Martine Rose Stages “Urgent, Sexual” Show in Vauxhall

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Martine Rose Spring/Summer 2023
Martine Rose Spring/Summer 2023Courtesy of Martine Rose

Taking her cues from “urgent sexual encounters”, the cult British designer’s S/S23 show was heavy on latex and sleaze

Yesterday evening, inside a tunnel-like arch opposite Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens in London, cult designer Martine Rose put on her first in-person show in two years. Backdropped by long walls of black latex curtains, an array of eccentric models – their hair either dripping in grease, or coiffed and bleached in acrid colours – strutted down the runway while Jacob Miller’s reggae hit Baby I Love You So thumped overhead. “I wanted people to smell the latex, I wanted people to see the sweat on their bodies, I wanted people to feel the energy as they walked past,” Rose said backstage of her triumphant return to the runway.

The designer – best known for embracing and assimilating the south London rave and reggae subcultures she grew up around in the 90s – focused this time on the hasty, hurried methods of dress and undress involved in “urgent sexual encounters”. The show opened with a short, sharp soundtrack of heavy breathing, followed by a series of men’s and women’s looks that included frumpy office party attire, rave-ready tracksuits, and scuffed-up denim caps paired with bomber jackets and jeans. Loud, jangly belt chains, earrings left in their packaging, and BDSM cuff-esque detailing all pointed to a potent air of rushed, sordid sexuality.

In a departure from her signature exaggerated, broad-shouldered silhouettes, Rose debuted a “shrunken torso” look, with cropped, tucked-in shirts meant to evoke the feeling of squeezing into something too small. “There’s always the subtext of sex,” she explained of the collection, which mixed casual grunge and smart tailoring seamlessly together. A new series of angular shoes made in collaboration with Nike – sure to be a hit with sneaker obsessives – were described as a “hybrid between a dress shoe and a trainer”. 

In the past, Rose has shown in unconventional venues – a residential street in Chalk Farm, an indoor market in Seven Sisters – and this time was no different. “I’m so honoured to be doing this in Vauxhall, which is a really important, old community in London,” said Rose of the area, which has a rich history of gay nightlife. On arrival, guests were given pink wristbands for entry to the Royal Vauxhall Tavern to enjoy a post-show drink at the legendary Grade II* listed gay pub, which hosts regular cabaret and drag shows. “I don’t want to create something that feels removed or distant,” she said. “Whatever I’m experiencing, my aim is to take everyone with me.”