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How Rick Owens’ Furniture Design Shines Through his FW18 SISYPHUS Collection By: Alexander Azar

The debut of Rick Owens’ F/W 18 SISYPHUS collection spoke to his distaste for monotony within fashion culture. Sisyphus, the former king of Ephyra, was cursed to trudge up a hill with a massive boulder, and every time it would reach the top, the boulder would fall down again. Owens feels like Ephyra, pushing the zeitgeist of fashion forward just to watch it fall down again. For the SISYPHUS collection, his runway show felt more subdued than in years past, introducing the Georunner, the designer’s take on a minimalist sneaker. This collection also places a strong emphasis on rigid linearity and layering juxtaposed against exposed skin. This collection also employs movement and direction through its linearity. While his F/W 18 collection can be characterized as the byproduct of many design inspirations, one influence that sticks out in this collection is Owens’ own furniture.

            Owens began his furniture line in 2007, with the sole intent of making art for himself. In a 2016 phone interview with The New York Times, He said, “When I was first starting the furniture, I was talking about my message of intent: it was something like, ‘a fur on a rock, next to a fire, in a cave.’ And I literally created a rock, the rock that I wanted…” Even though his furniture may appear to be thoughtless in this light, Owens is clearly quite intelligent when designing his home decor. A few of his influences for his pursuit include Robert-Mallet Stevens, Marcel Breuer, Brutalism, and German bunkers. While these artists and styles greatly shaped his style, his biggest influence and collaborator for his furniture is none other than his wife, Michèle Lamy.

            In February of 2017, Owens released the book “Rick Owens Furniture,” which reads as a beautiful love story between him and Lamy, who made a baby together – this baby is their furniture collection. He opens up the book with a letter to his wife, which ends with, “My best bet is to throw her the ball and marvel at whatever direction she runs with it.” He later writes, “She’s the one directly working on the construction with her craftsmen,” bringing the creative process of design to the very last step in the physical creation of the pieces. Stylistically, Lamy and Owens differ in their approaches to creativity. He writes, “Her organic chaos can really fistfuck my concrete brutalism,” and it shows through their collections. She fights his linearity with improvised curvature and a fine attention to more maximal details, which makes the furniture unique. Many pieces they design focus around an immense dark stone or piece of wood, with sharp lines and right angles. However, these pieces may include antlers from different animals with different finishes, a result of Lamy’s organic chaos juxtaposing Owens’ brutalism. While the furniture is titled “Rick Owens Furniture,” it is apparent that the pieces only exist as a result of the collaboration between the two of them.

            Owens’ art is defined by his maximal minimalism. Owens has an apt for exaggerating the simple, and this stands out in all of his artistic pursuits. In a way, Owens’ approach to designing a t-shirt closely resembles that to designing a chair: Starting with the most minimal form of the object, Owens oftentimes obscures the proportions and plays with different materials in order to create something new, yet still simple. However, his furniture is more closely tied to his fashion line beyond the fact that he creates both mediums of art in a similar way. For the Sphinx F/W 15, Owens featured cloaks with sharp pieces of metal (resembling knives) sown on to the bottom of the piece, right around the time in which he released his silverware collection. While many of Owens’ collections have been clearly inspired by his furniture, his F/W18 SISYPHUS most closely resembles his home decor out of his many collections.

            The Rick Owens F/W 18 SISYPHUS collection radiates power while alluding to both construction and destruction. In Owens’ official statement about the collection, he referred to the consistent use of novelty fabrics, much like his furniture collection uses rare materials. In addition, he stated, “This pliable material [cotton faced with cashmere, dubbed ‘cashboard’), is slit and slashed and draped around the body in several looks or layered beneath coats.” The slashes in the fabric resemble the sharp cuts in the stones used in the home decor, and the draping is similar to the building blocks Owens uses in his furniture to signify construction. A lot of the power that comes from this collection is showcased through the use of metal chains in many of the looks, which resembles the candle pillars he crafted a few years ago. While thematically this collection drew inspiration from home decor, many of the looks featured on the runway appear to be directly inspired by a certain piece of furniture he has designed in the past.

 Look 1 & Half Box 2011 Alabaster,

The first look of this collection resembles Owens’ Alabaster Half Box from 2011. This look features slashed top that forms a right angle right around his chest, which matches the right angles and sharp lines featured on the half box. Nearly the whole silhouette is in a varying shade of off-white, from the clothing to the model’s hair and skin. This matches the half box, since the marble is primarily a varying shade of white with a slight dark-gray interspersed within it. The silhouette is also complimented by Owens’ new shoe, the Georunner, which showcases rigid linearity much like the minimal furniture piece. While one may consider his first look on the runway more maximal than the half-box, it is worth noting that the half box is entirely one piece, and Owens’ white top is also 1 piece of fabric that drapes over the model’s legs. In this regard, Owens’ white and boxy first look quite literally matches with the white Half Box.

 

           

Look 6 & Curial 2011 Wood,

Look six on the F/W 18 SISYPHUS runway closely mimics Owens’ Wooden Curial from 2011. The chair, which is thirty-two inches wide, is big enough for a person to sit with their arms inside the chair. Similarly, the boxy coat on the model dramatically swallows his arms. Both the jacket and the pants are in an earthy wooden brown, which matches the coloration of the chair and also adheres to Lamy’s love for organic design. The legs of the chair are also very bulky and over-stated, which matches the dramatic wide leg of the pants on the runway. Look six, which is minimal, boxy, linear, and features subtle curvature nearly looks like reproduction of Owens’ Curial if the chair were to be transformed into an outfit.

 

Look 10 & Half Box 2011 Black Wood,

The tenth look featured on Owens’ runway appears to be inspired by his 2011 Half Box in black wood. While this half box is similar to the Alabaster Half Box, the bottom of the chair is not solid, but rather has two legs with a gap in between. This is fitting for the look, considering the outfit on the runway features an obscure lack of fabric on the left side of the models’ torso, allowing his nipple and stomach to be exposed. Similarly to look 1, this top boasts rigid lines and cut fabric forming an angle that closely resembles the angle between the seat and back of the chair. The monochromatic dark silhouette of Look 10 matches that of the half box, as they both appear minimal yet intricate.

 

Look 13 and Tomb Chair 2012 Black Marble, Moose Antler

 

Look thirteen and the Tomb Chair in black marble with the two antlers appear to be closely related to each other. The Tomb Chair, which was crafted in 2012, features two separated benches in wood with a black finish and an antler sitting on each bench. The model in Look thirteen has an odd hairstyle to say the least, which closely resembles the two antlers on the bench, in both color and shape. The jacket, which is left unbuttoned on the runway, resembles the distance between the two chairs. Furthermore, the boxy nature and elongated width of the jacket match that of the chair. With regards to colors, the jacket and pants featured on the runway are entirely black like the chair, and the model’s hair and shoes share a similar tan color with the antlers. In conclusion, the grand yet obscure silhouette of look thirteen is clearly inspired from the Tomb Chair.


Look 40 & Day Bed 2012 Plywood, Petrified Wood, 

 

            The final look of the runway, look forty, seems to have drawn inspiration from Owens’ Day Bed in petrified wood and plywood from 2012. Each piece from the fortieth look appears to be black and oversized, and the day bed, which measures over ten feet long, is also very dark in color. In addition, the blanket appears to be too long for the bed, making it drape similarly to the pants from the runway look. With regards to materials, this look features a reflective coating over the black fabric, which corresponds with the shiny petrified wood at the back of the bed frame. Furthermore, the outside of the jacket features a mohair-like material, which is furry, similarly to the blanket on the bed. This look, which is massive, drapey, and dark, utilizes obscurity to create beauty while still remaining minimal.

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