If there’s one thing we know for sure about Martine Rose, it’s that the enigmatic British-Jamaican designer loves to go off-piste with her eponymous label’s shows. Taking her role as this year’s guest designer at Florence’s Pitti Uomo seriously, Rose set the nostalgically Italian tone for the show early on.
Drawing in an on-brand crowd of prodigiously fashion-forward guests including Bakar – decked out in full Martine Rose attire – Daniel Lee and stylist Betsy Johnson, the scene was set within the vast walls of the 16th century, 500 year old marketspace Mercato Nuovo, popularly known as Mercato del Porcellino (the piglet market) to locals due to its housing of the beloved, bronzed pig statue that stands guard outside the historic building. Legend has it that whoever rubs the snout of the pig will be bestowed good luck and safe return to Florence, a lore that Rose’s guests were keen to explore.
Down the swamp-green runway sauntered a motley crew of models quite literally yanked from the shops and streets of Florence; 80’s club hedonism reigned supreme as razor thin eyebrows; crisp, towering perms and powder-puffed, baby sick shaded eyeshadow transported us back in time to the carefree vibes of a small town club, fuelled by pumping Italo House music.
The rag tag marketplace elements were not lost on Rose’s design choices. Opening the show we spotted maxi-sized shearlings, business-core pinstripes and elongated Italian leather dad loafers, saddled with shopping bags and leather satchels; almost as if returning from the market, sacks laden with treasures. Skinny torso-blending euro ties were a stark contrast to the hunchbacked, silhouette defying shoulders and gargantuan sizing ratios seen on the rest of the runway in the forms of oversized motorcycle jackets; floor-caressing satin trench coats and ballooned double denim ensembles. Fan-favourite comfort-turned-cool-kid footwear label UGG also made a surprise appearance on the runway in the form bespoke UGG Clogs, hand-dyed by Martine Rose herself – epitomising the eighties power dressing vs contemporary comfy-core juxtaposition.
Whilst there’s much to be said about the underdog (my personal favourite look happened to be a boxy, monochromatic racing shirt tucked into a floor-traipsing, pinstriped woollen skirt) the audience favourite was a clear one; a bubblegum pink jacket of Brobdingnagian proportions and coiffed fur trimmings reminiscent of a wearable Trollz doll.
Perhaps the most fascinating part of Rose’s enthusiasm for Italian nostalgia is the fact that this is the London-based designers first international runway show. The Martine Rose ethos is entrenched in cultural significance, a brand born and bred within underrepresented communities in the folds of London. Taking these elements to one of the most cardinal events for rising menswear designs must have been a foreboding feat for the designer – and yet her ability to merge both cultures as one was both astounding and whimsical. From shiny, padded power suits paired with pointed, garishly made-in-Italy loafers (an ode to the vintage Italian businessman, of course) to military toned cargos layered beneath skin-tight sports tees plucked straight from the streets of Croydon, the Martine Rose AW23 show was where Italian nostalgia met Blitz-era London club-kid.
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