Who knew there's more to 'athleisure' than Kendall Jenner dashing from curb to car in LA? London designers have been mixing sportswear with tailoring for a long while now, but Martine Rose pushed the look into new territory for S/S 18, looking to geek pursuits for inspiration - golfing, climbing, rambling. Her peers are looking to eighties casual culture and the cool, style-conscious, informed taste-makers who were part of that scene - see Gosha Rubchinskiy’s Burberry hook-up, debuted in Russia. By contrast Rose is looking far outside of celebrated style history. This wide gaze serves her well, it makes her clothes seem real. They’re not throttled or shackled by taste or knowing nods and references. They’re joyful. Her mode of working is also joyful - she’s hell-bent on celebrating her community, hence why she showed in Tottenham, using local caterers to supply her nibbles. The response to this delicious fried food was a feeding frenzy - finally something edible at a fashion event. It’s a credit to the strength of Rose’s work that the often moaning fashion pack, barely willing to shuffle from show to show even in central London, are willing to schlep out that way. Those who don’t miss out.
Rose talked about celebrating local businesses and the people who make the area great. That passion extends to the way she thinks about her clothes - she wants them to be inclusive, relevant, real. Those sound like obvious attributes any designer would want for their wares, but we see a lot of pointless conceptualising and gimmicky behaviour at fashion week. She avoided that entirely.
The sporty theme was used with wit and a light touch. Climbing belts became fashionable belts, branded with Rose’s name. These will boost sales, as will the fantastic t-shirts with great graphics. Lycra was mixed in liberally - even that looked good. Volume, something Rose always plays with, had shifted slightly. The cinched waists were still there, but the bagginess that usually hangs around the ankles or the shoulders has moved upwards. The belt had replaced the tie as her spotlight accessory.
The best piece was an oversized deep navy fleecy jacket. Practical, yet beautiful. Voluminous, yet somehow cosy. On the way out a clearly out-of-the-loop attendee committed that proceedings looked 'a bit Balenciaga'. Well of course, Rose is the smart mind behind the menswear collections at that house, selected by Gvasalia to bring her magic to Paris. With that in mind, it’s really Rose who is setting the current menswear agenda, creating the looks and and silhouettes that everyone else it ripping off. She is a star shining bright, with her feet firmly on the ground. One hopes she'll get her due returns and recognition, just like Gvasalia. I thought back to the early collections of Kim Jones, also a twist on sportswear, and how he was swiftly grabbed and celebrated by Louis Vuitton, taking over the menswear line of that megabrand with great success. One hopes someone will give Rose a similar platform. Her work looks great in Tottenham but it’d look even better on the global stage.