catch up with
We spoke with JJ Martin, the founder of La DoubleJ, for an update on her brand. More time spent in her new Milanese apartment opened doors for new routines, work processes and a different view on our world - still with a positive outlook, just like she started her company back in 2015.
First of all, how are you doing?
You know what – I’m learning to go with the flow. I thought I was already doing that, by having a business. But having my own business and operating in Covid, you have to really, really learn how to go with the flow. You’re getting thrown bombs daily, there are difficulties and things falling down every day. One day before the London lockdown we were supposed to have our big takeover of Sotheby’s in London. And tomorrow, as Covid sort of calmed down and is now heating back up, we were supposed to have this big event in Basel in Switzerland, with the art gallery Von Bartha - with a dinner, parties and all different events. The whole thing had to be cancelled. Then I was supposed to just go to take pictures and do one-on-one press presentations, but now we can’t travel… It’s just crazy. I guess the message is: stay home. Good thing is we have a home collection, which we sell online!
"Having my own business and operating in Covid, you have to really, really learn how to go with the flow."
JJ Martin with her dog
Has your daily routine changed a lot since the beginning of this year?
Well, yes – only because I spent so much time in my new apartment, which I just moved into a couple weeks before the lockdown in Milan. That actually gave me a great opportunity as I was staying home so much: I had so much time to just live in this empty apartment while expressing my creativity. It was really, really fun to let the creativity from my home come forward and being creative for the company at the same time.
Working from home, I spent a lot of time in the park with my dog and I started doing a lot more meditation, yoga and all of these practices that I’ve been doing for a long time. But the day-to-day is different. I’ve been to one restaurant over the past eight months. It’s crazy.
The windows at Sotheby's in London
Did you find new ways to get inspired over the past few months?
Inspiration is an ongoing process. I’m always looking at images, books, posters and antique collections.
Next month were launching an entire collection dedicated to Transylvania (in Romania, red.). That was based on a collection of antique textiles and ceramics from Transylvania that were shown to me by Miki Von Bartha. I met him over vacation time where he showed me his collection before traveling to Budapest together. We were supposed to go to Transylvania but then the corona crisis came on.
"Inspiration is an ongoing process and comes from all the corners of the earth."
Inspiration comes from all corners of the earth. I don’t think I necessarily ever got a new fire by going out to restaurants or having dinner with people anyway. For me inspiration is so much more: it’s coming from the internal corners of yourself. And then when you’re looking on Instagram you’ve always got this stream of images and people that spark something too, so you might do a little of investigating on your own.
You moved into your new apartment just before the lockdown in Milan. Do you already have a favourite collector’s item in your home?
Well, I’ve got a couple of collector’s items in my house. There is one in the guest bathroom: I’ve covered the entire wall with my collection of antique and vintage jewelry, which was actually the basis for La DoubleJ. When I started La DoubleJ in 2015 I was just selling my vintage collection of jewelry and clothing online: we were showing it all on the creative women of Milan and it was kind of this online shoppable magazine. Then we moved into making new products with vintage prints and now we do everything to from fashion and home wear to swimwear and accessories. We make our own prints, we use vintage prints, so it’s blown up into this whole other reality but that wall in my guest bathroom reminds me of the beginnings of the company.
And, in terms of collector’s items, we have this wonderful collaboration with the Von Bartha gallery and one of their artists designed our showroom. I have a tapestry that he designed inside my house.
JJ's favourite print of autumn/winter 2020-2021: the dove print
"Go with what you feel. I think dressing is something that needs to come from inside of you and not from what other people are looking at. It’s really about how you are expressing yourself."
Do you have any wardrobe essentials in terms of clothing and accessories?
Yes. It’s so funny, because I used to be such a dress-and-skirt-girl, but now that I’m working from home, I’m almost always either in sweatpants, or in the La DoubleJ jersey or sablé palazzo pants. These are just as comfortable as sweatpants but they’re printed and beautiful and stretchy - so easy. I pair them with a matching jersey turtleneck that’s also printed and super stretchy and this, for me, is the perfect outfit. No bra, no discomfort. It feels like you’re dressed in pajamas, however you’re dressed well enough to be on Zoom calls and ready to meet anyone that stops by the house.
What style advice would you give to people who are working from home?
Go with what you feel. I think dressing is something that needs to come from inside of you and not from what other people are looking at. It’s really about how you are expressing yourself. So, if you’re feeling really down the dumps, it’s actually a great idea to try putting on a bright colour, a fantastic print, taking a shower, doing some yoga and suddenly your day is so much brighter.
What do you think when you see someone wearing a La DoubleJ design?
It’s always a joy when I see that. It’s so fun when you recognise that people you don’t know have discovered what you’re doing and like it. It’s great. It feels really believing and satisfying.
What is your favourite pattern in the La DoubleJ autumn/winter 2020-2021 collection?
For this season, my favourite pattern that we did was with an Australian based artist, called Claire Johnson, who did collages for us.
"Just being really authentic to the project and it being something I genuinely love – I think that’s what keeps me excited and motivated and able to motivate other people in our team right now. "
Based on these collages we created all these different prints. One of them is the dove print – we took her designs and then created lots of different fashion design from them. They’re wonderful; these flying doves and spinning graphics. She is so talented.
What is the secret to your success?
I think it’s positivity. I used to be a journalist, I wasn’t in the field of design at all. In theory I shouldn’t even be having a company. I mean how would someone who is a journalist now owns a fashion company? But I really just always followed my heart and passions. I started with the vintage which I was so in love with.
And what would you say made La DoubleJ successful?
In Italy we work exclusively with historic Italian suppliers, so none of what we make is made in China or Asia. Just being really authentic to the project and it being something I genuinely love – I think that’s what keeps me excited and motivated and able to motivate other people in our team right now. I got to tell you, it’s not very easy to run a business and manage employees right now.
What is your ultimate way to relax while having your own business?
I think you just have to take a perspective and realise that your business is not the end of the world, right? Human lives and how people experience you as a human being is way more important than how many dresses they buy.
How do you stay focused?
My spiritual practice is a huge grounder for me. I meditate two, three times a day and I have some sort of body practice to just get the energy moving and expelled from my body, which is really important. I do a lot of spiritual writing. I work with lots of energy healers. All of this helps me a great deal. My spiritual practices help direct my life.
Could you describe your working process?
It depends on what I’m doing. If I’m writing for spiritual reasons, I love to listen to Ludovico Einaudi. He’s great. If I’m in the office with the team, music can get really loud and distracting. Sometimes we play a little bit of music to get us going and then we quiet it down. In Italy it’s very important to take breaks, to have a good meal, to sit down and have human contact. All of this is important while working too.