“Obviously it’s a comment on the state of our political climate at the moment, the fact that they’re all clowns,” says Martine Rose about her Spring/Summer 2020 show, referencing the mess that is current day British politics with its disastrous, ongoing, Brexit saga.
The bright orange tee the designer wore post-show depicted a cartoon clown with the twelve gold European Union stars and the word “Promising Britain." Tongue in cheek, it was her way of expressing the dismay she has with the way the country she calls home is currently led. “The prints feel playful but sinister as well, as what’s happening [politically] is something laughable but also terrifying,” she goes on.
Set high atop of an outdoor garden of a corporate office building in London’s financial district, the mood was in stark contrast to the communal atmosphere created the last time she showed a runway collection two seasons ago outside a north London cul-de-sac, where she invited locals and their kids to the show. The location, she says, is a comment on business leaving England.
That topical critique and turmoil ran throughout the show, from the models with messy make-up and faux hair to the cuts of the clothing. Fabric was stitched together upside down and back to front to “resemble the uncertain times we live in, not just on a local level but on an international one too.”
And so there were multi-wear vests and t-shirts with double necks, reversible fleeces, leather biker jackets with massive shoulders, fitted trousers and exaggerated loafers. There was plenty of Americana in there, too. The Trump-lead nation got its fair share of critique. Varsity knits, sand-colored chinos and a double layered ski jacket with a peach alpine pattern outer mocked traditional (republican) jock style.
Rose has an innate ability to find strength to unify. The clashing of 1980s subcultures in specific often recur in her collections. Things were different then. It was a time when people from all backgrounds and scenes came together in a space free from discrimination and when your average-looking office worker might have had a wild alter-ego that only emerged under the cover of night.
“It’s about coexisting,” she says.
So walking her runway were skinheads, Rastas, new romantics, football hooligans and ravers wearing skinny metallic logo belts with “MARTINE” and “SEX”. Jerseys made with Nike were paired with velvet and satin Chinoiserie trousers. It was an eclectic mashup, day and night; work and leisure; childhood and adolescence.
But don’t call her nostalgic. On blazers, Rose put buttons stating “magic things ahead” so not all is doom and gloom. “I always see a silver lining in everything,” she says. “Despite the terrifying things that govern us, I’m optimistic because I believe in humans and our relationship together.”