Socially reflective and visually compelling – the designer’s classic
No one is able to translate social currents into fashion narratives quite like Martine Rose. Finding solace and warmth in the sweat-drenched air and sticky floors of a North London community centre, Rose’s latest collection is a heartfelt homage to worker’s spaces that historically served a function of inclusive social hubs, and preceded the modern club scene as vessels for youth culture and underground nightlife. Equipped with a shiny can of Stella and Irish Tayto crisps, the LFW attendees were invited to witness these chronicles slowly unravel across eclectic garments worn by character-filled street-cast models.
In a true Martine Rose style, volumes are displaced, silhouettes are elongated or inflated, and textures are juxtaposed. Familiar items are reimagined – emergency jackets find themselves in a feminine, snatched at the waist outline, and serious-looking blazers are injected with a hearty dose of draping and slouch. The runway remains unpretentious but free: wet-look free-flowing satin and slicked-back hair exist in perfect harmony with unapologetically flashing boxers and rat tails. Hi-vis acidic pieces reminiscent of a construction site meet with dainty pearls and snatched corsets; elsewhere, silk lace-trimmed camisoles are layered over harsh biker-inspired buckle-overloaded trousers.
In this archetypical gender play, however, a male-presenting model in a full fuzzy pastel pink look doesn’t strive to be loudly rebellious, but simply exists organically. “I love playing with gender lines, but for me, it’s a real proposition – it’s not a gimmick,” says Rose, whose plain humility is at the core of her entire approach. Within this, her work is far from the exclusive let’s-play-poor trope – her vision is playful yet dignifying storytelling of those overlooked, not a patronising romanticisation of working class codes turned into a commodified luxury.
Describing community centres as “a lifeline”, Rose points to the lack of spaces where people can come together and the negative impact it has on the city she calls home. “But today, Helen, who’s the manager, said, ‘Well, maybe this will help us stop from closing.’ That actually made my day” she muses, sincerely. The rise of Martine Rose is not looking to decelerate any time soon – perhaps, the secret is that in combination with her precise mastery of visual language, her execution brings a palpable humanity to fashion that shines through the industry’s bling.