Rick Owens: Is it time to talk about the objectification of men in the fashion industry? No, probably not

Owens is no stranger to pushing boundaries.  But this time he’s gone a bit further

This week has seen the entire country in an uproar over Page 3, debating whether or not it’s appropriate to have topless women posing in a national newspaper. In 2015, many people feel this is a grotesque example of the objectification of women. I thought I’d read every opinion on this matter and seen it from all sides until designer Rick Owens threw us a curveball that no-one saw coming, by sending male models down the catwalk with their genitals exposed. Is it time to talk about the needless objectification of men, as well?

Owens is no stranger to pushing boundaries; he created a full-length dress for men a few seasons back. At Paris Fashion week yesterday, Owens unveiled his AW15 collection, which true to his own unique aesthetic blurred the lines between womenswear and menswear. But this time he’s gone a bit further.

In the last few years Owens has become increasingly popular; Selfridges erected a statue of him above their front doors last year to celebrate "The World of Rick Owens", a concept store and special capsule collection.

But what exactly happens in the World Of Rick Owens? Well apparently men go commando in ponchos and tunics cut so high at the front that you can see their genitals. Depending on the particular style you might even see a penis. That’s right, a penis.

The runways are no stranger to bare flesh. We’ve seen plenty of full frontal nudity from women over the years; sheer tops and see-through skirts are always guaranteed to generate press, rather than sales. But, let’s be honest, there’s nothing attractive about balls. Not even Rick Owens can find aesthetic merit in the wrinkly skin of a man’s testicles. Throw in a flaccid penis and the runway show takes a drastic turn towards the ridiculous. People often criticise designers, saying "No one will actually wear that”. Christopher Shannon’s LC:M styling, for example, left people frothing at the mouth with rage “Carrier bags on your head? That’s a step too far”, but with this show Rick Owens has blown him out of the water.

It almost looks like an unfortunate accident, but it can’t be can it? So in a way, perhaps he hasn’t gone far enough. If you did want to walk around with your genitals out you wouldn’t be quite so coy. Why play peekaboo with your penis when you could just get the whole lot out, and finally experience the joy of a bracing winter breeze on your undercarriage? Well, probably because you’d be arrested for indecent exposure. So I’m going to go out on a limb and say no, no-one is ever going to wear these clothes, not even in the privacy of their own home.

But it does pose some interesting questions. Imagine if this caught on as a new craze, how the tables would have turned. Women chatting up men in bars would be politely reminded to keep their eyes above waist level. Maybe Owens intends his design to be a daring critique of ‘Meninism’, the movement for men who are "bravely" taking a stand against feminism. Is he daring them to really see what it's like to be stared at and objectified? Would we take them more seriously as an oppressed group if they wore nothing but their #Meninist t-shirts? No. Probably not.

Warren is a menswear writer, stylist, editor and blogger at MademoiselleRobot.com