberg and Greenberg Rohatyn] were the ones that suggested it should be something personal.”
A replica of his sleeping quarters was the obvious choice. “It’s my bedroom but transformed into alabaster,” says Owens of his new designs, which amount to a monolithic bed and a daybed. Owens has a thing for daybeds — he naps in one every day — which compels him to quote Mae West: “A real lady never stands when she can sit and never sits when she can recline,” says Owens. “I like reclining more than sitting.”
If all the nap time, daybed and old-Hollywood-broad talk seems out of sync with Owens’ ultraspecific, Gothic ethos, he quickly restores the dark equilibrium by explaining the appeal of his creepy show title, named after Maurice Ravel’s 1899 piano solo.
“My parents used to play a lot of classical music. That song was haunting in the first place, but then the title is morbidly mysterious and exotic.”
As for the alabaster (his own bedroom set is marble): “It felt a little more biblical, more ancient and mythical,” he says. The whole set will be cloaked by a sheared mink curtain, done in Owens’ signature tortillon construction, an idea he got from the protective curtains of old-world Italian markets. “It’s kind of like a mink fly screen,” he says. “What could be more ridiculous?”
Certainly not Owens’ dark fashion vision. His once-weird underworld has been on a high lately, thanks to a string of hit collections anchored in sculpted leather jackets that sell like gangbusters. And it’s not just for fashion insiders anymore. At the mention of Bravo’s “Kell on Earth,” in which Kelly Cutrone’s assistant is a devoted Owens’ disciple hellbent on spreading the word, Owens says that he’s been recognized more than usual since he arrived in New York on Sunday. “It surprised me because I usually consider myself pretty obscure,” he says. “I get it if I’m in SoHo. I mean, people are really into fashion and stuff. But even so, I mean I was just kind of surprised. Maybe I’m not quite that obscure anymore.”
And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. With his upcoming women’s and men’s pre-collections, as well as his lower-price denim and Lilies lines, finished, Owens is well aware of the power of real clothes. “I love being commercial,” he says. “I love making banal everyday things with my particular aesthetic. I almost feel like it’s corruption.”