48 wild hours in ayia napa with martine rose
The designer took us to Cyprus to celebrate her latest Napapijri collaboration with a night of joyful UK garage.
Photography Roxy Lee
It’s about 5am, a cold Saturday morning, on a runway at Luton airport. Around 40 assorted fashion people, dressed head-to-toe in Martine Rose, are waiting to take off for Ayia Napa. Martine — waiting for us in Cyprus — has assembled her friends and family and collaborators for a night of UK garage-soundtracked wildness to celebrate her latest Napapijri collaboration in the resort town with Slam Jam and Agency Eleven.
On the plane a stag do down shots in their matching shirts but most of the assorted fashion people grab a couple of hours sleep before the ensuing party. We land in gorgeous, soft, sunshine. Off season, Ayia Napa has a ramshackle, slightly beaten down feeling to it: an echo of former glories, a sense of calm before a storm. A few scattered tourists and families litter the hotel as we all bowl in.
Ayia Napa has a special resonance in the history of clubbing and dance music in the UK. This Levantine analogue to Ibiza, which, for a few heady summers around the turn of the millenium erupted as a centre for Brits abroad, pumped up on brave new sounds of 2-step and garage. More infamously, Ayia Napa was the 2003 site of one of grime’s foundational myths. It’s where Dizzee Rascal was stabbed six times, allegedly by a member of garage supremos So Solid Crew. Dizzee survived but garage didn’t, really, and grime blossomed in its place, a rougher, harder, more anxious sibling. Dizzee won the Mercury Prize for his debut album a few months later. But garage is in the veins of Ayia Napa, and it’s that current which Martine’s celebrating. Billed as “an exclusive 24-hour experience” — Martine gathered Heartless Crew, Martelo and Oneman to play at legendary Ayia Napa venue Club Black N’ White (it’s Heartless Crew’s first set on the island since 2010). Martine and her crowd of garage legends ride off on a load of quad bikes.
“We had the idea for the party when we shot the campaign for this season’s collaboration,” Martine says. “It was never the intention, but as we were shooting, the imagery we were creating started to feel really familiar. It was like looking at an old garage club-night flyer. So we started joking around about doing ‘Napa in Napa’. So we just thought — why not? Let’s go to Ayia Napa. It’s a fucking great idea. It's such an experience, so English in a way and nostalgic, and so important to dance music history. It was the centre of everything for a while. It just snowballed.”
There’s a long banqueting table set up in Napa Tavern — the resort’s oldest restaurant apparently — and the gang are digging into endless courses of food and chilled red wine. A member of the Napapijri team rescues the smallest of stray cats, it was trapped in a drain, brings it into the restaurant, this little grey ball of scared fur, and cuddles him back to health. We roll out down towards Ayia Napa’s main strip and the club: quite a sight, this gaggle of people, wearing that Napa branded Martine Rose gear. Everything that Martine does feels implicitly born from the communities and collective ecstasies that erupt out of nightclubs. This trip — organised with Slam Jam — feels like a natural extension of it. These rose-tinted memories of the best nights of your lives, a big gang of friends dumped into some Mediterranean sea and sunshine, from the beach to the rave.
“I can't really do anyone else, I can only do me, really,” Martine offers as an explanation of the narratives that run through her designs. “Everything comes from my experiences, but I want those experiences to resonate and speak to a wider audience.” What Martine does, then, is tap into very British experiences, the country’s tribes and communities — football, nightclubs, subcultures and youth cultures. She makes these collective identities feel universal, though, tracing out their alternative histories and utopian feelings. “I'm always interested in these mass movements that happen primarily around music, but also how these movements can grow and include other things and sort of end up having this political relevance. They can become a real sign of the times.”
It’s what Martine has done in her collaborations with Napapijri, which was quite a niche entry in the British casuals fashion lexicon, from the era in the 80s when football fans roamed Europe and discovered Italian sportswear. In Martine’s hands the brand has become relentlessly modern, relevant to right now, although still carrying that echo of the past. Her mainline collection this year, for example, featured a pair of jeans that took Evisu’s swooshed logo and sprayed it across the whole of the legs, and a pair of square-toed loafers with details resembling Gucci horsebits (a staple of garage’s luxury fashion-obsessed nightclubs), then twisted them through a funhouse mirror.
“It's not intentional. I don't sit down and go: ‘We’re doing something garage-inspired this season.’ It’s never on a moodboard or anything, these things are always in the background of what I do, so it just comes through.” The latest Napapijri collection pushes on with those spring/summer 19 references in a collection full of euphoric prints and larger-than-life branding, a celebration of the joy of dressing up and going out. Though each collection seems to exist slightly out of time with the world — clothes that could have existed anytime from 20 years ago to 10 years in the future, a kind of nostalgia-coated futurism. It all seems to come together in Club Black N’ White (from what we can all remember of it), dancing until five in the morning, downing tequilas and doing laughing gas with members of Martine’s studio team. Stumbling back to the hotel through deserted streets, we somehow got home.
“When I started this collaboration I came to it with no preconceived ideas at all — I could barely pronounce Napapijri it, let alone spell it. But they’ve let me be so free in what I do,” Martine says. “I love collaborating — I’m a very collaborative person, I think you get something really interesting when you are open to it, and work with other people and allow their personalities and points of view to come into it.”
The next day spent at the beach, by the pool, hanging out, recovering, getting sunburned. By the time we land back at Luton, it’s 3am again, a full 48 hours in Ayia Napa. Martine Rose, probably the best press trip organiser on the planet.
This article originally appeared on i-D UK.