LONDON — Small will always be beautiful for Martine Rose, the designer who launched her namesake label in 2007 with a collection of shirts, and who is now in the running for the LVMH Prize 2017.
This story first appeared in the March 20, 2017 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The 36-year-old designer, who is also consultant for Balenciaga men’s wear, said her dream is to “keep something quite special and cultish” about her collections.
Her fall outing was a case in point: Rose showed a lineup of retro, normcore pieces with the aim of subverting male archetypes and chose the halls of the Seven Sisters market — which specializes in Latin American food — as the venue.
“Sometimes a brand can really lose a soul when it becomes so big. I’m so connected with the pieces, and I don’t want to lose contact with the production and the factories. My plan is to manage the growth that we have already — which is already quite big. Let’s see where it goes,” she said.
Over the past year, Rose has taken on retailers including Matchesfashion.com, Barneys New York and Selfridges and moved into territories such as Shanghai and Tokyo. She also works for Napapijri and earlier this year presented a capsule collection in Paris, adding a modern twist to the Italian outerwear label’s anoraks, rain jackets and fleeces.
Rose works with a small team at her north London studio, and production is split between Portugal, Turkey, Italy and the U.K. She said while she is not looking for investment, she finds managing cash flow a challenge, like many London-based designers in growth mode.
She said that if she wins the LVMH prize, she will expand her team and put the focus on back-office operations. “I’m not a business person so I haven’t set it up like a business-business,” said Rose. “So that would be the wisest use of the money for me.”
She is among the list of 21 semifinalists for this year’s prize, vying for a grand prize of 300,000 euros, or $320,000 at current exchange, and a year of coaching from experts at LVMH. The winner will be revealed on June 16.
She was enthusiastic about the application process. She described meeting the jury panel as “quite intense, a bit like a weird dream sequence,” but much warmer than she anticipated.
“Nicholas [Ghesquière] was just shopping,” said Rose. “He made a personal order, so that was very sweet. Karl [Lagerfeld] was lovely and he was actually very funny. He’s really just got a cheekiness about him — that surprised me. I thought he would be much more standoffish and cold but he wasn’t at all. He was so engaged.”
Rose is known for her plays on proportion and for reworking unusual fabrics. She explored tailoring as part of her fall collection — a technique she picked up while working at Balenciaga.
“I really enjoyed it actually,” said Rose. “It was something that I’ve always been petrified of exploring and something that working at Balenciaga has definitely taught me. I’ve learned not to be so afraid of it.”
Music has also been a big influence on Rose, who has been inspired by subcultures such as skinheads or ravers. For her fall range, she was focused on the male roles and disrupting the boundaries of masculine and feminine.
“I was very interested in blue-collar and white-collar workers,” said Rose. “My mood board was littered with Wall Street, Bank Street, the classic sort of ‘Wolf of Wall Street,’ ‘American Psycho’ banker.”
While Rose declined to talk about Balenciaga, she said she will be working with Napapijri again. “It’s going to be a bigger capsule collection with more trousers, more tops, rather than such a heavy emphasis on outerwear.”
Napapijri isn’t the only brand with which she’s been collaborating. She also worked with Nike on the footwear for her fall collection, where she selected pieces from the brand’s archives. And she hopes to work with the company again.
In terms of other future projects, Rose will be busy on a variety of fronts. She has a 2-year-old at home, and is pregnant with her second child due at the end of July. It’s safe to say that maternity leave is not going to be particularly long as she juggles motherhood with building her own brand.
“There’s been such enormous growth recently in the brand, so I’m managing that and staying true to who I am and what I like. I think I’m really interested in just keeping the message strong so that’s what I would really like to focus on. With huge growth in the brand it’s easy to lose the message sometimes.”