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Unlikely Fashion Icon: Mad Max

by Hollie Moat

Mel Gibson as Mad Max

Down the runway they came, striding purposefully, eyes fixed, jaws square, clad in black leather and studs and heavy boots.  An unhinged, apocalyptic Australian hero might not be the first thing that springs to mind when watching male models strut down a catwalk, but take away the bright lights and adoring crowd, add some grease, and it’s easy to come to the conclusion that Mad Max had a serious presence at the presentations of A/W 12.

Mel Gibson took the titular role in the controversial (read hyper-violent) but critically acclaimed film from 1979 - a member of the Main Force Patrol (the police basically) in a troubled dystopian future Australia, who, after seeing his friend and colleague burned alive in his own car, and his family murdered by a terrorist gang, dons his leathers and goes rogue to hunt down the criminals on a supercharged Pursuit Special car, in a furious rage.

Mel Gibson as Mad Max

He did so sporting battered but elaborate leathers – weathered trousers and biker jackets punctuated by metal studs and buckles. The role turned Mel Gibson into a star. And a heart-throb (unfortunately, we all know how that worked out). It was followed by sequels Mad Max 2 and Beyond Thunderdome (which sees a futuristic and fantastical Tina Turner rocking chainmail and a blonde Mohawk) and we’re expecting the release of the fourth instalment within the year, with Tom Hardy replacing Mel Gibson as the hero and Charlize Theron in a role that’s famously required her to shave her head.

Mel Gibson and a young co-star in Mad Max 2

So the character’s emergence in the fashion arena couldn’t be more timely, and this season’s catwalk represents both Max’s wardrobe as a fresh young police officer, through to his attire when he becomes a grizzled and angry shell of a man in makeshift armour. (In fact, the first Mad Max film had such a tiny budget that only Mel Gibson wore real leather clothes, everyone else was kitted out in vinyl, and incidentally, experimentation with that kind of unusual, texturised fabric is another big look for A/W 12).

Versace A/W 12

Unsurprisingly given the label’s love of everything eye-popping, Versace went big on the Mad Max look. Naturally the models were less grizzled and more chiselled, but the leather jackets were exaggeratedly masculine in shape, and covered in studs and metal worthy of a chain gang. Donnatella’s hero may have been sleek and pretty, but he certainly could have slotted right into dystopia.

Maison Martin Margiela A/W 12

Maison Martin Margiela also embraced top to toe leather, but with a darker edge. Slippery coats that grazed knees and tightly padded gilets with splashes of violent colour captured the film’s oil fuelled sense of panic and chaos, perhaps more worthy of the trilogy’s strangely glamorous villains than the titular character.

Jil Sander A/W 12

Of course it’s difficult to walk around all the time looking like you’re about to challenge someone to a car chase or live in a make-shift scrap metal bunker, a quandary seemingly realised by Raf Simons in one of his last collections for Jil Sander, where he appeared to give Mad Max a white collar job and sent out models in sharp, tailored leather suits, their neat white shirts and carefully parted hair dialling down, but still not quite dampening the over-riding sense of danger that this trend manages to so beautifully purvey.


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