the triumphant return of martine rose to london fashion week men's
Having taken a brief sabbatical to rejuvenate – and to work for Demna at Balenciaga too – in a season of absences and a little soul searching, Martine's return felt like a jolt in the arm.
There are few designers who could've pulled off pulling everyone out of central London and up north to Seven Sisters during a tube strike to watch a show in a market. But then few returns have been so highly anticipated on London's menswear scene. So creatively needed for a city in flux too.
So to Seven Sisters' Indoor Market. For an hour before the show started, to the sounds of Latin music and with the market stalls offering up South American delicacies to show-goers, anticipation was rising in the crowded maze-like corridors.
Not that the collection, when it came out, obliquely referenced the setting. It was more a celebration of London, it's fringes, characters, and communities. It felt more real than another show in another blank venue.
Martine is known for her subversive plays on subculture and archival exploration, the starting point was a very Phil Oakley-esque riff on synthpop style and the way it played with gender codes and the politics of the 80s. The hair was a very obvious nod to Human League frontman's early look, draping long over one eye. But it was also there in ties and satin shirts and slinking, sexy soundtrack by Acyde that felt like it had been plucked from an obscure 80s corner.
The new wave suiting (Martine Rose monogrammed and crested ties were a stand-out) was layered up against more casual visions provided by sportswear. Work and pleasure, a kind of complete vision of masculinity but warped and a little odd and slightly delicate.
The show notes made references to the male archetypes Martine was inspired by, bankers, office workers, and bus drivers specifically. But in the exploded and exaggerated proportion, especially of the suiting, which was nipped and tucked and folded, it felt more about getting reimagining them -- especially in the clash between the power dressing androgynous boys and the rough-and-ready splendour of the Seven Sisters market.
There is too, a political power to that clash, to re-placing those stereotypes in incongruous locations; but it was hardly a show of political protest or revolt, though how do you reference the 80s without referencing its politics, and drawing an oblique line between then and now? The show though was more than mere reference, pastiche, or archive, there was an invigorating and singular power at its heart of the kind that only Martine can provide.
Text Felix Petty
Photography Lillie Eiger