Earlier this month, Martine Rose took home “British Menswear Designer of The Year” at the Fashion Awards, officially giving her the recognition the people have been calling for. Rose moves away from unchanging tradition and is spearheading the new guard, looking to subculture, escapism, and the everyday to inform her designs.
Traditionally, masculine design tropes, such as boxy shoulders and straight cuts, dominate Rose’s designs, appearing in a softer and more contemporary form. In January, Rose was selected as a guest designer at Pitti Uomo. One look saw a shirt and tie worn with a tracksuit top and straight-fitting trousers, paired with a then-unreleased “Scuba Blue” iteration of the Nike MR4 sneaker-mule hybrid. It was a look that fused sportswear with menswear, and while it was at home on the runway, it felt like a familiar nod to the track jacket-wearing shift worker, concealing their uniform on the commute home, a site familiar to everyone.
While the London-based designer’s collection was widely praised by editors, it seemed in contrast to the typical attendees of the Florentine men’s fashion spectacle. When you think of Pitti attendees, it is usually filled with old-guard menswear aficionados who find comfort in in confines of traditional tailoring (think leather gloves tucked into the top pocket of a midlength wool overcoat, waistcoats, shirts, ties and Oxford shoes, maybe even top hats). While there is absolutely nothing wrong with these garments, in fact, many of them have likely informed the output of contemporary fashion in one way or another. Rose’s designs deconstructed this rigidity and injected it with her signature anthropological approach to menswear.
A later look from Martine Rose’s Pitti Uomo collection saw saw brown boxy suiting envelope and a loosely tucked football-style shirt, which constrained sponsor-like branding and revealed the upper part of its wearer’s chest, where gold chain flinched with each movement. It reflected an understanding and perfect execution of traditional menswear tropes such as tailoring and fused it with contemporary, everyday style tropes that speak to an audience beyond the runway.
Martine Rose has always found inspiration beyond the confines of the catwalk, looking to the everyday clothing worn in shared spaces of escapism, such as nightclubs, pubs, and football terraces, exemplified on the Spring/Summer 2023 runway by a shrunken football shirt. Further nods to the everyday were seen for Spring/Summer 2024, where Rose dressed models in oversized Hi-Vis jackets, reflecting influences removed from fashion spaces, looking to the aesthetic properties of “anti-fashion” protective apparel instead.
Rose’s Fall/Winter 2014 collection comprised flannel shirts embellished with rave flyers, nodding to hedonistic escape and inspiration beyond traditional “fashion” influences. The brand’s show locations further reflect this approach, ranging from the arches that once housed Chariots gay spa in Vauxhall, where models donned caps covering their eyes, utilitarian cargo pants and bomber jackets, to her daughter’s primary school in Kentish Town, drawing on all pockets of society.
The London-based designer’s SS23 collection explored the escapism and expression that spaces such as Chariots offered; belts featured bondage-style buckles, trousers were accented with keyrings drawing attention to the crotch, and models carried duffle bags, with sports-style branding complimenting athleisure looks which made-up the offering. These looks presented versatile garments which could exist in spaces outside of fashion, something which is consistent in Rose’s designs and sets the brand apart from its competitors.
Martine Rose is leading the way for menswear’s new guard, injecting what were once the rigid notions of clothing for men with a warm familiarity rooted in lived experience. These locations and real-life influences remind us that fashion is made to be worn, helping to present a menswear offering that speaks to real-life experiences rooted in relatability.
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