PHOTOS: MARK RABADAN. STYLING: NATALIE BREWSTER. HAIR: HALLEY BRISKER/THE WALL GROUP. MAKEUP: NAOKO SCINTU/THE WALL GROUP. MODELS: JACK BURKE/WILHELMINA LONDON AND ALICE BUCKINGHAM/THE SQUAD. CASTING: DAVID CHEN.
Martine Rose, London's of-the-moment menswear designer, recalls a childhood memory. "I remember, sort of distinctly, sitting on the bed and watching my sister and my cousin get ready to go out; watching them get dressed and go into this other world that I had no access to," she says. Access, observation, and identity all would become important elements in Rose's future designs, which, since launching her eponymous label in 2007, have taken her from underground darling to a revered anti-establishmentarian figure in the clamorous British fashion scene. Her clothes blur the lines between genders and tribes; throw expectations out the window; and, in their unwillingness to conform and their capacity to surprise, have garnered her a cult following. "I've never had an idol. As a teenager, I never had pictures of boy bands or anything on my wall. I've always just done my own thing," she says.
Take last month's Fall/Winter '17 collection, which marked her first runway show in four years. For one thing, it was staged at an indoor market in Seven Sisters, the bohemian neighborhood in north London and way outside (in more ways than one) the usual fashion week circuit. The clothes explored several male characters—ranging from bankers to bus drivers—but with an off-kilter twist. Tailoring was deconstructed, proportions blown out, and elements of the past brought in. "It begins with a picture that I want to build," she says of her initial research phase. "Once I start building a picture and the connections develop and develop, it becomes more fine-tuned and more edited. And characters just started emerging on my wall."
In past collections Rose has used second-hand clothes as a jumping off point. For Spring '17 she repurposed recognizable silhouettes—the soccer jersey, the denim jacket, the trench—to skewer the line between familiar and new. In no way is this vintage pastiche: "It's about clothing as opposed to fashion," she explains. "Take an off-sided belt, for example, that I will go source. I will look at how that works, and what the function is. I'm interested in the most authentic pieces in the area of what I'm looking at." For Rose, time, as well as gender and the communities we build for ourselves, are constructs: powerful but ultimately malleable sources of inspiration. "Without sounding cold, it's all a bit like a big experiment," she says.
Moved by Rose's ethos, the buyers at MatchesFashion.com decided to sell her Spring '17 and Fall '17 collections in both womens- and menswear. "It was just effortlessly cool—what we all want to wear every day," says Natalie Kingham, the British retailer's womenswear buying director. "Our customer isn't afraid to buy oversize and wear pieces in a boyish way. Martine fits with this aesthetic perfectly." Rose seems unruffled by the choice: "I myself wear boy's clothes and men's clothes all the time and I always have, so it's a natural aesthetic for me to design like that," she says.
SELECT ITEMS FROM MARTINE ROSE'S SS 2017 COLLECTION ARE CURRENTLY AVAILABLE ONLINE AT MATCHESFASHION.COM. FOR MORE ON THE DESIGNER, VISIT HER WEBSITE.