Behind a wall of glass tiles, a lone boy polishes his shoes in a VHS-soaked purple-pink living room. Shirtless, his muscles flex as he scuffs his polishing rag to the throbbing beat of a dark disco song. He is the star and co-star in a “pornography for one”: a man, some venetian blinds, and a pair of lace-up oxfords.
This is the auto-erotic red thread that runs through London-based designer Martine Rose’s new AW16 fashion film directed by Sharna Osborne, which returns to this scene over and over again from different angles, as though it has been photocopied through a Kenneth Anger xerox-machine. After a two-season sabbatical, the underground menswear designer known for baggy pants, oversized silhouettes, and chaotic multi-media presentations has returned with a coda on her own signature. As Rose herself says, “I guess I was saying, ‘Let’s chill out,’ but with my tongue in my cheek.” Punctuated by leather-clad flashers and psychedelic ass-prints, the VHS film wears 70s underground gay culture as though it were a sleazy veil—a concept reflected in the collection itself, in which Rose has created leather chaps to constrict her signature parachute pants, like a condom binding the whole look into a standard menswear silhouette. The 90s rave kid wrapped up as a queer Marlboro Man—for this and other reasons it is a film steeped in paradox, one that revisits a “classic” moment that never made it into the canon.
032c spoke with the designer MARTINE ROSE on the occasion of her new fashion film:
What was the soundtrack for the video? We couldn’t recognize the song.
It is this amazing 70s pre-punk disco band from LA, called Smokey. They have been criminally ignored for like 30 years because their music is “gay.” It wasn’t until this Australian label called Chapter Music put together a compilation of singles and unreleased recordings last year that the world has even been able to hear this stuff. A friend introduced it to me and as soon as I heard I knew this had to be the soundtrack to the video. They have this song called “Piss Slave,” and that along with “MacArthur Park” are the most visual disco songs ever.
From the jump, the video has a strong 70s porno vibe. What were some of your specific inspirations?
I had been looking at these color-drenched photos of the Mark E. Smith, like portraits and snaps from him onstage. And that kind of flowed on to looking at Kenneth Anger—films like Scorpio Rising and also James Bidgood’s Pink Narcissus—and a mix of other references that Sharna and I shared with each other. Sharna also had her own references, and has a really distinctive style, as she shoots on VHS. She just immediately got what I was talking about, so there was such an ease to the process.
There seems to be a shift in your styling here, from baggy jeans and hiking boots to more tailored looks and oxford shoes. You were one of the first in creating this recent wave of oversized looks, are you moving away from that now?
Tentatively. It’s an evolution rather than a complete departure. It’s nice that the world seems to be catching up to something I’ve been really pushing for a while. We did do oversized pants this season—how could I not!—but we added these chaps that are a bit sex and a bit pilot. They bring the pants in, kind of restraining the volume to offer a more classic silhouette. I guess I was saying, “Let’s chill out,” but with my tongue in my cheek.
There’s something so strange and brilliant about the guy alone in his living room polishing his shoes, its almost like a porn scene but between a person and their clothes. Is there a climax? Does he ever finish?
Or does he just keep polishing his shoes forever, edging? For his sake—and the shoe’s—I hope there is a climax.
Your presentations tend have themes and motifs that run through them, like circle patches on denim jackets that match the circular pedestals at your presentations. How do these patterns emerge for you?
You know I never really think to look and make sure that there are these themes and motifs. I just have to trust that as long as I am committed to the season. I don’t really listen too much to outside influence that there should be a consistency throughout everything that I do. I’m never the one who is there on top of the whole world that the Martine Rose guy lives in. I think that’s why there is such an eclectic group of guys and girls who’s into my stuff, because I really try to keep everything grounded in my reality—and my reality isn’t perfect. I guess I just reflect all of that into what I do.
What’s next for Martine Rose?
A little rest after Paris please! And then I guess next season innit.
Directed and edited by
Martine Rose & Hugh Egan Westland
Smokey / Chapter Music