Rick Owens - Glade
As London Fashion Week drew to a close the London Design Festival continues and at Carpenters Workshop Gallery they bought the two disciplines together, working with Paris based fashion designer Rick Owens on a new furniture exhibition. No stranger to working in a variety of disciplines, along with his partner Michele Lamy they have broadened their fashion business to include art installations, furniture and their ‘Maison Objects’ collection of tableware, candlestick holders, vases, cutlery and other compelling items.
Owens started making bespoke furniture as a means to an end, not happy with what was available in the market for his and Lamy’s store front off Hollywood Boulevard. A move to Paris saw them take on an old building behind Palais Bourbon which once housed the French Communist Party. A mix of traditional Parisian architecture with a brutalist extension, the building almost embodies both the glamour and beauty and the influence of architects such as Courbusier in Owens’ collections. It was only right the couple would fill their new home with these unique pieces.
As Rick Owens standing continued to grow in the fashion world with the opening of flagships in Paris, London, New York, Milan and Tokyo to name a few so did the interest in his design aesthetic beyond fashion. His furniture designs have now been exhibited internationally at numerous galleries and fairs such as Design Miami/Basel, TEFAF Maastricht and Frieze New York as well as his own retrospectives at MOCA and during the Triennale di Milano. The latest, Glade brings together another collaborative project between Owens and his partner Michele Lamy under his namesake umbrella.
We meet Michele as she and her team are putting the finishing touches to the lighting and staging of the exhibition before the evenings opening. A bewitching figure she gives us a warm welcome and takes us around excitedly and without delay, gesticulating as her small frame stands tall in her husbands ‘Kiss Boots’ from his Larry LeGaspi influenced Autumn Winter collection.
Michele has been at the forefront of Rick Owens as a business and spearheads her and her husbands foray into the arts and the ‘Maison Objects’ collections and exhibitions. Being particularly interested in working with artisans and craftsmen of the highest calibre to realise Rick’s minimal brutalist aesthetic she marries the use of his geometric shapes, clean lines and muted hues with her liking for rare materials, such as alabaster and marbles to bring that subtle beauty that fans of the brand have come to expect. Here Michele has opted to use a material synonymous with the Rick Owens design language; surplus French military wool blankets. “We have used and explored a lot of different materials and techniques over the last few years. I felt it was the time to go back to the beginning” explains Michele. “We used this as the flooring in our stores, in the first store in Paris and then in our home on our bed, it was time to use it again on this sofa which is influenced from that bed”. That aforementioned bed has become somewhat of an enigma, featuring in fashion and architectural publications but also across countless Pinterest mood boards as another example of the Rick Owens brand that harbours as much of an individual style as his clothing.
“We have used and explored a lot of different materials and techniques over the last few years. I felt it was the time to go back to the beginning”
The main works in Glade are the functional, wool blanket covered modular sofas with the individual sections including internet connections and chargers, placing them within the contemporary world. “We wanted these pieces to be an area for gathering, relaxing” says Michele. “It’s been a conscious decision to make them more interactive”. If the opening is anything to go by these pieces started with some trepidation but as the space got busier and people felt more comfortable they then transcended from being mere objects of beauty like some of the couples previous works and instead became points of interaction. “I imagine them in a library or another public place, maybe even outside in concrete” she explains. The pieces are in fact available to purchase as sections that can be configured into a set up of the buyers choosing. Whilst quite imposing in the absence of people, looking almost retro futuristic, once the space started to fill up they exude warmth and energy, you could see the structures working in a museum or even an airport lounge. “The name… it’s about the space, the glade, a clearing in the forest with the stars and the moon shining through the leaves, where primitive humans would come and be together by the fire”
The Prong series has also made a return, beginning first as a bench and day bed Michele has since transformed these into other sculptural objects. “I’ve deconstructed them… we stacked them into totems for the exhibition in Los Angeles last year [The World of Rick Owens at MOCA] and for New York [their flagship store] and we turned them on their side to use them as the stools”. Whilst some are in a chromed aluminium others, are partially destroyed show pieces. “Yes we used fireworks!” exclaims Michele. “The resin and foam that is used to make the stools is all melted and sparkles in the light! The aluminium is bang! [Michele mimics an explosion] and inside the heat melts this...” [she shows me the inner construction of the foam layers] “it looks like it’s an old treasure don’t you think?... which is also similar to the new collection”
“The name… it’s about the space, the glade, a clearing in the forest with the stars and the moon shining through the leaves, where primitive humans would come and be together”
Owens latest collection was Tecuatl, shown in June during Paris’ menswear schedule. Tecuatl, from his mother’s maiden name it is evocative of Owens’ own genealogy, his mother hails from Puebla and is of Mixtec heritage. “We went to visit Mexico together; that inspired a lot of the collection for Rick, the Aztec Eagle he used was from the United Farm Workers’ association and Ricks dad worked as a translator in the courts for migrant workers from Mexico so we will donate money from profits of these pieces and jewellery with the eagle to them” Mexico and exploring his roots, albeit in a typically abstract way was clearly inspiring for Owens and these Aztec and native influences have indeed bled into what Michele has put together with this exhibition.
On plinths sit crowns which I’m told will now feature in the womenswear collection bearing the same Tecuatl name. “They came from us attending the animal ball for Prince Charles. We had to wear animal masks and Steve Wintercroft designed some for us first from cardboard and then we made them into metal. Since visiting Mexico we did the same with these headdresses and crowns, first designed in cardboard then in metal with silver and black chrome plated using a unique technique” The outcome is somewhat future-primitive, a shape that could have been rendered or carved from rock by an ancient civilisation with it’s angular and robust shapes, yet the ultra-shiny finish brings a metallic and space-like quality to them, I can already picture them sat next to Owen’s sequin adorned pieces.
Being in Lamy’s company is a pleasure, her enthusiasm for the arts and life in general is infectious. We set up to shoot a few portraits and she laughs and moves with enchanting ease. She’s had an impressive life and career so far, working with an enviable list of artists, musicians, jewellers, designers, architects, chefs and other creatives. From shows at the Venice Biennial to pop up dining experiences with Ghetto Gastro to her own music with Lavascar alongside her daughter, [artist Scarlet Rouge] she shows no sign of slowing down. What’s next in the world of Rick and Michele I ask? “You will see darling!” she cries, chuckling and grinning through those gold and jewel incrusted teeth.
Rick Owens - Glade
Carpenters Workshop Gallery
4 Albemarle Street,
W1S 4GA London
16 September - 25 October
Mon - Fri, 10am - 6pm
with special thanks to Michele Lamy and Janet Fischgrund @ Owens Corp.