At a sweat-drenched community centre in north London, the designer paired high-vis jackets with silk camisoles and suspenders
One of Martine Rose’s longtime models is having a post-show cigarette in the garden of St Joseph’s social club in north London. He’s dressed in a lace camisole and wet-look trousers and his hair has been braided into a lascivious rattail. “I’ve always walked like a dick,” he says, taking short sips from a can of Stella Artois. “So I never really needed movement direction. Actually, the only thing I’ve ever been told is to ‘make it more perverted’.” Though Rose’s SS23 collection was perhaps her most carnal – debuting in a now-disused sauna in Vauxhall – her proposal for SS24 felt a little seedier. There, models sped through a sweat-drenched working men’s club in soiled high-vis trousers and flesh-toned negligees, in biker jackets and suspenders, while the audience whooped and jeered and wiped the mist from their iPhone cameras.
“I find men in women’s clothes sexy and I find women in men’s clothes sexy,” the designer said backstage. “It’s not a gimmick, it’s a real proposition. It’s kinky, it’s sexy, it’s all of those good things.” That would explain the satin shirts and winklepickers, the hirsute mini skirts and sheer socks, which made Rose’s ragtag crew of street-cast models look like too-forward cab drivers and love-drunk bartenders. The venue – wood-panelled and humid in London’s 30-degree heatwave – contributed to that ambient sleaze. But there were more noble motivations for staging a show in St Josephs, which is one of London’s last remaining social clubs. “Community centres are vital, they’re a lifeline to people,” Rose said. “And every wave of immigration has a centre that services them. I always like to speak to that and bring people into these spaces because they’re so important and there’s not enough of them.”
A real British institution, working men’s clubs were once an integral part of young people’s lives – hosting makeshift nightclubs where local communities could feel part of something bigger than themselves – but more than half of them have been demolished since the 1970s in order to clear space for newbuild housing developments. “It made my day when I walked in and Helen, who works here, said ‘Maybe this will help stop us from closing’,” Rose said. The designer managed to conjure those tensions – between tradition and change – via the recontextualising of classic silhouettes and the skewing of traditional volumes. The shoulders of tailored jackets lurched forwards, emergency jackets fell in ladylike trapeze lines, and inside-out skirts mischievously revealed box pleats beneath. Click through the gallery above to see the rest of Martine Rose’s SS24 collection at London Fashion Week.