Inside Martine Rose’s Italo-disco ode to Florence at Pitti Uomo 103

Martine Rose – guest designer at Pitti Uomo 103 – took over Florence’s Mercato Nuovo for an A/W 2023 collection that merged ‘Italy and London together’ through an homage to Italo disco and losing yourself on the dancefloor

Martine Rose runway show with man in shearling jacket and woman in pink coat
Martine Rose A/W 2023 at Pitti Uomo, Florence
(Image credit: Courtesy of Martine Rose)

British designer Martine Rose – known for a warped, idiosyncratic approach to clothing that draws on the sub- and countercultures of her native London – did not know that she would be the guest designer at Florentine menswear fair Pitti Uomo 103 when she first created her A/W 2023 collection. And yet, in a presentation that took place in the central Mercato Nuovo yesterday evening (12 January 2023), the distinct energy of the Italian city felt infused throughout. ‘Once I was invited, Florence influenced everything, even subconsciously,’ she said. 

Speaking prior to the show, Rose said she began preparations for the guest spot by thinking: ‘How do I do what I do in London, in Florence?’ In her home city, she has chosen a series of offbeat locations to show her collections – which often do not follow the typical menswear calendar, and instead are presented when the designer feels ready – from a north London cul-de-sac (residents watching from their front gardens) to last season, where she took over a dingy latex-curtained nightclub in Vauxhall during London Fashion Week S/S 2023. Her casting, which is often eclectic and spans age and occupation, is mostly drawn from a collection of friends and longtime collaborators whom Rose calls her ‘London family’.

Martine Rose A/W 2023 at Pitti Uomo 103

Martine Rose runway show with man in jumpsuit

Martine Rose A/W 2023

(Image credit: Courtesy of Martine Rose)

Some of them travelled with Rose to Italy, though the majority of the cast for this latest show were scouted from Florence’s streets, and span from those working at local bars, clubs and restaurants to players from the Calcio Fiorentino football team, alongside other Italians found further afield by Rose’s team. ‘I’m so proud because many of them had never done it before, and I think paid tribute to Florence the way that I hope,’ said Rose after the show. ‘I wanted it to feel like a real collaboration of Italy and London together.’ 

The show space – a shag-piled rectangular runway with mirrored columns, designed to evoke a nightclub – was erected in the outdoor loggia of Mercato Nuovo, a historic marketplace in the centre of Florence (as Rose hoped, locals hung from nearby windows and crowded the neighbouring streets to get a glimpse). Rose said she had chosen the location for its reflection of the spirit of Florence, a longtime centre of commerce and home to the Fontana de Porcellino, the city’s longtime good luck charm. The collection notes playfully remarked that it was also once a site of ‘public bum-spankings’ for those who couldn’t pay their debts – the ‘pietra della scandalo’.

The collection itself, Rose said, was one of escapism: ‘I wanted sexiness, and cheekiness, and fun.’ Much of the mood came from the shimmering sounds of Italo disco, the musical genre which proliferated in 1970s Italy, before being adopted by the British club scene in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The clothing itself reflected the ‘era’s louche nightclubbing environment’ in lurex-infused trousers, oversized shearling jackets, Western-style fringing (created using a technique that shreds the fabric, ‘a self-fabrication rather than a trim’), and low-slung and overdyed denim. Nods to Florence’s rich history of tailoring came in the narrow New Wave-inspired silhouette, pinstripe trousers, and the playfully titled ‘Buy One Get One Free’ jumpsuit, which melded a blazer and tailored trousers into a single garment. 

Martine Rose runway with woman in silk shirt and long skirt

Martine Rose A/W 2023

(Image credit: Courtesy of Martine Rose)

A more offbeat inspiration came from clothing originally made for children’s toys, here playfully blown up to human size. Rose said she was attracted to the way such items ‘never quite fit’ the doll for which they were made; as such, silhouettes were oftentimes warped or wonky, held in shape with stiff elements of padding, or dramatically oversized, like a fluffy puffer jacket with a nipped waist in bubblegum Barbie pink. Rose said the twisted silhouettes were also meant to echo the sometimes disorientating feeling of being in a nightclub, a reveller’s dishevelled finery after a night out. ‘I think I find beauty in things that it's not easy to find beauty in.’

Surrounded backstage by a phalanx of well-wishers, friends and family, Rose admitted that she was overwhelmed. ‘It is my first show outside of London, I didn’t know what to expect,’ she said, noting that she was looking forward to ‘celebrating hard’ after the show (in accordance with the show’s themes, the after-party would take place in one of Florence’s oldest night clubs). Walking onto the street after the show – as locals continued to gather around the gleaming set – the palpable buzz was proof that Rose’s distinct vision, which up to now has been rooted in her native London, translates. 

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Fashion Features Editor

Jack Moss is the Fashion Features Editor at Wallpaper*. Having previously held roles at 10, 10 Men and AnOther magazines, he joined the team in 2022. His work has a particular focus on the moments where fashion and style intersect with other creative disciplines – among them art and design – as well as championing a new generation of international talent and profiling the industry’s leading figures and brands.