Gui Rosa Is Making Crochet Couture For Boys
You might have spotted Gui Rosa if you’ve studied at Central Saint Martins, sat front row at London Fashion Week or drunkenly stumbled into any sort of high-end Soho party after 2am. The 25-year-old Portuguese creative has become somewhat of a fashion socialite in recent years, who alongside his trusty sidekick, Harry Freegard, has had his name on every guestlist worth being on.
Though Rosa isn’t just a beat mug in a pretty frock. He also happens to be a rather excellent designer, too. In his tinfoil-laden living room-cum-studio (“there isn’t a commute as quick as my morning couch-sewing machine routine”), Rosa crafts crochet cocktail dresses, knitted cowboy boots and other inconceivable, totally bonkers textiles made completely from scratch.
“I’m interested in ways in which I can dismantle and domesticise trademark menswear garments, says Rosa. “Taking the stitch out of the twee old lady realm whilst questioning the predictability of a taffeta when designing evening wear. It’s a fun duality to play.”
Mere months after debuting his MA collection back in February – where he showed fuzzy frills, loads of flesh and a cardboard motorbike on the catwalk – Alessandro Michele asked Rosa to be part of the inaugural GucciFest. Alongside fellow London designers Priya Ahluwalia, Bianca Saunders and Mowalola, the designer was asked to produce a short film and a mini capsule collection, which amazingly, he was able to turn around in two weeks.
“I’m quite precious about a lot of the textiles, shapes and designs. That being said, I tend to make things work and thrive in frugality,” Rosa admits. “For instance, if there is a particular yarn I would have gone to an Italian mill for, I’m happy to compromise and trade that for what I can find in my bedroom.”
The film – dubbed Til Death Do Us Ride – is a fractured storyline that takes place in East London’s industrial heartlands – following Rosa’s gang (who he calls ‘Lizards’) as they prance through parking garages, gas stations and deserted parts of Stratford – riding to each destination on motorbikes. The designer says Freegard – who directed the film – would describe the whole thing as a “hybrid between a spaghetti western and a twisted B movie found in the risqué corners of the web.
“It’s a smashed together, lo-fi movie trailer for a camp gigolo noir trucker/cowboy flick, silly and sexy and a soupçon dark,” adds the designer. “It resulted in a juxtaposition between the toughness of the surroundings the lizards are in and their inner vulnerability which manifested itself in tender and frivolous knitwear.”
The cohort of excessive looks, featuring mushroom mohair halter necks and toilet roll doll-like wedding dresses – which Rosa crocheted with his grandmother) – exist in the same universe as the designer’s graduate collection. Originally set on voyaging on his own middle America fantasy to produce a bulk of the looks – wanting to begin in Baltimore to check out the spot where Divine ate dog s*** – CSM had other ideas. “My tutors told me ‘You’ll actually die’,” Rosa recalls.
Instead, he opted for a more regional approach: hitchhiking his way through London, sticking his thumb out on main roads to see if any fine fellas would stop to offer him a lift. “It fed me to build up an imaginary marriage between my own glitzy accoutrements and my Johns’ lived-in jeans,” he says – going on to create tulle tracksuits and biker denim twinsets with bundles of crochet at the hem. Glamorous clothing to get down and dirty in.
Crafting the collection was also a reaction to Rosa’s own regular experience of being catcalled by truck drivers and white van men whilst living in London. “It was time to turn the spotlight on the assailant,” he says. It’s not the first time he’s reclaimed insults launched at him. As a child, he admittedly had an unhealthy obsession with José Castelo Branco, a reality TV household name and Portugal’s answer to Pete Burns, he says. “[Branco’s] name subsequently turned into a sort of slur used against gay people. I recall being called ‘Castelo Branco’ by school peers to rile me up, little did they know I was basking in their insults.”
That’s where Gui Rosa succeeds, turning tribulations into triumphs, whipping up cracking crochet concoctions in the process. And he’s done all this before officially registering himself as an actual brand – get a move on, Gui!
Photography and film by Harry Freegard.