There's a wonderful scene in Clueless where sage fashion critic Cher Horowitz moans, 'I don't get how guys dress today. I mean come on, it looks like they just fall out of bed and put on some baggy pants and take their greasy hair and cover it up with a backwards cap and, like, we're expected to swoon? I don't think so…'. While we all thought the popularity of that look died at the end of the nineties, young London talent Martine Rose is keen to bring it back for Autumn/Winter 2013.
Clueless jokes aside, Rose presented a vision of men's dressing that deviated sharply from the slim tailoring and relaxed sportswear that dominates the other London runways. She had looked beyond the clothes and focused instead on exploring codes of masculinity. From the pub to the football pitch to the corner shop, she unpicked common place situations and locations to produce a collection that was partly a ode to macho styles from an age gone by, and partly an exploration of what it means to be a man.
Her character sat outside of fashion - his clothing merely served as a symbol of his lifestyle, passions and hobbies. Hoodies and tracksuit jackets came entirely crafted from the cheap alcohol slogan covered towels that are used to mop up spillages in pubs, while rough army surplus knitwear was accessorised with name badges that could have come straight from the local supermarket. Shapes were decidedly retro - part seventies part nineties - with low slung bell bottoms appearing alongside grungey parkers and layered sportswear. The looks were pulled together by clever hair styling that saw models transformed into moody Kevin & Perry lookalikes.
Rose's decision to champion the common man, rather than drawing inspiration from inside of the artistic community, gave the collection a rawness and authenticity that was impressive given that this is only her third individual showing (she previously formed part of the MAN troupe). It made you think - did men lose the personal connection to their clothes when football jerseys, favourite slogan hoodies and hand-me-down jumpers fell from favour?
I have only one quibble with this collection and that was the decision to show it in several incredibly lengthy presentations, complete with furniture props and live streams of backstage. While it's fantastic to see a young designer think outside the box when presenting their work, they must always be careful to ensure that the focus is the clothing itself. The timings and seating arrangement made it hard to see the looks properly and stopped many journalists and buyers from seeing the collection entirely - something such a young designer cannot afford. In this case the message of the collection was strong enough to do away these unnecessary installation additions.