Rick Owens Stitches a Souvenir


In the latest installment of our Designer D.I.Y. series, the designer embroiders a lover’s hankie.

By Guy Trebay

Illustrations by Samantha Hahn

At a time when everyone is isolated at home, nervous about spending money and without an occasion to dress up, what can we do to help you pass the time?

Styles has started a series of print-and-keep D.I.Y. wardrobe customization ideas, similar to the sewing patterns that glossy magazines used to provide. We want you to remember the joy of fashion and learn (or remember) how to make things at home. Some of fashion’s best-known creative talents will be on hand to guide you through the process.

“During my mom’s Mexican youth, girls used to embroider their boyfriend’s initials on a handkerchief with their own hair,” Rick Owens wrote in an email from Paris, where he and his wife, Michele Lamy, live. Though hair can be a disconcerting substance when not attached to one’s own head, it has a rich history of use as a memento mori, used through the ages by artists, hobbyists, fetishists and smitten teens.

“I loved that story,” Mr. Owens said. “So I asked my mom to embroider a handkerchief with her hair for me.”

Years later, when the designer’s friends started having children, he plucked strands of his signature raven locks and embroidered the newborns’ initials on baby blankets that he gave to the new parents as gifts.

Though the baroque atmospherics of the instructions below are not required (Mr. Owens may have been, as he wrote, on magic mushrooms when he composed them), it probably helps to be in some kind of swoon while you sew.

Your tool kit

Three long strands of your own hair

One 35-by-35-inch silk handkerchief

One Clover No. 3-9 gold-eye embroidery needle

An embroidery hoop


“First, wash your silky hair in the milk of an ass, just as Claudette Colbert did while playing Empress Poppea,” Mr. Owens wrote, referring to the actress’s racy turn in “The Sign of the Cross,” Cecil B. DeMille’s 1932 pre-Code epic. TREsemmé would probably work just as well if you can’t find donkey’s milk in the dairy aisle.


“Air-dry your hair by hanging it off a balcony in morning sun, combing and untangling it with a fine-toothed mother-of-pearl comb while the Montserrat Caballé version of Camille Saint-Saëns’s ‘Mon coeur s’ouvre a ta voix’ plays in the background,” Mr. Owens wrote.


Lightly pencil the desired initials on the silk hankie, then stretch it over “your prettiest” embroidery hoop.


Take three long healthy strands of hair from your head and thread them through the needle simultaneously. “Using a single strand will take forever,” he said.


Slip on a thimble and start embroidering the initials of the one you love. “Find a cozy place to sit outside under a tree,” Mr. Owens said. “This could very well take all day.”

Top photo: Getty Images

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