- TextMahoro Seward
As the designer returned to London Fashion Week Men’s yesterday evening, four fans weigh in on her unique appeal
There are few designers able to channel the wealth of a city’s soul quite as faithfully as Martine Rose does London’s. Whether Spring/Summer 2019’s “love letter” to the capital, shown under beaming sunshine in a cosy cul-de-sac in Kentish Town, or yesterday’s Spring/Summer 2020 presentation on an astro-turfed roof amid the Square Mile’s towers of glass and steel, the designer has a knack for mirroring the joys, frustrations, winks and nudges that characterise London life with unparalleled clarity and wit. This season frustration was the driving force, with her choice to show against the backdrop of global commerce’s beating heart an intentional commentary on the departure of business from Britain in the wake of the country’s Brexit-fuelled political turmoil. Oddly wigged models walked in oversized banker-ready tailoring and crinkled shirts, or baggy jeans and kimono-sleeved tracksuits, conveying the current climate of uncertainty with playful accuracy.
The relatability of her subject matter, and the intelligence with which the designer recasts its narratives, has seen Rose earn a devoted fanbase: from 16-year-olds saving up to splash out at Dover Street Market, to numerous industry insiders. With last night’s show in mind – itself a return to London Fashion Week Men’s after a season’s break – four of Rose’s most avid admirers explain the designer’s unique appeal.
Martine Rose Spring/Summer 2020
Calum Knight, 21, Content Editor at SHOWstudio & Creative Coordinator at MACHINE-A
“I used to model a little, and I absolutely hated it! I’m six foot four and have size 14 feet, so nothing would ever fit. Anyway, I once turned up on set, and this was again the case, the exception being a look from Martine Rose Spring/Summer 2015: the cycling top with the leather jacket and tracksuit trousers – it was the first time I’d felt so comfortable on a shoot. I’d actually met Martine previously, having assisted Matthew Williams on projects for #BEENTRILL#. I wrote her asking if there was any way I could buy a pair of the trousers and ended up getting a pair of big baggy blue jeans and huge camouflage flares. Living in the countryside at the time, they weren’t particularly practical, but I was totally obsessed with both pieces and still wear them to this day – well, the jeans not so much, they’re somewhat destroyed, I wore them every day to death.
“I’ve always loved both Martine and her clothes, and there really isn’t much of a separation between the two. The openness she demonstrates in her personal life really shines through in the shows, in the campaigns, and, above all, in her clothes: you can really feel that she’s a genuine fan of the things she references and the people she works with. For Spring/Summer 2019, for example, a school friend of mine was interning with her; Martine Rose is a menswear brand, but she insisted that the three interns she had that season, two girls and a guy, walk the show. ‘You have to!’ She said. ‘It’s made by you, for you.’ It’s things like that, whether you’re aware of them or not, that you can feel in the clothes and in how the brand speaks.”
Milo Black, 22, Photographer
“I’d always known about her work – I think I even have a logo T-shirt from about two years ago – but it wasn’t until Spring/Summer 2019, when I was cast to walk the cul-de-sac show, that I really began to appreciate her. I don’t have the proportions of a fit model, and the trousers I was supposed to wear just didn’t fit. Martine was so sweet about it though, and actually made me a pair of leopard-print trousers that I was able to keep afterwards. They make a pretty loud statement, but I try to get them out whenever I can – and my dad even approves of them! And he’s by no means a fashion person: he’s a gardener, so he only wears clothes that he can get messy. When he saw her work, he was really taken by it. Her work is made for anyone and everyone, it has such cross-generational appeal.
“The S/S19 show was crazy, as I’ve grown up in Kentish Town my whole life. She managed to seamlessly integrate all of these fashion people, like Virgil Abloh, with the members of the community that lived on that street: for the 10 minutes of the show, fashion felt like it wasn’t so far up its own arse. It was amazing to see in a city where things can often feel so soulless. Martine’s managed to maintain a human touch, along with a sense of where she comes from. She’s a designer that puts the clothes back where they’re meant to be. It’s almost not for the people sitting front row, it’s for the people in the houses on that street.”
Harry Fisher, 28, Director, HTOWN Agency
“My first Martine Rose pieces were a tracksuit and a classic logo tee in each colour from Autumn/Winter 2015, the first collection produced by Slam Jam. Since then, collecting her pieces has become quite an obsession… I think I have a classic logo tee from every season that came after – you know, just in case. And then a couple of other pieces, like the ‘cock-ring shirt’ from A/W18. I find it hard to get excited about fashion – it can feel like it’s fashion week every other month – but there’s something about Martine’s clothes that have an archival feel: you almost get an instant sense that her pieces are going to play an important role in shaping the future of fashion and that their relevance will last a lifetime.
“And then the shows: the most exciting in London by a mile. For me, the most memorable was Autumn/Winter 2017, which was held at the Latin-American market in Seven Sisters. I loved how integrated the community were, serving food to the show attendees. By inviting us there, Martine opened the audience’s eyes to a corner of London we might not have known existed otherwise. It’s something that shines through in her clothes too, they really embody what London’s about. She’s both one of the most non-conformist and most normal people in the industry and I think that’s what makes her work so exciting and relatable. She’s a true gift.”
Pedro Powell, 25, Fashion & Partnerships at Sony Music
“I buy into Martine for her and her work. I don’t have a personal relationship with her, but there isn’t a person on the planet that doesn’t speak about her in the highest regard. She has an ability to shower the industry with positive energy and authenticity and it makes the brand amount to much more than the clothes. My parents, like Martine, were born and raised in South London – my dad ran a garage night in Battersea and both of my them were immersed in the garage and reggae subcultures throughout the 90s. Hearing Martine’s stories of her past in similar scenes, and having heard my parents’ accounts of those days and times, I’ve always felt some sort of connection between what the brand represents and my own history.
“With regard to the clothes themselves, I think the first piece I bought was the classic logo long-sleeve T-shirt. Her logo is one of my favourites: it’s simultaneously classic and contemporary. My style is so interchangeable: some days I want to wear a full suit with a smart leather trench and trainers, other days I might wear a full denim look, or even a full tracksuit depending on my mood: there’s no set look I adhere to on a daily basis. That’s why I love wearing Martine! There are no rules as to what looks you can create her clothes, they’re all so interchangeable and adaptable to however you feel on a given day. In any one of her collections, you’ll find something for everyone; when you wear her pieces, they really become a part of your personal uniform.”