Rick Owens kicks off Year of Male Nudity


via style.com

Rick Owens models shocked crowd as part of “Sphinx.”

Sam Del Rowe, Staff Writer

When Rick Owens sent models down the runway with their genitals exposed, he certainly got the Internet buzzing about his Fall/Winter 2015 menswear collection. The garments in question were asymmetric tunics, with gloryhole cutouts baring the models’ genitalia. The display has sparked a number of conversations, many of which focus on the gesture’s sheer shock value, and the question of why male nudity is considered discussion-worthy while the more commonplace female nudity hardly elicits comment. 

Though it is necessary to question this double standard, the collection’s status as art is often neglected in the ensuing debates. Of the nudity, Owens said to i-D magazine, “I thought it was the most simple, primal gesture-and you know I love a simply tiny, little gesture that packs the wallop.” While the gesture got people talking, it is also undeniably cohesive with the aesthetic of Owens’s work; it is crude, corporeal, and indeed primal, all qualities that could be attributed to his oeuvre.

This brings us to the collection itself. While the geometrically cut tunics are intriguing pieces, the collection’s strengths lie in its outerwear and knitwear. Owens effortlessly reinvents the peacoat in textured leathers and wools, managing to vault the leather coat from the realm of Matrix cosplay to statement piece. Some coats also feature cutout sides, lending them a dramatic, cape-like quality. The standout piece is rendered in shades of tan and reddish-brown, with an overall rough, worn-in finish — a refreshing reinterpretation of a menswear classic that is unmistakably Rick.

The knitwear may lack the mass appeal of the outerwear, but it presents an interesting divergence from Owens’ signature leather jackets. The knits in question are heavily textured and engulf the body lengthwise while leaving the arms bare, evoking a warrior from a desert tribe. The incredible detail of the knits, especially when paired with footwear from the upcoming installment of Owens’s ongoing Adidas collaboration, makes for a striking statement that exhibits his experimentation.

The collection — enigmatically titled “Sphinx” — may be remembered as the one that ushered in 2015 as the Year of Male Nudity, much like 2014 was the Year of the Booty. But to focus on this one aspect is to forget the clothes themselves, to forget that what we are viewing is an art show. That would be a shame, as this is a damn good collection.

A version of this article appeared in the Feb. 4, 2015 print edition. Email Sam Del Rowe at [email protected].