When Martine Rose began her career as a fashion designer in the early 2000s, navigating cultural scenes overlooked by London’s high fashion types wasn’t so much an artistic pursuit as it was the reality of the young artist’s everyday life. Irregular releases, exhibitions at peculiar locations (street markets, climbing gyms) had an avant-garde mystique but were rooted in the harsh financial realities of being a designer with no safety net or outside investors.
The conditions offered raw, unadulterated peeks into a brilliant fashion mind. For years, Rose was struggling to make ends meet while still coasting the tides artistic commerce. One day, while living in temporary housing in London, she received an unlikely tip. Demna Gvasalia, then newly appointed creative director at Balenciaga, asked to meet with Rose over coffee.
Impressed by the designer's shrewd ability to capture vibrant subcultures through clothing, Rose would soon join the Kering-owned brand as a menswear consultant. Rose would play a key role in the luxury brand’s resurgence as a defiantly in-the-know voice on the periphery of fashion’s gilded circle.
“Demna will never know the circumstances that he took me out of,” she told 032c. “I’ve never told him I was squatting when he approached me. I will always have such affection for him.”
In the years since, Martine Rose has been able to lay firmer groundwork under her eponymous brand while still opting to do things her way, often out of step with fashion calendar and commerce norms — when the designer was tapped for a Nike sneaker collab in 2018, the earliest pairs were only made available at locations revealed on Craigslist.
For Spring/Summer ‘21, Martine Rose scans an array of subcultures whose environments have shifted during lockdown. Tailored pieces are given an unbuttoned, androgynous flare. A recurring thread of 80s-inspired rave uniforms peer through in loud printed shirts and baggy silhouettes. Football culture — a recurring theme throughout Martine Rose’s history — blends itself into durable and comfortable loungewear.