You might say we live in a post-trend world, where the general fracturing of culture means that giant flares can be popular concurrently with the skinniest trouser. But once in a while, a trend still manages to calcify into a movement, and sweeps the industry. That’s what’s happening now, at least among a handful of the biggest-name designers in fashion.. And for an industry (allegedly) about clothes, this new trend in fact involves very little clothing at all. Prominent fashion designers simply cannot stop taking their clothes off.
The flood began, innocently enough, with the portraits of Matthew Williams that Givenchy circulated upon the announcement of his new role as creative director. In two images, he wore a crisp shirt and tie: a man ready to start a new job. But the most widely shared featured the designer shirtless, adjusting his chains and baring his tattoos: a man preparing for a role rather than arrogantly assuming it. Designers tend to look pensive, professional, and a little buttoned-up in such official portraits, so Williams’s—taken by Paolo Roversi, known for intimately shot, romantic closeups—were a chucking of the gauntlet, so to speak, indicating that he had something else up his sleeve. (Or, indeed, that he had no sleeve at all.)
Williams appears to like the feel of the interior breeze on his skin. For the latest issue of Purple (“The Love Issue”!), Williams posed shirtless again, this time for editor Olivier Zahm, displaying his tattoos and chains with elbow cocked on a marble mantlepiece, just a shirt draped over his crotch. Williams is far from the only male designer to disrobe: famously press-shy Bottega Veneta creative director Daniel Lee showed off his freckled pectorals and biceps for the fall cover of Cultured, looking like a sweetheart rugby player. Nor is this merely a millennial phenomenon: Rick Owens regularly bares his gym-perfected body—most memorably cradling his hairless cat like his newborn—as does Burberry chief creative officer Riccardo Tisci.
Owens and Tisci tend to reveal themselves more casually; Williams’s and Lee’s portraits, formal in their composition, are something else, and follow in a long line of clothing designers posing without clothes. In 1971, Yves Saint Laurent appeared nude in an advertisement for his own men’s fragrance, Pour Homme, looking delicate but libertine on three stacked leather cushions; in the ’90s, king of runway sex Tom Ford stripped down and hopped in the shower for Terry Richardson in the November 2007 issue of Out. Marc Jacobs, once he began going to the gym and reduced his body fat from 21% to 5%, was fond of exhibiting his well-oiled biceps in the twilight years of the 2000s, sprawling louchely for Juergen Teller in an ad for his fragrance, “BANG.” In all these instances, the designers were in the process of transforming from mere creative talent to industry and even society personalities—with the implication that they were in complete control of their image.
Erotic posing isn’t only the domain of men: for the debut issue of Pop, Stella McCartney, Phoebe Philo, Phoebe Philo, Liberty Ross, Katie Hiller, Liz Collins, and Jodie Maunder appeared on the cover and inside scantily clad and wrapped around poles—“a group of fun, feisty, female fashion talents sending ripples of excitement across the globe,” the magazine wrote. They weren’t recognizable faces, the publication asserted, and therefore made for spectacularly unusual cover stars; instead, “these women are here because, in their different ways, they are state-of-the-nation talent. Besides, they make interesting shapes when stretched around poles.” (True!)
Author: “Rachel Tashjian — www.gq.com “