rick owens' runway dick tricks prove he's the master of shock and awe tactics
Rick Owens dressed his boys in glory holes, and why not, that’s how things are in his world.
A long time ago, towards the beginning of his career, i-D published a photograph of Rick Owens pissing into his own mouth, well, actually it was a composite of two photographs, one showing him pissing and another showing him on his knees swallowing, like an orang-utan. (Because orang-utans famously like to piss into their own mouths.) Now, I'm not sure what I would try first if there were two of me, but it likely wouldn't be that. Anyway for our troubles we were banned from some American states for years, while Rick has continued to challenge the world of fashion. This time around he had half-a-dozen male models walking the runway with everything - everything - hanging out and on show, and actually they didn't look that pleased about it, but then we've all done jobs we didn't really want to when we were young. It's the sort of thing you're supposed to have nightmares about though, isn't it, that you're walking through a crowded room and everyone's looking, snickering, and slowly it dawns on you that you've forgotten to put on your pants, and you're only wearing a dress with a floppy hole between your legs?
I'd like to tell you some stories about Rick Owens' parties, but first, one of the trends of the season. Necks have been appearing all over the place. There were tight polo necks worn snugly under long, flowing coats, which took pride of place on the catwalks of J.W. Anderson and Raf Simons, whilst also looking like something that Alan Partridge might wear on an afternoon yomp through the woods. There was Craig Green, a much-feted designer who maybe owes a lot to Rick with his wavering silhouettes, his strict monotones, and his otherworldly sex-cultishness, moving a couple of his crew neck-holes all the way down to the abdominals, like little windows. And there was Rick Owens who dropped his polo neck-holes even lower, all the way down to the cock and balls. Last time I saw a male model with his willy out he was stumbling drunkenly around the courtyard of Somerset House, miserably failing to evade a phalanx of furious security men - he protested that he had a show to walk in, they shouted that he had exposed himself to a stranger - but Rick has taken the "going commando" look even further into unknown territories.
Backstage the Paris-based designer explained that he was inspired by an old French film about living inside a submarine, by portholes, but obviously these are just portable glory holes, an invitation to the world to have a look, maybe more. It's like walking a puppy through the park, hoping a stranger will come up and ask if they can stroke it. (It's like a jubbah gone horribly, horribly wrong.) Oddly, or maybe not, this is not the first time that I've thought about Rick Owens and glory holes. Once I went to a Rick Owens party in a men-only S&M dungeon hidden down an alleyway in Mile End, and the thing that confused me was that in the men's toilets - and there were only men's toilets - stuck to the walls there were health and safety notices from Tower Hamlets Council about how not to catch syphilis, which is not something I've ever encountered before, and there were lots of glory holes, all over the place, but they were absolutely massive, like the size of your face, and one was only a couple of inches off the ground and I really couldn't tell what it was for. Maybe I'm too innocent.
Apparently, I was told, a couple weeks earlier one of the organisers had had to visit the dungeon, naked, and crawl on all fours through the bar begging to be allowed to have a party. Also they sold poppers behind the bar, and there were these weird body-shaped cages to lock men up inside of, sort of like an iron maiden, and all sorts of things with which to restrain men and whip them, and I think there were devices to hang men from the ceiling too although maybe I just imagined that. Anyway it looked like 120 Days of Sodom but it was a thoroughly enjoyable night, and everyone was very lovely, we even made a video about it.
When asked why, backstage, he had his models indecently expose themselves, Rick told us, "I thought it was the most simple, primal gesture. I mean, it's a straight world now." And Rick Owens, more than any other designer that I can think of, is about making a whole other world for his followers, a complete escape from reality, not only in his clothes but also in his club nights in Paris, his mythical, many-antlered furniture collections, his unusual shops with their waxworks of Rick transforming into a monster or somehow despoiling himself. On my last visit to his London store at 64 South Audley Street there was a bowl of M&Ms, except in shades of grey only. Everything is unusual in his visions. Just today I stumbled across the following rumour on a message-board about rucksacks and seawater: "I heard Rick Owens is going to release a batch of white tanks that have been soaked in HIS OWN PISS… It'll come out a yellow, ivory cream colour due to the piss staining."
Not so many months ago I went to another Rick Owens party in Selfridges' car park, a messy rave to celebrate the house's 20th birthday. There were topless, long-haired male models sat on horses, all painted white, and there were emaciated models working behind the bar as well, one of whom was thrown out, politely, after he climbed up onto the bar he was supposed to be working and started pissing all over it. Which was highly appropriate. When I walked into the foggy space there was a DJ, painted black, who looked as high as anyone I've ever seen and he was playing the hardest techno I've ever heard, although every now and again it would stop for minutes on end and he wouldn't appear to notice, and he kept clutching his face and holding himself as if he was dying, maybe he was.
Not everyone wishes to live in Rick Owens world - of course not, how could they - and one of my mates complains, "it's not new anymore, who hasn't seen a dick?" and that's sort of true, who hasn't seen a dick, especially in this industry? But strange, revolting maybe, bodily trends are important. 2014 was a year of the arse, one dominated by Kim Kardashian's impossibly shaped posterior, a bottom that, allegedly, is injected with Kim's own fat in order to maintain its ballooning Art Nouveau curves, its callipygian monstrosity, and none of us, really, can have one of those. In the same manner Alexander McQueen may have written fashion history by inventing "bumster" jeans in his spring/summer 95 show, but I never actually saw anyone wearing them out and about, down the post office, say, or the zoo. And there's always another part of the body to fetishise, whether it's Anja Rubik's hipbone protruding through the daring slash of an Anthony Vaccarello gown, or Lindsay Lohan's vagina as she tumbles out of a car with no knickers. Often it is grotesque, obscene, but fashion is about provocation and desire so it doesn't really matter.
The Rick Owens show was an act of depravity, and purposefully so, it was supposed to transport us to another world, a gross one where our imaginations can run wild, where our bodies might be debased, but it's just one of many fantasies - of impossible glamour and wealth, of cross-dressing and grime, of androgyny and confusion, of vaingloriously and relentlessly showing everyone your penis at all times, even in the dead of winter - offered on the runways of Paris. "Who else," he wondered backstage, "can really get away with that kind of stuff?"
Text Dean Kissick
Self Portrait by Rick Owens
[The Spectator Issue, no. 220, May 2002]
Backstage photography Ash Kingston, at Rick Owens autumn/winter 15