(The Pitti Uomo covers are expected to reference the history of Florence and use Italian tailoring for their special collections. According to the exhibition notes, the jeans are actually associated with the Renaissance. When Michelangelo sculpted David, debtors were receiving “public spankings ” at the venue of the performance.)
Rose, unafraid to mix references, also folded into a seam of spaghetti western clothing: some of those windbreakers and baggy wool coats had waves of fringe that cascaded down the back, turning the everyday into the stuff of Italo Disco star power. Clown-toed, bulbous derby pants — one of Rose’s favorite new designs, she said — expanded her lexicon of over-the-top footwear.
Twisting normal people’s uniforms into runway fashion is a tightrope walk. It can easily veer into dystopia, heightening the unsettling reality of life that clothes can so clearly convey. But Rose’s collections have a much more light-hearted tone: they’re more extreme, sure, but in a quirky, and occasionally very humorous, Western way with the fringe on the coat revealing the cracks on the backside. Rose used the word “fun” several times to explain those design choices. Over the years, Rose’s twisted designs have been seen as trollish or terrifyingly cool, but she’s really in the business of creating surprises and delights and a little drama. She may be making clothes for a nightclub set, but her audience isn’t exclusive. It’s a profoundly refreshing approach, and within minutes of the finale, audience members—full of optimism and Aperol spritz—were already discussing the prospect of Rose ending up at Louis Vuitton, or perhaps even returning to Balenciaga. The message is that the upper echelons of luxury fashion could use Rose’s open-mindedness, foresight and ability to extract excitement from the everyday.
Backstage, the ever-unpretentious Rose, holding one of her children on her hip (a good reminder that she’s one of the few moms in the menswear designer ranks), thanked the locals who walked into the show. “I’m so proud of the cast, a lot of them have never done this [this] ago. And they really energized and I think they honored Florence in the way that I was hoping for,” she said. A few minutes later, I ran into one of them, a gray-haired gentleman named Luigi, standing outside. His hair was slicked back sharply, and he still wore the fringed jacket, leather pants, and silk shirt and tie from the play. She seemed to fall into the category of cast members who had never participated in a fashion show before. When I congratulated him, Luigi shrugged before smiling in satisfaction. Another new fan of Martina Rose.