No matter how high-brow a critic you are, or no matter how obsessively you care about the cut of a jacket, the only thing you could think about after the Rick Owens show was genitalia. More than one bare penis appeared on the runway, some concealed, flipping out only as the model walked, others were more obvious, peering through peepholes (jumpers were flipped upside down so the neck-hole sat around the crotch, serving as some unexpected kind of glory hole). There's something of a trend for visible dicks right now - Meadham Kirchhoff shocked at London Fashion Week during their last womenswear show by sending out a boy in completely sheer trousers, sans underwear. Owens likes shocking too. But there was more to this than just grabbing a photo op and making the front row blush. It tapped into a broader point about acceptability and normality. There was something intriguing about the way those penises were displayed - on the one hand, given those deliberate peepholes, it was utterly fetishistic, as you'd expect given Owens' passion for kink and sexual exploration, on the other it was so casual, it could almost have read as unintentional, a more dramatic version of a nip-slip, caused in this case by garments riding too high as models walked.
Speak to anyone about Rick Owens and they'll talk of him being a tribal designer - a man who caters to an obsessed and ever-growing group of fans who wear his clothes head-to-toe. But this season it felt like he wanted to cast his gaze a little wider and look not just at the men who wear his clothes but also those who don't - and probably wouldn't - by exploring themes of normality and the everyday. The starting point for the collection wasn't S&M garb, as the above would suggest, but the pillars of masculine style tradition and, dare I say, wardrobe dullness; the nautical pea coat and the cable knit sweater. Sounds more like Ralph Lauren than Rick, no? Well Owens was showing the potential of a garment no matter how safe its starting point. This was a lesson in subverting clothing, in turning garments from pillars of normality to bastions of oddness. So he'd turned the coats upside down and draped them around the body making them new items like sweaters and cape jackets. Similarly, sweaters became 'body bags', riffing on the jumpsuits Owens has become known for.
In his show notes, Owens talked of 'pressure built up in silent vessels filled with energy.' Maybe that was a reference to himself - a suggestion of him being pent up with ideas and urges and finally letting loose. Personally I don't think so. I think it was a reference to the energy inside all of us - the primal passion and eccentricity in every ordinary man. With those upside down garments, as with those bare penises, Owens was inviting us to let go, to shock and subvert and to consider how things could be if we forget convention and start breaking rules, be they sartorial or sexual.