martine rose delivers a tongue-in-cheek critique of british politics
“It’s all just embarrassing and this collection is a reaction to this topsy-turvy climate we’re living in, everything feels upside down, inside out.”
This time last year, Martine Rose created one of the show moments of the year with a beautiful ode to her city, London, taking us to a cul-de-sac in Kentish Town. It was a celebration of her community, her tribes of boys, her favourite thumping music... It had everything. So how do you beat it? Her answer for autumn/winter 19 was not to do a show at all. “Last season was such an experience, so not doing a show felt like the most radical thing I could do now,” Martin explained as she talked us through the collection inside her showroom in Paris.
“I don’t want to fall into the trap of showing every season because there’s this temptation to want to outdo yourself,” she told us from her studio, just days before her catwalk comeback for spring/summer 20. “The cul-de-sac show had a particular feeling, as did the market show before that, both were exactly what I wanted to express and it’s difficult to continually build on that. It’s all too easy to get caught up in it all, get addicted to that buzz, but that’s not why I do fashion, I do it because I love clothes.” Well Martine, we love your clothes. Here, her signature distortion of familiar forms and love of challenging the sartorial status quo were all evident in double necked T-shirts, leather bikers with collapsed oversized shoulders, fitted trousers that flared and exaggerated loafers. But there was an added darkness, a sense of the sinister mixed in with the wonderful and the weird.
“This season is more overtly political than previous collections,” she teased during downtime on a recent lookbook shoot in north London. Martine’s collections are often subtly imbued with sociopolitical reactions, but we’ve never seen her this angry. In 2019, there’s no escaping the shitshow that is British and American politics. On the day we meet, Donald Trump has just touched down on his state visit and attacked London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, across a series of tweets. “It’s all just embarrassing and this collection is a reaction to this topsy-turvy climate we’re living in, everything feels upside down, inside out. Not just on a local level, but on an international level too.”
When we meet again backstage post-show, she’s wearing a T-shirt of a cartoon clown surrounded by European Union flag stars beneath the slogan ‘Promising Britain’. “It’s a tongue-firmly-in-cheek comment on the state of our politics, our Tory government and the fact that they are all clowns,” she added. This playful take on the sense of unease we all feel today echoed throughout the show, from the tailoring trickery to shapeshifting silhouettes. Even the location -- an 80s office rooftop with a backdrop of the city -- was a political statement. “While we were thinking of the show, we wanted the antithesis of the cul-de-sac community experience and to showcase a different side to London, the business side,” she added. “At the time of designing this collection, businesses were deserting the city because of Brexit.”
Full of anger, rebellion, sincerity angst in 2019, Martine channelled the early energy of the 80s British subcultures that she continually turns to. Throughout, spring/summer 20 had nods to the new romantic, the football hooligan, the skinhead and the proto-raver. These are old favourites that Martine returns to time and time again, but never have they felt so relevant. Ultimately, these movements were all driven by ordinary people releasing pent-up energy, whether flamboyantly or violently. At the time these subcultures flourished, people were just as angry with that Tory government as we are with this one. This megamix of different styles swerved as a reminder of the sheer escapism found on dancefloors and terraces. The late-night, drink and drug-fuelled hope in the possibilities of a better tomorrow. The sheer life that can come out of dark moments.
“The resin treatment on shirts, denim and leather pieces that leaves them crinkled encapsulate this feeling of things being slightly undone, slightly ruined,” she explained. “But then I’ve got badges that say, ‘Magic Things Ahead’.” Perhaps said more in hope than belief, but we believe thanks to the Martine manifesto. “I’m not a naturally pessimistic person. I tend to see the silver lining in everything but it’s difficult to do so right now,” she told us in all sincerity. “At the end of it there’s people and it’s people that truly matter. You can get caught up in everything but on a grassroots level, on a human level, there’s always reason to be optimistic. I believe in humans, our relationships together despite the terrifying things that rule us.”
Martine often talks about the post-rave gatherings that shaped her coming-of-age moments, when people from all backgrounds and scenes came together in a space free from discrimination. Mirroring this mood, this largely street and Insta-casted show with boys and girls making their fashion week debuts was a defiant reminder that we can coexist. Power to the people.
Photography David Jenewein