Art that celebrates Britain in its true authenticity is hard to find. Idyllic, whimsical, regal, are words that spring to mind from frequent depictions. Green countryside’s, oppressive white kings on thrones, steam trains, and red post boxes aplenty. The Britain we see in these images is a lie, a fantasy, of conservatives, the elite, the traditionalists, and boomers.
The real Britain is: bleak, but kitsch, naively optimistic, and irreverent. Perhaps better than any other modern fashion designer, Martine Rose captures this Britain. Her collections of the past have often been celebrations of the people of this country in the entire diversity. Lanky football hooligans, office suited men, Rastafarians, ravers. She’s phenomenal at this but with her SS22 Menswear collection she steps beyond and creates looks more international – America precisely.
Satirical, sleazy, sexy and modelled by an unlikely ensemble of older gentleman and female photographers, its accompanying show is glam and retro. Sets and looks that (unlike most of Rose’s work which are quintessentially 80s) pull more from the 60s. Straight cut brightly coloured suits, old-school advert-esque visuals, bodies twisting and men cawing at stock markets, women in camp tinsel wigs posing backed by sliced in half white convertible. It’s irresistibly fun, if not bizarre. It’s different for Rose, but still feels like her. A unique step for the designer, and certainly a welcome one. Less politically, on the nose and brash than some of her previous. For example, the pro-European Union “Promising Britain” t-shirts from her SS 20 collection for instance were highly dissatisfying for me. Simultaneously vague and heavy-handed using a slogan so boldly but saying very little. SS22 in contrast, creates emotion without slogans while also remaining quintessentially fun. Rose is great at this and really could be someone who could make clothes that really say something, without feeling the need to say something in a literal sense. This is truly saying something.
Words: Aimee Armstrong