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STYLE & CULTURE | FALL 2003 COLLECTIONS

Onto the radar

Rick Owens takes his low-key style to Paris as designer for Revillon.

March 11, 2003|Booth Moore | Times Staff Writer

Paris — Paris

The Rick Owens woman seems to carry the weight of the world on her shoulders. At the L.A.-based designer's largely drab-hued show, paper-thin leather jackets dipped lower in the front than the back, and sexy, tattered skirts dragged along the ground, gathering dust like Swiffers. Trailing leather straps behind them as if they had come unleashed, models wore soft cutaway sweaters with tails or anoraks with cottony insulation spilling out of the seams, over cropped cargo pants and clunky combat boots.

But Owens has little reason to feel depressed. After keeping a low fashion profile for seven years, designing his signature brand of rough-and-tumble Gothic glam in L.A. and showing for two seasons in New York, he's moved on to Paris.

Last week, he showed his signature collection here for the first time and signed a deal to become creative director of the dormant fashion house Revillon. The French furrier was founded in 1723 but became most famous in the 1950s and '60s, dressing the Cocktail Nation.

It was an interesting choice for Revillon, which plans to launch sportswear, accessories and perfume next fall. Unlike Marc Jacobs, who designs for Louis Vuitton, and Tom Ford for Gucci, Owens is not known for the kind of seasonal style metamorphosis that would necessarily create a must-have bag or shoe.

"The vision he has is a straight line. He designs things for a woman who is very secure. It's not about fashion and trends," said Revillon managing director Georges Wichner, who would rather his company have the timelessness of luxury goods brand Hermes than the flash and dash of Louis Vuitton or Gucci.

"When I first met with the Revillon people, I kept asking if they knew who I was. I said, 'I'm not your fashion show fireworks guy,' " Owens said over a drink at Cafe de Flore. "But they had done their research and they have modest goals."

The designer, who once told the apparel trade publication DNR that homeless kids on Hollywood Boulevard were one of his main sources of inspiration, only recently decided to step into the limelight. Last year, he staged his first show in New York and won the Perry Ellis Award for Emerging Talent from the Council of Fashion Designers of America -- at age 40. He has been in talks with several apparel companies, but Revillon was the most appealing. "There isn't a signature designer I have to follow, or an idea I have to conform to. I get a lot of freedom," he said.

Owens and his partner-muse, Michele Lamy, plan to divide their time between Paris and L.A. Lamy, a former clothing designer who is now the proprietor of Hollywood's popular Les Deux Cafes, has also been hired to work for Revillon in an unspecified role. She will not close the restaurant, which she said can run itself.

Owens, who is known for his offbeat behavior, at one time using a shot of himself in which he appeared to be urinating on another man as his press photo, will debut his first collection for Revillon here in June. He hopes also to continue showing his own collection, now sold at stores such as Maxfield and Barneys New York.

His parents, John and Connie Owens, flew in from Porterville, Calif., to see his show Wednesday. It was their first foray into the fashion show scene.

"The thing that surprised me most was the enormous bank of photographers," John Owens, 87, a former social worker, said to his son afterward. "I couldn't believe all those people were interested in coming to see you."

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