There’s always been a kinky side to Martine Rose. In past collections, the cult designer has turned footy lads into cam boys, paired banker suits with garter belts, and has laced her design lexicon with homoerotic undertones to entice the fantasies of those in the know.
Though for SS23, the brand’s first catwalk show since 2019, Rose ushered in her naughtiest collection yet.
Rose’s namesake label is totally indebted to London, and through staging shows in Tottenham food markets, north London cul-de-sacs and even her daughter’s primary school, the designer has been able to bring the communities closest to her to a luxury fashion context.
Last night’s show was set in what used to be Chariots Spa, Vauxhall’s infamous gay sauna, where Rose built her own BDSM club dark room, curtained by black latex with erotic panting and thumping EDM feeding through the speakers. “I wanted it to feel really sexy,” said Rose post-show. “I wanted to people to smell the latex, to see the sweat on [the models’] bodies, to feel the energy as they walked past. I really wanted to create an experience and pull people into it.”
What ensued was a hot-under-the-collar ode to the history of London’s gay scene, and the allure of urgent sexual encounters. “My focus has become really detailed. I’ve become so micro-focused,” said Rose, whose ingenious toying of proportion led to super shrunken silhouettes. Think sleazy trench coats pulled tight to the body, jeans hoicked high above the waist to purposefully expose the fly, and shirting clung to the torso, as if borrowed from last night’s hook-up.
An overriding sense of pressure and tension came translated via narrow MA-1 bombers, as well as suiting cut askew and mini-dresses purposefully twisted and exposed at the back – hurriedly chucked on after getting up to all sorts. The looks came accented by key rings which clung to belt loops and trouser flies; ideal for easy access. These were made with on-going collaborator Roxy Lee, and featured bulge shots, chiseled torsos, as well as portraits of Martine boys of season’s past. Also on the accessories front were gym holdalls big enough to stuff your office garb in before venturing onto seedy dancefloors, as well as a new Nike team-up that playfully fused the sportswear giant’s Shox with the silhouette of a dress shoe.
The sexually-subversive, quick-witted urgency of Rose’s designs has positioned her as one of London’s true greats. She creates for the outsiders, yet the enormity of her talent has propelled her to mass appeal. If there’s anyone who’s able to sell cruising-inspired clobber to esteemed retailers globally, it’s going to be Martine.
Photography courtesy of Martine Rose.