British designer Martine Rose – known for her warped, quirky approach to clothing that draws from the subcultures and countercultures of her native London – had no idea she’d be a guest designer at Florence’s Pitti Uomo 103 menswear fair when she first created her A. /W 2023 collection. And yet there was a distinct energy of the Italian city at the presentation, which took place last night (January 12, 2023) in the central Mercato Nuovo. “Once I was invited, Florence influenced everything, even subconsciously,” she said.
Before the show, Rose said she began preparations for the guest spot by thinking: ‘How do I do what I do in London, in Florence?’ In her hometown, she has chosen a number of unusual venues to showcase her collections – which often don’t follow the typical menswear calendar and are instead presented when the designer feels ready – from a cul-de-sac in North London (residents watching from their front gardens) to last season , where she took over a seedy, latex-draped nightclub in Vauxhall during London Fashion Week S/S 2023. Her cast, which is often eclectic and spans ages and occupations, comes mostly from a collection of friends and long-time collaborators that Rose calls her ‘London family’ .
Martine Rose A/W 2023 at Pitti Uomo 103
Some of them traveled to Italy with Rose, although most of the actors in this latest show were sourced from the streets of Florence and ranged from those who work in local bars, clubs and restaurants to players from the Calcio Fiorentino football team, along with other found Italians. away from Rose’s team. “I’m so proud because a lot of them have never done it before and I think they paid tribute to Florence in the way I hope,” Rose said after the show. “I wanted it to look like a real collaboration between Italy and London.”
The exhibition space—a rectangular runway with mirrored columns designed to evoke a nightclub—was set up in the outdoor loggia of the Mercato Nuovo, the historic marketplace in central Florence (as Rose hoped, locals hung from nearby windows and squeezed into neighboring streets to could see). Rose said she chose the site for its reflection of the spirit of Florence, long a center of commerce and home to the Fontana de Porcellino, the city’s ancient good luck charm. The collection playfully noted that it was also once the site of “public floggings” for those who couldn’t pay their debts – the “pietra della scandalo”.
The collection itself, Rose said, was an escape: “I wanted sexiness, sass and fun.” Much of the mood came from the glittering sounds of Italo disco, a musical genre that took off in Italy in the 1970s before being adopted by the British club scene in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The clothes themselves reflected the “nightclub milieu of the louche era” in lurex pants, oversized shearling jackets, Western-style fringes (created with a technique that rips the fabric, “more self-made than hemming”) and low-slung, overdyed denim. A slim silhouette inspired by new wool, striped trousers and the playfully named ‘Buy One Get One Free’ jumpsuit, which combined a jacket and tailored trousers into a single garment, nodded to Florence’s rich tailoring history.
The unconventional inspiration was clothing originally made for children’s toys, here playfully inflated to human size. Rose said she was drawn to the way such items “never quite fit” the doll they were made for; as such, the silhouettes were often twisted or clumsy, held in shape with stiff padding, or dramatically oversized, like a puffy puffy jacket with a cut-out waist in bubblegum barbie pink. Rose said the twisted silhouettes were also intended to reflect the sometimes disorienting feeling of being in a nightclub, a disheveled evening out. “I think I find beauty in things that aren’t easy to find beauty in.”
Surrounded backstage by a phalanx of supporters, friends and family, Rose admitted she was stunned. “It’s my first show outside of London, I didn’t know what to expect,” she said, adding that she was looking forward to “hard celebrations” after the show (in keeping with the show’s themes, the after-party will take place in one of Florence’s oldest nightclubs). As we took to the street after the show – as locals continued to gather around the glitzy stage – the palpable buzz was proof that Rose’s distinct vision, which had until now been rooted in her native London, was catching on.
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