Subculture Spirit: Introducing, Martine Rose
by Ian Peterson·
The British-Jamaican designer Martine Rose established her eponymous, subculture fashion label in London in 2007. Known for her trend-setting capabilities & influence on contemporary menswear, Rose has taken a brand originally known for “tightly edited shirting” collections to one that is internationally celebrated & critically acclaimed by taking weird, uncommon things and making them undeniably cool. Rose has found a recipe for success in her own unique way, blending pure authenticity with underground subculture - specifically, normcore - to propel her label to the top of the fashion world.
She draws inspiration from her experiences growing up in south London in the ‘90s. A period and place known for a melting pot of subcultures, she was largely involved with the rave and reggae communities, which is directly linked to the label’s aesthetic. “I remember being very aware of different types of people coming together,” she told SSENSE in an interview. “It’s difficult to describe because it was so much more of a feeling or a sense of something, which is actually how I design.” At the absolute core of the company are family & community, which is evident with each capsule dropped - famously known for showcasing in spaces such as the covered markets of Tottenham and under the arches in Vauxhall.
Martine Rose's unique aesthetic is further highlighted through some key design elements, including proportion & silhouette, as well as the use of surprising textures & fabrications (Martine Rose). What really makes Martine Rose stand out is the label’s innate ability to explore the tensions between “attraction and resistance” to the accepted codes of menswear, pushing masculinity, sexuality, and sensitivity of character to the edge. Rose does not align with the same charm as Gucci’s Alessando Michele’s free spirit or to the romantics of Rick Owens, rather to people on the fringes. It’s meant to attract those who never really quite fit in and don’t have an explanation as to why.
It is for these reasons that Martine Rose has grabbed the attention of the fashion world with such ease. The freakier side of Martine Rose compared to that of other established brands is what has attracted countless A-list celebrities to the label, such as Drake, Kourtney Kardashian, Hailey Bieber, Lil Uzi Vert, Rihanna, and A$AP Rocky (to name a few). Regardless of the recognition that the brand has garnered since its beginnings, she’s not here to partake in mainstream fashion or to put the “everything for everyone” approach to use. Instead, she takes risks as a subculture brand by taking something ordinary and making it 100% special.
One of her most notable collabs came in 2021, when Rose teamed up with Nike to launch a special-edition England supporters football jersey. The collaboration was inspired by the story of the ‘Lost Lioness’ - the unofficial England women’s football team who played in the 1971 World Cup and were treated like heroes at the tournament in Mexico, shortly after their home country had lifted a ban on women’s soccer. The jersey was designed with an oversized silhouette that some pegged as outright insane, as well as a reversible feature that allowed the jersey to be turned inside-out (which has a history as a form of protest, as showcased by Megan Rapinoe to raise awareness for unequal pay). Each detail has intention, and each intention has a deeper meaning to tell a story that corresponds with the label’s vision.
Martine Rose doesn’t follow trends, she starts them. She isn’t afraid of the pressure of remaining relevant as a subculture fashion label while the brand increases in popularity with each collection she drops. Her constant exploration for creative freedom is one that will never make the brand dull or bland, because it requires each participant to wear each piece with a confident spirit. Those who seek out a Martine Rose garment are looking for - and will inevitably be rewarded with - a truly special experience, and we couldn’t be more excited to finally welcome the label to our LIKELIHOOD family.
Explore the latest Martine Rose arrivals HERE