Born and raised in Porterville, California, Owens studied fine arts at Otis/Parsons (now known as Otis College of Art and Design) in Los Angeles for two years before a pattern-making class led him to drop out and work for some local companies that produced sportswear and inexpensive imitations of designer clothing. His own label, begun in 1994 found a following, selling exclusively to Charles Gallay, a pioneering Los Angeles retailer who kept Owens in business for several years. In 2001, he signed with Italian sales agent Eo Bocci Associati for world wide distribution, and his production moved to Italy.
He began to receive attention when an image of Kate Moss shot by Corrianne Day and styled by Panos Yiapanis appeared in Vogue Paris, featuring one of Owens’ fitted distressed leather Jackets. He showed his first runway collection in September 2002 during New York Fashion Week with the support of American Vogue and Anna Wintour, who also featured him and his muse Kembra Pfahler in a spread shot by Annie Leibovitz. The following season Owens launched his menswear collection, showing it alongside his womenswear in his Spring Summer 2003 runway show. After his second runway show in New York Owens made the decision to move the studio from Los Angeles to Paris and show during the Paris collections. He also began his longstanding collaboration with the stylist, Panos Yiapanis, who has been working with Owens on all his catwalk shows to date. He marked the anniversary of his 10th season with a launch of a retrospective book named ‘L’ai – Je Bien Descendue’.
In 2007 he was awarded a Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award. In 2002, he won the Council of Fashion Designers of America Perry Ellis Emerging Talent Award. His look has been described as “glamour-meets-grunge”, but Owens himself says “I try to make clothes the way Lou Reed does music, with minimal chord changes, and direct. It is sweet but kind of creepy. It’s about giving everything I make a worn, softened feeling. It’s about an elegance being tinged with a bit of the barbaric, the sloppiness of something dragging and the luxury of not caring. At Revillon, I felt it isn’t about displaying one’s junk, but rather giving the woman a selfish pleasure. It is about using sable as the lining under a very humble jacket, the luxury is all hers.” Courtney Love, Madonna and Helena Bonham Carter are among the celebrities who have been seen wearing his clothes, and Patricia Field used some of his pieces to create a fashion-forward look for Emily Blunt’s character in the 2006 film The Devil Wears Prada. The opening of his first shop in the Palais Royal, in Paris, also debuted his furniture range as well as his various clothing lines from the younger and more affordable Lillies and the denim range named DRKSHDW to the very exclusive Fur collection Palais Royal. His second store in New York’s Tribeca opened in the Summer of 2008 with plans of further expansion.
He is bisexual and married to Michele Lamy, who owned the popular Los Angeles restaurant Les Deux Cafés until the couple moved to Paris.