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Why Rick Owens Owes His Success to LA

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Now that Rick Owens has officially confirmed plans to open his first West Coast flagship at 819 North La Brea Avenue, chances are that we'll be seeing more of the mysterious, French-based designer around town. So, just who is this insanely talented man backed by a crazy cult following, and why should you care about his store?

For one, Owens's West Coast roots run deep. Not only was the 52-year-old talent born in Porterville, California, but a 2008 profile in The New Yorker reveals that he studied fashion design at LA's Otis College of Art and Design for two years before dropping out and taking pattern-making and draping courses at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College. (Those draping courses would eventually mold him into a draping master.)


Rick Owens fall/winter 2015. [Getty Images]

After working in local knockoff houses "copying in cheap fabrics the work of well known fashion designers," in 1994 Owens created his eponymous label and sold it exclusively at legendary avant-garde boutique Charles Gallay in LA. Owens apparently took his debut collection to Maxfield first, but the luxury Melrose store's buyer wasn't available to view it. (Big mistake. Huge.) After Gallay closed, Maxfield came to their senses and inked an exclusive deal with Owens—this is when he began producing what would become his signature aesthetic. Vogue's West Coast director Lisa Love tells The New Yorker that Maxfield is where the designer "moved into the more high-end fabrics and the more tortured designs, draping leathers and cashmeres and fur, and making these incredible T-shirts."


Ashley Olsen in Rick Owens. [Shutterstock]

Those incredible, androgynous T-shirts and draped leather jackets are still celebrated by minimalist-chic fashion influencers today. A true designer's designer, famous fans include Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen (the twin moguls have even been accused of ripping off his work for their own line, The Row), Kanye West (of course), Rihanna, and even FLOTUS Michelle Obama.

Owens's LA connection doesn't end there; he met his wife and collaborator—eclectic jewelry designer Michele Lamy (her work will be featured in the LA store)—here when she was running hip French bistros Café Des Artiste and Les Deux Café. (Les Deux first closed in 2004 and reopened in 2006 as a nightclub frequently featured on The Hills.)


Michele Lamy by Danielle Levitt. [Photo]

Given Owens and his wife's rich Los Angeles history, we wouldn't be surprised if the couple, who has been living in Paris since 2003, make like Saint Laurent's Hedi Slimane and move here permanently. In the meantime, we'll keep a close eye on the designer's Mid-City debut, which will feature "a water tank releasing slow-motion bubbles and a wall emitting fog every five minutes," naturally.

Rick Owens

819 North La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90038, USA