August 1, 2021

Rick Owens on Corrupting the Classics


By now, Rick Owens has “corrupted,” as he places it, a number of iconic shoe manufacturers, respiratory his weirdness into the protected and dependable designs of Birkenstock, Dr. Martens, Adidas and Converse. However one man’s corruption is one other model’s extremely marketable collaboration, and Mr. Owens has grown to understand these partnerships.

He used to roll his eyes at them till he realized, after years of working in isolation, that collaborations are “a good way to fulfill new individuals,” he mentioned. He appears, now, to be having numerous enjoyable.

“With the ability to corrupt one thing pure like that’s type of scrumptious,” he mentioned. “And after I say corrupt, I’m saying that affectionately. I’m tweaking one thing they’ve that exists and re-proportioning issues. It’s not corrupting in a malicious approach. It’s teasing.”

Final week, Mr. Owens introduced his second collaboration with Converse: TURBOWPN, his tackle its Weapon sneaker, initially launched in 1986. (His first collaboration, the TURBODRK Chuck 70, which added a pentagram and sharp sq. toe, amongst different issues, to the basic Chuck Taylor All Star, was launched throughout his males’s put on runway present in Venice in January.)

Right here, Mr. Owens explains how he approaches every new “corruption,” his love for the Ramones, and the type of collaboration he’ll by no means do.

For one thing like this, the place do you begin? By simply fully deconstructing no matter merchandise you’re engaged on?

I begin by asking them, “What are your limits?” I don’t need to spend so much of time pursuing this concept if I discover out that this mould goes to value 10 million euros. I must know the technical limitations and authorized limitations. What can I distort legally, and what’s too far?

I like distorting issues architecturally, in a extra profound approach than including a print or a ornament on high. I wish to disturb the very basis of the product they’re doing.

Lots of the merchandise you distort are very recognizable, iconic items. With Converse, did you’ve any type of emotional attachment? Did you put on Chuck Taylors once you have been a child?

I wasn’t cool sufficient after I was a child.

I type of doubt that.

No, no, after all I did. All of us did. Everyone that needed to appear to be the Ramones. And the Ramones have been my type idols. They nonetheless are, type of. I affiliate Converse very a lot with the Ramones, and that’s what makes Converse appear to be type of a scrappy outsider image to lots of people.

Their look was so approachable. A few of the guys have been type of cute — they weren’t the prettiest guys, however that they had the correct hair, that they had the correct skinniness, that they had the correct languor, that they had a component of hazard. And the music was very cartoonish. The lyrics are quite simple however easy in such an ikebana excellent Japanese floral association type of approach — like a haiku. They’re like a punk haiku.

You’ve been impressed by the Ramones for a very very long time.

There are specific issues in place once you come into artistic bloom, once you’re on the age the place you begin recognizing what it’s you’re drawn to, creatively, that sticks with you to your complete life.

All of us have a temper board in our heads of every little thing that began affecting us aesthetically at a sure level. And the Ramones have been very a lot a part of that, after I began accumulating all of my amulets and symbols and concepts that have been going to come back collectively to be my private little faith.

However I’m very aware of not staying previously. I’m all the time trying to find the brand new Ramones. After I see music now, I’m pondering: “You guys aren’t stunning me sufficient. I need you to punch me within the face.”

At your final present in January, you set your new Chuck Taylors on the runway, proper alongside these enormous, thigh-high, thick leather-based boots. They’re type of completely different seems to be. What for you is the connective tissue between these sneakers?

I distorted these sneakers to have the identical toe cap as my platform boots, so I architecturally aligned them. However moreover that, they’re each symbols of youthful insurrection from the previous.

If I’m pondering of the Ramones as being from the ’70s CBGB, I’m additionally pondering of platform boots from one in every of my different favourite bands, Kiss. So Kiss and the Ramones, they’re completely in the identical world to me. That type of flamboyance and breathlessness and seek for journey, I feel that’s the way it matches into my world — or into what I used to be making an attempt to do with that present.

In a partnership or collaboration, is there one thing that’s, like, an absolute “no” for you?

I don’t like cheapness. For example, when designers have been doing H&M and Zara, and I don’t imply to be impolite, however I felt like that was a disappointment.

When it’s about manufacturers which might be doing quick disposable clothes, that disturbs me, and I’d avoid that as a result of disposability is what’s fallacious with our world at present.

Someone might very effectively say, you realize, cheap issues that I’ve carried out with these collaborations are disposable, too. However these are type of iconic designs which might be past disposability. A few of these greater quick manufacturers, they’re disposing of concepts in such a voracious approach. That’s every little thing that I’m making an attempt to not do.

So yeah, there are some corporations I’d actually keep away from. However to not fear, they’re not calling me anyway.


This interview, initially performed on Instagram, has been edited and condensed.



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