Fashion Matters

This week, Paris Men’s Fashion Week drew to a close, but people are still talking about it, and about one show in particular: Rick Owens. Perhaps, though, you would know the brand better as Dick Owens, as it was affectionately nicknamed and then relentlessly shared after the show – ending up going viral online.

For anyone who has somehow missed this milestone in men’s fashion, models took to the catwalk in oversized, ‘peep-hole’ garments that revealed, in some cases, the models’ penises.

The attention attracted by Owens’ stunt is unusual for men’s fashion, which is, in general, less talked about and less wellknown than women’s. Romain Reglade, St Hilda’s second year and veteran fashion week photographer, who shot ‘London Collections: Men this year for Vogue UK’, explained to Cherwell, “It’s very different being at men’s fashion weeks. Quite simply, everything is on a smaller scale: there is less media, fewer bloggers and in general less buzz.” Reglade puts this partially down to the fact that the Haute Couture shows in Paris follow straight after the men’s shows in the fashion calendar. “The designers that have both men’s and Haute Couture shows are putting most of their time and effort into the latter. Those shows are crazy. I’ve seen stars like Rihanna performing at some insane locations, like huge swimming pools with entrances on jet skis… and that’s without mentioning the clothes!”

That isn’t to say that you don’t see some weird things at the men’s shows though. Reglade warned us last week that the outfits sent down the runway at some menswear shows can often look, “like Oxford bop costumes,” with crazy make-up and weird accessories. While there is no direct precedent to the Rick Owens’ phallic flesh flashing collection, it is perhaps a natural progression: I’ve never seen a guy turn up to a bop in such a get-up, but I’ve certainly seen a few fall out of the bop and their bop costume like that. Not pretty.

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Owens would clearly disagree with me. Responding to the show, and its shock factor induced hype, he said, “I pass classical marble statues of nude and draped figures in the park every day, and they are a vision of sensuality – yes, but also of grace and freedom. As a participant in one of our most progressive aesthetic arenas, am I not allowed to use this imagery? We all know that runway looks aren’t meant to be taken literally, they illustrate an ethos. I would like to present a utopian world of grace free of fear and shame.”

It seems like penises are the last flesh frontier of fear and shame in fashion. Neiman Marcus’ Fashion Director Ken Downing admitted after the show, “I’m much like a doctor. When you work in fashion, you see everything. It was just unexpected.” In fashion we should perhaps learn to expect the unexpected, but it doesn’t mean that we have to embrace it. Apparently Uggs are back ‘in’, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to see me in a pair.