Certain Italian designers routinely send out models wearing skimpy beachwear that leaves little to the imagination, and the cult, now-defunct French underwear brand Shirtology once staged shows so erotically charged that they bordered on porn. Well, Rick Owens, the ultimate iconoclast, went further for fall 2015, showing models in long tunics with a circular cutout that revealed their bare bits. Talk about glory hole dressing — or bathroom problem-solving.
Oddly, the effect wasn’t porny or raunchy, maybe because of the constant game of hide and seek between the cloth and the nether regions. The nudity looked more like a way to express the idiosyncratic fearlessness of the Owens man, rather than his desire to attract sexual partners with his genital assets.
But reducing the show to that peep moment wouldn’t do justice to this terrific collection, titled Sphinx. “It was about the strain to preserve reason under extreme pressure,” read the show notes. Inspired by a forgotten black and white French movie, set in a military submarine, Owens came up with a vast array of excellent pea coats in black, beige, or cut in berber-dyed wools.
They were often worn with drop-crotch shorts, knee-high socks and hi-top suede sneakers. The monochromatic outfits were sometimes broken with a touch of white, reinforcing their graphic effect. Other standouts included wondrous, chunky cable-knit jumpsuits, jackets, ‘body bags’ with a peel-away look that erotically revealed the torsos, and a finale of zippered tunics adorned with geometric patterns based on Suprematism, the Russian art movement of a century ago.
It was pure Rick, aesthetically strong, uncompromising yet commercially viable, with surprises popping out here and there. Although that surprise will go down as a landmark in menswear history.