Martine Rose on Her FW23 Pitti Uomo Debut: "It's DJs, It's Club Promoters, It's Sexy"

Hypebeast speaks to the London designer about her Pitti Immagine runway show to learn how she’s brought British and Italian subcultures together.

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Martine Rose is the flower of Pitti Uomo 103. Presenting her Fall/Winter 2023 collection alongside the esteemed fashion trade fair, the London-based designer has turned Pitti’s sartorial norms on their head with a collection that brings Italian and British subcultures together as one harmonious family.

Held within Mercato Nuovo, a traditional Florentine columned loggia that was built between 1541 and 1547, the show was set to be Rose’s most revered to date. The location was famed for housing traders of silk and luxurious items in the 16th century, and welcomed many pioneers of the Renaissance period. With this in mind, one question came to mind: is this Martine Rose’s renaissance too?

FW23 is full of familiarity — it’s a collection that feels “very Martine,” as the designer puts it herself. If it were to be shown in London as per usual, the mixture of terrace culture, Italo house music, the Balearic club scene, football, souvenier-esque oddities, nostalgic graphics, tailoring, sportswear, kitsch and camp undertones and more would feel right at home. At Pitti Immagine, this is all apparent and the same, only here a cast of models — which includes Calcio Fiorentino footballers, “local heroes,” friends of the brand from London, and street cast faces — pictures what Martine Rose would be if it were an Italian House.

Typical of the brand, the collection is seen as a wardrobe, as if the only brand you’d ever need to wear in life is Martine Rose. Proportions are twisted and unconventional, as if one had been raving in the pieces all night long. Sportswear is tight and sexy, as graphics reading “EROS,” or “ROSE” backward, appear printed in a vintage effect on the slim chests.

The silhouettes continue to contradict one another as oversized puffer jackets are puffed to the max, but cinch in at the waist with plenty of tapering. Nods to the Y2K trend appear in low-rise denim that’s bootcut, simultaneously ushering in undertones of the Wild West, while wide-leg denim pants appear in three distinct finishes: “Noughties,” “Dirty” and “Yellow.”

Power suits with subtle pinstripes, or sleeker tailored shirts that are covered in sparkled stripes or all-over glitz, reminisce of ’90s DJs in those house music nightclubs and the flyer boys on the street, while the bum-revealing pants that hang effortlessly at the rear, the fringed, sheer, polka dot shirts and the vinyl-ish under layers all conjure thoughts of the ravers the promoters tried to attract.

Fittingly, skin-tight layers printed with acid rave motifs look like strobe lights underneath formal woolen overcoats, and later on the formalities became conceptual as suits were turned into “BuyOneGetOneFree” overalls, served in a soft shade of business blue. Post-rave puffers in bubblegum pink were trimmed with faux fur, while shearling decorated the seams of leather jackets that look like the ones market traders sell in Florence. The wardrobe expanded with boiled knitwear, track jackets worn over smart shirts, awkwardly high collars on padded shirt jackets, high-rear-slit skirts, twisted double-breasted overcoats and so much more that all perfectly paint the Martine Rose fantasy.

Accessories are equally nostalgic. Reflective pieces of plastic become brooches, while traditional Italian opulence is explored in collaboration with the New York City-based jeweler LL, LLC, which combined with Rose creates delicately ornate chains and other pieces in golds that look older than time, all while drawing from iconic feminist symbols. Elsewhere, UGG slippers are hand-dyed, and bags range from exquisite worn-leather holdalls for all your footballing needs to teeny tiny “F*ck-Up Bags,” Rose’s interpretation of a small gift bag one would exchange during an apology (yet ironically, should be kept to yourself for raving essentials).

To round it all off, Martine Rose and Shox MR4 colorway, naturally touching on the themes of the collection. As a pinkish-purple hue fades into light blue at the rear in an ode to ’90s goalkeeper tops, Martine Rose’s branding hits up the tongue and insoles alongside further “R” motifs embedded into the plastic sidewalls, a touch in itself that references football. With the shoe’s square toe, Rose reflects on her own range of mules and loafers as well as football boots with a silhouette that is also deeply rooted in British subcultures.

While the references and inspirations were clear, Hypebeast wanted to discover how Martine Rose for Pitti Immagine not just came about, but also redefined the brand’s cores. Keep on reading to find out more.

Hypebeast: How does it feel to be in Pitti?

Martine Rose: It’s a massive honor. It’s overwhelming. There’s a weight of giants that have been before me — it’s a menswear [event] and I’m a menswear designer so there’s a certain weight and expectation that comes with that. But first and foremost, it’s a real honor and I’m delighted to be here.

Do you think London has prepared you for this moment?

I have incredible imposter syndrome which lots of people do, so I don’t know if I ever look at myself and my work and my progress or assess myself in that way. I don’t look at it and think, “I’ve done really well.” We’re our own worst critics, aren’t we? It always feels wobbly and as frightening as the first time; I’ve been doing it for a while and I never feel on top of it. But I don’t know if I should!

And for anyone unaware, what is the process of working with Pitti like?

They’re an amazing institution and the support is incredible. I wanted to do Pitti in the way that I do London, and that’s a different way and they’ve supported it a lot. They’ve not imposed themselves, they’re such professionals and it’s been amazing.

As for the collection: has your mindset changed by presenting here?

It feels familiar. I was already working on the collection when I was invited. Once I got the invite, of course, I started looking at Italian culture but in a very broad sense. Yes, fashion, but also style, culture, music, and all of the things that influence me anyway. It didn’t feel like an enormous shift, no, it felt authentic and easy in some ways.

The difference was coming here and doing a whole lot of casting, to understand the culture, and I really wanted to pay tribute to Italian culture. That was the other element. The collection deals with a wardrobe, style, and characters as I normally do.

The combination of Italian and British subcultures is clear. How did you litter these nuances into your work this season?

It’s reflected in the set. I really wanted to pay homage to Italy’s Cosmic scene of the ’70s and ’80s, Italo house that blew up in Europe and influenced dancefloors all over the world. There’s New Wave in there, we used New Wave bands from Florence and Bologna. It’s house music. It’s very specific Italian house music from this region.

It references a culture in time. [As for the set], I’ve done markets before as marketplaces are a thriving heart of the city, which deal with lots of tourism. It’s a vibrant part of any city and I wanted to use that [what had been done in London] and reimagine it in a different way, as an Italian club here.

The market was very important in the Renaissance period — and that’s a phrase that’s thrown around a lot these days. But have you felt like the brand has had a renaissance by showing here?

It definitely forces you to look differently and I guess there is a renaissance about that. There’s a new life, a new element, a new injection of something that comes. It’s difficult to be objective about it because I’m so entrenched in it and the process has been extended, and so often I don’t think I am the best judge of myself and my own work. It’s really for other people to tell me what they feel and thought about it.

I find the collection quite camp and sexy. Do you agree?

Absolutely, I completely agree. There’s always an element of sex. Sex is what pulls us all together.

It’s DJs. It’s club promoters. It’s sexy, very sexy. Sexiness presents itself in all forms, it presents itself in shyness, extroversion, overconfidence, and arrogance. There’s a sexiness in their attitude, in what they wear. Confidence is also sexy.

How did you translate the House codes into something that’s fit for Pitti? To me, the casting and styling feels just like what you do in London, only here you have genuine Italian footballers. 

That’s an interesting question because I never want someone to feel dressed up. I am always preoccupied with people. There’s a lot of conversations, a lot of understanding someone and someone’s character, and when you start to dress them there’s an intimacy. You never want someone to feel like they’re wearing a costume, so really meeting these boys and understanding their physicality — they’re big, really strong — it’s new for me. Even though it’s football which I’ve referenced forever, it’s totally different in terms of casting. They’ve been so curious and open and that’s been amazing.

For the collaboration with Nike, you’ve got a new colorway of the Shox MR4. How do the shoes complement the collection?

I really wanted it to feel like a collaboration between London and Italy in the broadest sense. One thing that ties the U.K. and Italy together is music and dance music’s culture, and the other is sport. The shoe underlines that and really draws on those two things. Those little nods to sport across the water put us together.

How do you hope the collection will translate back home in London?

I think it’s going to be very recognizable, I think it’s going to feel very Martine. Anyone in it is going to feel comfortable, but there are surprising elements as ever. I hope there’s a newness and a freshness, but if you’re a fan of the brand there’s enough in there for it to feel recognizable and familiar.

Martine Rose’s FW23 collection and Nike collaboration can be seen in the gallery above. Stay tuned to Hypebeast for more Fashion Month content as we head out to Milan and Paris Men’s this January.

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