With his thumb tucked into purple lycra leggings like he was part of an off-Broadway production of Flashdance, Rick Owens was just 26 when he made his first appearance on MTV Club, hounded by Downtown Julie Brown to give her audience “the scoop on what’s hot and what’s not” in the world of fashion. At the time, he was working as the in-house menswear designer for Michèle Lamy who would later become his business partner, companion, and eventually, his wife.
In the 80s, fashion and pop culture were experiencing a magnetic coalescence, powered by the likes of Gianni Versace and Azzedine Alaïa, who christened an era of VIP cameos and supermodels. As such, MTV Club – the channel’s first all-dance show – would hold one-off fashion specials, where guests would promote their collections, positioning fashion as elemental to the period’s music scene. In the nine-minute clip, unearthed by Outlander Magazine on Twitter, a neonatal Owens spoke of his own approach. “We don’t like to really think about the kind of people that are gonna be self-conscious in clothes,” he explained. “We like people who can be relaxed and free and feel good about their bodies without having to be Adonises or Junos or something.”
Though he looks like a rolled-out bit of plasticine here – in the best way possible, of course – Owens has since morphed into the very kind of beefcake he seemed to be referencing. Just six years after that MTV appearance, the designer launched his eponymous fashion line, working out of a store in Hollywood Boulevard, before moving to Paris in 2003 to set up Owenscorp with Lamy. “You have to be confident, go out, and look for fun, because having fun isn’t as easy as it sounds because there’s a lot of stuff out there,” he tells a bopping Julie Brown, before getting his groove on to “I Don’t Want To Be A Hero” by Johnny Hates Jazz and “Staying Together” by Debby Gibson.
As the camera pans onto the ingénue designer, flanked, I think, by members of Eric Prydz’ “Call On Me” cast, he describes the kinds of people he creates clothes for. “We like to keep our minds on a man who is really confident and a little bit reckless, he has a good time but knows how to really let go of everything,” he adds, which is to say, you likely wouldn’t find a teenage Owens lurking on one of the Reddit menswear threads that deify him so much.