Rick Owens likes penis. It reads more like an unfunny ‘frape’ than a runway manifesto, but if his AW15 Menswear show is anything to go by, as far as Owens is concerned, flesh means fashion. For SS14, his choice to use a sisterhood of African-American step teams instead of the usual coterie of skinny and sylph-like catwalk models caused something of stir, however it was nothing compared to this season’s controversy. So why is it, when naked bums and boobs barely raise the industry’s immaculate eyebrow, that a little game of penis peek-a-boo shocked so many?
Is it really such a surprise that Owens, who has gone further in the pursuit of accessibility—and not just in the trouser-less sense—than most contemporary designers, should stray so suggestively below the belt? The designer had this to say for himself: “Boys with their dicks out is such a simple, primal, childish gesture.” And indeed, there was something freeing and delightfully juvenile about Owens’ ballsy move. A little like maths, dick drawings are one of few truly universal languages. Who can honestly say they haven’t scrawled one on a desk/in a textbook/on a friend’s face in permanent marker pen at some sorry stage of their adolescence?
And yet, Owens’ penises weren’t quite this brash, they weren’t there to offend or be transgressive. Subtle and in some cases unnoticeable, they seemed, like the rough-hewn garments the models wore, to hark back to an ancient, more simplistic time. An act which recalls our own personal primitive existence; childhood, when bare skin was natural and free from sexual connotations.
Is it objectification? There are certainly those who think so. But in an industry which is so saturated with sex, these soft and, frankly, flaccid male members were refreshingly unsexy. They were there for a reason and for once it wasn’t arousal. When was the last time you saw a pair of bare breasts on the runway that weren’t there for titillation’s sake alone? Now, that would truly be ground- and maybe even ball-breaking.
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