the many lives of former girls frontman christopher owens

Inspiring visionaries like Saint Laurent Creative Director, Hedi Slimane, Owens is on his way to becoming an unlikely fashion icon, himself. But his style, like his soul-baring music, is purely personal. Owens took a walk around his Panhandle...

by i-D Team
14 November 2014, 11:56am

Growing up with the cult-like religious group Children of God, busking around Europe as a teen, working on a Texas ranch, and breaking into music as the frontman of Girls, Christopher Owens has lived many lives. You can find them all embedded in his latest solo album, A New Testament, which features his whisper-like croon over arrangements of big band guitars and a gospel choir. Owens approached this new project as a holistic work of art, complete with rockabilly music videos and western outfits.  

What are you doing in San Francisco now that you have some time off before your tour?
I'm kind of a loner. I just read and watch a bunch of movies. I like walking with no real place to go and then popping in little stores here and there. 

A New Testament is musically and aesthetically different from your previous album. Did that come organically or were you inspired by something specific?
It happened pretty organically. There was a concrete idea to do an album that paid homage to the country music that I've liked for a long time. I think the last album [Lysandre] was the most unique out of all of them. It was the first time I really sat down and wrote an album that told a story from song to song. The main idea with this album was to see if I could do something a little bit Country and have fun with that. 

Do you carry on the album's Country look in your personal life?
I lived for nine years in Amarillo, Texas and I worked on a ranch there, so I had these cowboy hats and boots. It is dressing up for this album in some ways, but at the same time, it's clothes that I already had and still wear. 

Some people try to pin me down as grungy. They make this Kurt Cobain reference, which is OK, fair enough, but I also like to dress up and wear western clothes. I'm just an odd ball, and making albums is a fun way that I get to show different sides. 

You've gotten some attention from the fashion world. How did you get involved with the Saint Laurent campaign with Hedi Slimane?
Hedi and I had already been friends for two years. He used to take pictures of me here and there, do little portraits, not for anyone to use, but just for himself. So when he took the new job at Saint Laurent, he was explaining to me that he was going to be doing that, and he said "I thought maybe you could be in the campaign?" So I said, "OK, let's give it a try." I think the main reason I felt confident enough to even try that was because we had this friendship beforehand. 

Are you interested in fashion?
I don't know the names of designers, and I don't follow collections or logos or magazines. We all decide what we're going to wear, and then especially when you're playing shows or in the public eye, you have to be conscious of how you look. I feel like I have a personal style. To be honest, in terms of the fashion world, I feel like an outsider coming in, which is fine. It might be what they like about me too. Hedi gave me some nice clothes after we did that shoot, and I love them. I think they're great. The whole thing's been a really nice and exciting thing that I had never expected. 

There are a lot of great vintage shops in San Francisco.
Yeah, that's where I would normally shop. I have a secret obsession with Brooks Brothers, so if I do buy new clothes, it's usually from there. I like them because they're an old fashioned department store, where they have a children's section. If I buy the extra large boy's shirts, they fit nice. They're not fancy, but they're nice. And you can still find pleated khakis, which are not really in fashion elsewhere, but they'll always be there. 

Is there anything that you'd like to try in the future?
I have things I'd like to do, like I'd love to work with an orchestra or something - something a little bit more cinematic. I'm not really there yet, though. I'm focusing on tours coming up. I'll probably do another video or something.


Text Charlotte Japp
Photography Andrea Sonnenberg

Christopher Owens
Hedi Slimane
European Tour
a new testament
music interviews