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After a guest show at Pitti Uomo in Florence last season, menswear designer Martine Rose returns home tonight — staging her Spring/Summer 2024 show in an unassuming community space in north London. She’s arguably the de facto headliner of a very pared-back June edition of London Fashion Week, though Rose isn’t on the official schedule; preferring instead to show when she feels like it.
“I’ve carved out my own little space in the calendar now. It feels magic,” she says from her London studio, two days out from the show.
The size of Rose’s business hasn’t always reflected her outsized influence on the fashion industry. She has been candid about the struggles of growing a small, independent brand sustainably: she famously showed just one look from her Spring/Summer 2015 collection for incubator Fashion East, because she couldn’t afford to produce more. She is not alone: several up-and-coming British brands have fizzled out, or their founders have been snapped up by big luxury houses, because the pressures of scaling were too great — something the British Fashion Council acknowledged in its strategy reset announcement on Friday.
But now, with backing from brand incubator Tomorrow Ltd, Rose is primed to scale her own label by broadening her supply base, building new wholesale relationships, hiring additional talent and driving sales through her revamped direct-to-consumer website. She currently employs a team of 20 and has around 200 retail doors, including Matches, Ssense and Farfetch. “In terms of size we’ve gone from strength to strength. It’s going in the right direction,” says Rose, though she declines to share revenues.
A rare talent
Rose has been on an upward trajectory over the past few years. She worked as a menswear consultant for Balenciaga under Demna from 2015 to 2018, during which time the brand created its now signature maximalist proportions. Last November, American rapper Kendrick Lamar posted to his 12 million followers that it was a “bucket list” moment to work with Rose, after she created some looks for his The Big Steppers tour. She was also one of the rumoured frontrunners to fill the men’s creative director position at Louis Vuitton left vacant when Virgil Abloh died, before Pharrell Williams’s appointment in February.
Italian menswear trade show Pitti was a major moment for the label, bringing new international exposure and helping to raise Rose’s profile. “I probably underestimated Pitti from my little studio in north London,” she says, “but [the show] definitely hit a lot of new places.” The US market is a growing opportunity, as is China (Machine-A Shanghai is one of her biggest stockists).