No Longer a Girl


By Adam Rathe

The latest in a new generation of fashion muses, singer-songwriter Christopher Owens strikes a pose just as he strikes out on his own.

Owens’s life could be a Vidal novel. At 16, he ran away from the nomadic cult he was raised in before stumbling into drugs, a relationship with a millionaire benefactor, punk rock, and, eventually, indie stardom. He identifies as straight -- his new album is named after an ex-girlfriend -- but admits past affairs with men have influenced his work. The opening line of the Girls song “Lust for Life” goes, “Oh, I wish I had a boyfriend/ I wish I had a loving man in my life.” Its video features two of Owens’s male friends naked in bed together. “I was brought up in an environment in which gay culture didn’t exist—I didn’t even know what it was,” Owens says. “But when I went out into the world as a young adult, I had some experiences with guys. I’ve had significant relationships with men -- some much older, some my age -- and they’ve always been with people I look up to very much.”

The musician has tried on more identities in his 33 years than most people do in a lifetime, and it’s that ability to experiment and reinvent himself that makes him not only a captivating subject for Slimane but a fascinating songwriter. Lysandre, a bittersweet collection of 11 tracks -- 10 of which he wrote in a single night -- recount Owens’s experiences on Girls’s first tour. (He plans to record a second solo effort later this year.) “To me it was all about firsts,” he says. “The first time on tour, in New York, performing in front of people, having an affair with a girl in France… I was looking back on it as a really incredible time.”

After years of donning his mysterious skins, Owens is ready to lay things bare, with both his modeling and the stripped-down-but-affecting music he creates. “There are parallels,” he says. “There’s an aspect of opening up, allowing yourself to be vulnerable and shy when people see it. My name is on all of it. I have to own up to everything; I can’t hide behind a band.” He adds, “But if I don’t feel vulnerable doing something, I’m afraid that means it’s not any good. I like that vulnerable feeling. It makes the whole thing seem more valuable.”

See Christopher Owens in the Saint Laurent campaign video below:

Tags: Fashion, Music