Martine Rose’s Louche Pitti Uomo Show Pays Homage to Italian Culture

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Martine Rose Autumn/Winter 2023 Menswear
Martine Rose Autumn/Winter 2023 MenswearCourtesy of Martine Rose

The British designer’s Autumn/Winter 2023 menswear show in Florence balanced seriousness and silliness, paying homage to the Italian house music that swept through England in the 1980s and early 1990s

Italy is having a moment right now. A plethora of recent TV set within the region – season two of Mike White’s The White Lotus, a Netflix adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s The Lying Life of Adults, and even Stanley Tucci’s grand food tour Searching for Italy – all feed into the country’s infamously carnal, hedonistic image (for this, we can also thank Call Me by Your Name). From a foreigner’s perspective, it can feel as if Italians live purely for the pursuit of pleasure and aesthetic beauty. And as her show as guest designer at Pitti Uomo yesterday evening in Florence proved, London-based designer Martine Rose is cut from a similarly carefree cloth.

Well known for embracing and assimilating the south London rave and reggae subcultures she grew up around in the 90s, music has always been at the heart of Rose’s brand. At her Autumn/Winter 2023 show last night – the designer’s first outside of London – British hardcore segued into Italian house music, with models storming through the Mercato Nuovo, a Florentine open-air market dating back to the mid-1500s that had been kitted out like a “louche” nightclub, with lush chartreuse carpeting and panelled mirrors. “I had to bring my London past,” Rose said backstage of the show’s soundtrack. “There’s so much about music that brings us together … it unifies everything.”

On the runway, Rose’s outsized tailoring was back, inspired by 1980s New Wave – she is widely credited as the brains behind Demna’s oversized silhouettes at Balenciaga, where she began consulting on menswear back in 2015 – including one rather hilarious ‘BuyOneGetOneFree’ blue jumpsuit, which gave the thrifty illusion of a two-piece suit from the front. Rose’s previous Spring/Summer 2023 show, which unfolded in a latex-lined tunnel in Vauxhall, was heavy on sleaze and sexuality; A/W23 instead had a more polite air of sleaze, with many models carrying bags mimicking the type of paper-and-string gift bags you get from department stores – pristinely tied up with black bows – despite the clubby setting. This sense of formality was further enhanced by Rose’s square-toe boots and loafers, club-ready Ugg clogs, and a new colourway of her highly coveted Nike dress-shoe-trainer hybrid – the ultimate mix of formal and casual. Suit jackets and shirts were given a western spin with cowboy fringing; yet another fusion of silliness and smartness.  

As for the models, Rose embraced the location, casting a mix of “local heroes” including Italian footballers and bar and restaurant owners alongside her usual motley crew of street-cast British “outsiders”. “I am interested in the everyday and I really do see the beauty in everyday things and everyday people,” Rose continued backstage. “I find beauty in things that are easy to not find beauty in … things that are easy to dismiss.”

A triumphant hybrid of Italian and British sensibilities, there was one especially cheeky show detail that brought the Martine Rose brand of humour home: back in the Renaissance, the Mercato Nuovo hosted the pietra dello scandalo – a place where those who couldn’t afford to pay their debts received public bum spankings. Today, the location is home to tacky souvenir stalls for tourists, but – just like the Martine Rose brand – dig a little deeper and there is humour, lighthearted perversion, and a wealth of history to be found.