Don't let the distressed leather, exposed hardware, and black-centric palette fool you: The American-born, Paris-based designer Rick Owens is not a one-note goth. On the contrary, he is an avant-garde romantic with a knack for highlighting the beauty of imperfections. It's a talent well suited to his savagely sophisticated rock couture. Owens' asymmetrical dresses; long, clingy T-shirts; and embellished outerwear have been seen on hard/soft types like Courtney Love and Madonna, and the designer's fan club buys up his clothes with a cultlike alacrity.
A native of California, Owens left Los Angeles for the City of Light in 2003. Although he's now more closely affiliated with his adopted country than the U.S., his line first took off in the States. To learn his craft, he took a two-year course in pattern making at Otis/Parsons before dropping out to work for sportswear and knockoff houses around L.A. In 1994 he began his own label, selling exclusively to Charles Gallay, a now defunct L.A. boutique that stocked Margiela, Mugler, and Alaïa. In 1999, his line landed in Barneys, and by 2002 he had been recognized by the CFDA with a Perry Ellis Award for Emerging Talent. The move to Paris followed shortly thereafteralong with an appointment as the artistic director of Revillon, the long-established luxury furrier. Owens opened his first stateside boutique in Manhattan's Tribeca in 2008, salving the spirits of American admirers with abandonment issues.