Prosthetic noses, pencil skirts and real talk about her native London: Martine Rose’s Milan Fashion Week debut packs a punch | CNN (2024)

CNN

With flyers strewn across the floor, metal barriers covered in recycled plastic, and a sporadic assembly of plastic chairs arranged in dimly-lit arts space south of central Milan, British menswear designer Martine Rose eschewed the polish often associated with the Italian fashion capital, giving guests a taste of her native North London’s gritty charm instead.

“I wanted it to be a bit of a mess,” said Rose ahead of the show on Sunday that marked her debut on the Milan Fashion Week schedule after years presenting her label in London. “I want people to go in into it and there be this beauty but not in a [instantly] recognizable [way].”

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This subverted starting point is a longstanding signature of Rose’s brand and one that has no doubt contributed to her being one of the most sought-after and influential designers of her generation.

In addition to running her business — one that remained independent since its launch in 2007 until The Tomorrow Group invested in 2021 — she has consulted behind the scenes for prominent fashion houses including Balenciaga, been shortlisted for the prestigious LVMH Fashion Prize, among many others, and picked up the coveted Menswear Designer of The Year trophy at the 2023 Fashion Awards.

For her Spring-Summer 2025 show, she continued to challenge traditional concepts of masculinity and classic codes of tailoring. Dedicated to “expressions of beauty spawned from the likes of disturbance, humour, and sex,” according to show notes, the collection saw whipstitched T-shirts worn with tartan shorts and fishnet socks; a “party shirt” featuring the headshots of Rose’s studio team and their families; and tailoring taken out of proportion with nipped-in waists and broad-shouldered blazers worn with leather pants featuring front zips “for easy access.”

Prosthetic noses, pencil skirts and real talk about her native London: Martine Rose’s Milan Fashion Week debut packs a punch | CNN (2)

Her collection features hot-pink cagoules tucked into pencil skirts.

“There is a familiar subversion but I never intend for things to be shocking,” she explained. “The things that I put on the on the catwalk I genuinely think are real proposals for men.” Case in point, the sporty polo shirts and hot-pink cagoules that came perfectly tucked into pencil skirts.

“There’s something somehow more radical in a man wearing a pencil skirt and I’m curious as to why, because there’s nothing particularly radical about the sober length and we see Bermuda shorts and kilts of that length,” said Rose. “These are the questions that I find really interesting, not about gender but about clothes. And the men look amazing in it.”

In a further twist, prosthetic noses were administered to every model, each of whom had been street cast in Milan. Rose does this for all her shows, reemphasising the importance of the “local hero,” a phrase that appeared as logos on baseball caps and silk ties.

Milan is something of a fitting host for Rose’s brand with the two sharing a sense of intrigue on first impression. While Milan’s austere architecture famously conceals its hidden gardens and a warm hospitality, the confronting setting and external attitude of Rose’s catwalk shows are portals to a creative conversation that has community at its heart. As Rose notes of Milan, “it reveals itself slowly”.

That Rose opted to show her collection in Milan this season (off the back of showing in Florence and Paris previously) as opposed to London, deals another blow to the British Fashion Council’s (BFC) menswear schedule that was once a hotbed of emerging talent but has lost a number of key brands including JW Anderson, A-Cold-Wall and Wales Bonner, to other fashion weeks over the last six years.

Prosthetic noses, pencil skirts and real talk about her native London: Martine Rose’s Milan Fashion Week debut packs a punch | CNN (3)

Rose has again challenged traditional concepts of masculinity and classic codes of tailoring.

“You would think that I would come back and appreciate London more, but actually it makes me realise what London has lost and continues to lose,” she said in reference to what she sees as a lack of investment in the industry. “Every other European city seems to take [creativity] seriously and that makes me sad. And then of course, layer on Brexit, and it’s actually a disaster for all of the creative sector.”

Despite the direct value of the UK fashion industry to the UK economy standing at nearly £21 billion (approximately $27 billion), according to the BFC, and fashion graduates taking top positions at international fashion houses for decades, Rose said, “it’s incredibly infuriating and depressing that it’s not taken seriously. As soon as you get any particular type of sort of success and recognition, you have to move to Paris or Italy to get seen, the natural thing is to leave London and that’s ridiculous.”

“There are [designers] doing really interesting stuff, it’s just that they get no support from anywhere else to do it,” she continued. “Rents are impossible, they get no subsidies…it’s off people’s own bat, which is really hard to sustain.”

Following the rapturous reception at Sunday’s show, it appears that London’s loss is Milan’s gain.

Prosthetic noses, pencil skirts and real talk about her native London: Martine Rose’s Milan Fashion Week debut packs a punch | CNN (2024)
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